Diversity’s good – right? I believe it is, anyway. But what about when a workplace gets a ‘diversity officer’ who wants the employees to do a survey to “reveal their unconscious biases”, as I recently heard about? To me, that smacks of being a diversity police-officer. “We’re coming for your thoughts and they had better be the right ones, or else it’s re-education for you, my friend”, is what it says to me. I’m old enough to make the leap to the thought control practises of communist China and Russia. That all started off small and with good intentions, too. I’m not old enough to remember McCarthyism* in the USA, but that was a real mind-f*ck time, as well, by the sounds of it.
Salesforce, a big IT company in the USA, boasts on its website that it has 12 different minority employee action groups, from disabled to faith to separate race groups, right through to LBGTQ+ and veterans. No older women appeared in the pictures of these diverse groups, just as a fyi. However, moving on – whilst I appreciate the attempt of Salesforce to foster diversity and respect for everyone, what a minefield that could be to negotiate every day! Safer to stay in one’s group for the main part, I suspect, rather than risk giving offence to another. Hang on a minute, isn’t the goal supposed to be unification through acceptance and understanding, not making diversity divisive?
Diversity is becoming big business. Already it’s opening employment opportunities to regulate it. I can’t see our wonderful world of marketing and advertising execs not exploiting it, either. Oh wait – they are already. But only the right kind of diversity, of course, as dictated by who the hell knows what or who, but dictated it surely is. The wrong kind of diversity gets a person cancelled, and their career destroyed. Diverse opinions, beliefs and ideas can arbitrarily be categorised as wrong-think and wrong-speak according the new oppressors’ rules, and get bundled under the ‘hate’ umbrella. That umbrella’s getting mighty big.
I am a Vegan, and I can piss people off with that. Partly, it’s simply by me being vegan that challenges the status quo’s assumption to their right to gratuitously use animals as they wish. And partly because I can be really annoying about challenging the status quo’s assumption to gratuitously use animals in any way they wish. (Funnily, Salesforce doesn’t have a Vegan action group – must be the wrong kind of minority.) A lot of people would like to cancel and destroy me and other Vegans, and have told us so in no uncertain, and sometimes bloody, terms. But guess what? They’re not allowed to, because we have codes of conduct about that to protect us. I have the right to express my beliefs and opinions if I don’t make actual threats of harm, or directly invite harm, towards those who eat animals. They may feel threatened based on their own beliefs, but feelings aren’t facts.
But if someone says they believe that sex is a biological fact and gender is mutable, instead of the other way round, holy moly – the hurt feelings explode in a gory blood-fest that the gory blood-fest of animals being slaughtered at the slaughter-house has nothing on! No other words need to be said for all the horrors from hell to be rained down upon the heretic who said such heresy. However, in this case, all codes of conduct to protect a person stating their beliefs suddenly disappear. Cancelling and destroying is inexplicably condoned by those who should know and be better. That kind of diversity of thought appears to be strictly verboten!!! It doesn’t fit into the small, and getting smaller by the minute, box of allowable diversity at all. Anyone who has wrong-think will have the diversity (police) officers, not to mention the baying mob, after them. Diversity is becoming strangely rigid, narrow, and divisive. Is this how a good word goes bad?
Humans have always bickered, scrapped and argued with each other. It’s what we do. And what we will always do. Unless threats of physical harm are made, or there is a clear denial of others’ human rights and safeties, as in racial hatred or men’s rights groups, a different belief or opinion is debate, not hate. Debate is arguing the point, not the person. I once cheered when a couple of very right-wing speakers got cancelled from giving public talks. Although I wasn’t instrumental in making that happen, it felt good to flex a bit of righteous muscle by proxy. I can’t say that I liked the nature of their talks, but I can now see that cancelling those talks was wrong just because they were contentious and hurt some people’s feelings. We can’t help how we feel about things, but (unless we have a mental disorder) we can all control how we act on our feelings.
Diversity should be a good word and a good thing – even the kind of diversity we don’t like. Conflict is essential to us (not talking about armed conflict here, just to set the record straight). Conflict invites debate, and debate sparks us up. It ignites the fuel that drives creativity and innovative progress. Humans might be all sorts of things, but you can’t say we’re boring. But if we shut down debate because it’s wrongly labelled as hate, then we may become very boring and bland indeed.
*McCarthyism, name given to the period of time in American history that saw U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin produce a series of investigations and hearings during the 1950s in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S. government. The term has since become a byname for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.
Header pic by: Bee Felton-Leidel https://unsplash.com/@marigard