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Not All Diversities Are Equal

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We live in the age of irony. In no way is this more apparent than in regard to that greatest of current social virtues – diversity. Diversity is the new divine word. It is the password that promises entrance to the corridors of power. It is the multi-faceted image at which all bow down and pay homage. It is sung by our minstrels, enshrined in our temples, and decreed by our kings.

But the irony is this; that were any of our ancestors to sail into the port of our day and age, they would be dumbfounded at how we define diversity. Once they had stopped laughing at our imbecility they would point out the stark truth; what we currently call diversity is nothing of the sort. It is equality. And if we were not too vain we would come at once to realize that what we have called diversity is exactly the opposite of it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s try a series of exercises. We’ll start with an easy one. Think of your elders. As you look at this older generation, what are its strengths? Even in this day of idealized youth, I suspect that many things come to mind; perhaps wisdom or perseverance. Now, what of children or adolescents? What are their strengths? Wonder? Vitality? Let’s move to weaknesses. List the weaknesses of the elderly and of the younger generation. I suspect this isn’t too difficult. It helps that all of us will progress through these different stages. A weakness in either group isn’t a criticism of the “other.”

Let’s make it a little harder. Pick two of your closest neighbours of a different ethnicity. Now, what are the strengths of those ethnicities? What do you love about Filipinos? What do you appreciate about Arabs? What makes you admire the Chinese? I trust that many will be able to answer this. And to be sure, it is a very helpful exercise – one that truly celebrates diversity. But let’s continue. Using the same ethnic groups now – what are their weaknesses? Ah, this is a little harder, isn’t it? Don’t be shy. Here’s the truth that no one will tell you; it isn’t judgmental to recognize inherent weaknesses in groups. It isn’t racism – necessarily. It is in fact the logical corollary of recognizing a strength. If one group stands out in one area it means necessarily that others will not. The key is to recognize weakness without finding fault; logical judgment without moral judgment.

So now, let’s make it a little harder. What are the strengths of men? What is particularly distinct and admirable about masculinity? Or about femininity? Is this difficult? Does the question breach the protocols of our carefully constructed cultural ethos? Can we even speak of men or women, masculinity or femininity, in our day and age? Forgive me for falling out of line.

But the question ought to be asked; in light of our professed love for diversity why is this so much more difficult than listing the positive particularities of adolescents or Brazilians? Is it not because of the binary nature of gender? I know I’m not allowed to say that publicly, but bear with me for a second. The fact that we don’t have a problem with saying that Africans have amazing rhythm is because it only very indirectly means that Japanese or Dutch or Fijians don’t. Elevate one in a group of hundreds or thousands and the inherent negative corollary is masked by breadth. But when you elevate one out of two it’s a different matter. When you say that beauty is a particular and admirable aspect of femininity it means necessarily that it is not of masculinity. If you say that strength is a particular and admirable aspect of masculinity it means that it is not of femininity.

But let’s keep going. I want you to think about the weaknesses of each gender. Don’t just consider the possibility, actually choose a weakness. Write it down – I’ll wait. Congratulations men; you’ve just become chauvinists. At least that’s what our hyper-sensitive, politically-correct culture wants you to think. But it’s not true. Just as it isn’t a problem to consider the weaknesses of the elderly or Russians, it isn’t a problem to name and consider the weaknesses of men or women. A logic judgment is not always a moral judgment. Looking upon is not always looking down. Recognition is not always reprobation.

When we enter the realm of particularities we come face to face with the absolute reality, desirable or not, politically correct or not, that these particularities come with both strengths and weaknesses. This is diversity. It is colorful and majestic . It is broad and deep. And we hate it.

What we really love is equality. We love the fact that every human being has intrinsic value and worth- older or younger, Latino or Caucasian, male or female. And this is a wonderful thing. But it is not diversity. Equality is the foundation of the house of humanity. Diversity is its glorious exterior.

True diversity glories in the strengths of others.  It fosters neither pride nor prejudice. It isn’t jealous or jaded. But true diversity also glories in weaknesses.  Diversity sees the hidden beauty in weakness that binds us together in mutual need. In an age-segregated world, children need grandfathers and vice-versa. In an ever-shrinking world, north needs south, and vice-versa. In a gender-fearing world, women need men and vice-versa.

Diversity knits us together in ways mere equality cannot. Equality houses everyone. That’s wonderful. But only diversity can make us neighbours. So open your eyes. Take a long, hard look around. Not every diversity is equal.


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