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Friday, August 21, 2020

Diversity and Inclusion


It is interesting that when you are thinking about some topic, your eyes and ears are primed to pay attention to so many articles and books on the subject. That is what happened to me about Diversity. The first lesson I learnt last week was that this topic is now referred to as Diversity and Inclusion – not just Diversity. This is a conceptually important point.

In his book on Ten Principles of Free Speech, T.G. Ash includes Diversity as a crucial element. He further explains that “we should be able to express ourselves openly and with robust civility about all kinds of human differences”.  During the past several decades, there has been vast movement of people across nations and continents for various reasons. We are told that almost half of the population of Toronto is foreign-born. In the city of London, three hundred different languages are spoken. It is predicted that by the year 2042 there will be no ethnic majority in the United States – only plurality. Ash points out that we are living in a “Cosmopolis” and we need to learn to live with differences.

We need more than tolerance to live with differences. We need acceptance of differences. Some differences are immutable such as sex and color and some which we are born into or choose, such as language, political belief, and religion. Both  sex and skin color have been vexing problems. That  should not be since they are immutable. We cannot do anything about them. We are told that a group of individuals in Brazil were asked to describe their skin color in their own words. There were 134 different descriptions. We know that all our organs underneath that skin look the same. So why this hang up?

To live in a civilized society, we need to emphasize uniformity of “hearts” and not identical skin color or eye color or belief systems. Can you imagine how dull this world will be if everyone looks the same, dresses the same, speaks the same language and eats the same kind of food? Besides, if everyone is alike, it does not require much effort to live in “peace”. It requires effort and maturity to enjoy the variety and live a life that is peaceful to oneself and to others.

In the book I referred to earlier on Free Speech, T G Ash suggested that “we express ourselves openly and with robust civility about all kinds of differences”. I suggest an addition to this statement: “we also concede freedom to others to be themselves with their immutable and mutable characteristics and express them with robust civility”.

Civility is not just acceptance to be politically correct. It is not just politeness and good manners. It is  deep acceptance capable of aligning one’s thoughts, manners, and actions. If not accepted deeply at the mental and spiritual level, the intolerance will show up sooner or later. It will also make it difficult to teach the younger generation what true acceptance is. They will see through our hypocrisy.

Ash defines civility as: “respect for the dignity and the desire for dignity of the other person”.

The need for full acceptance of diversity and the need for inclusion is upon us right now, in this 21st century “cosmopolis”.  We should be able to have open and civil conversation on this important topic and preserve the freedom of speech which is so essential for such conversation.



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