“Diversity is our strength,” tweeted Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently, and so say all of us: the politicians, the celebrities, the teachers, the campaigners, the media and even government. Who amongst us then could argue with such an overwhelming body of opinion?
After all, Mr Trudeau and friends are unshakeable in their conviction: Diversity is our strength. Case closed. Or is it?
Slogans are powerful things, short, snappy, persuasive and seemingly incontrovertible in their wisdom. When the novelist George Orwell created 1984, his vision of a dystopian, totalitarian society of the future, slogans of the ruling party were very much in evidence: “Ignorance is strength!” “War is Peace!” “Freedom is slavery!” Wherever they turned, citizens were met with slogans. Bombardment. It worked, too.
Disturbingly, in Orwell’s Oceania, nobody batted an eyelid, not a single individual dared to question the orthodoxy of such outrageous falsehoods. Scepticism - as the novel’s hero Winston Smith found out to his cost – was not to be tolerated. Either you were with the party, or you were against it.
Similarly, either you are with politicians like Trudeau or you are against them; either you are pro-diversity or you are anti-diversity. As Marxist agitator Saul Alinsky noted in his Rules for Radicals, the handbook of Leftist revolutionaries the world over, there never can be any middle ground, only polarisation.
To suggest, for example, that there are both pros and cons with ‘diversity’ is simply not acceptable. Slogans don’t do nuance, nor do they do scrutiny.
Thankfully, we don’t live in Oceania, at least not yet, but Trudeau’s ‘Liberal’ Canada is real enough.
All of which brings us back to diversity and that statement: Diversity is our strength. Diversity is our strength, Diversity is our strength. Like many slogans, the more it is repeated, the less sense it makes, the hollower it rings.
Indeed, even cursory scrutiny reveals some profound problems with the ‘logic’ underpinning this favourite meme of Liberals the world over, well western Liberals…. Significantly, for such an incontrovertible panacea, take up of ‘diversity’ among non-western European nations ranges from lukewarm to non-existent.
Why should this be? Are the good folk of places such as Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Japan merely xenophobic? Does that explain their steadfast refusal to go down the multicultural road? Diversity, presumably, is our (not their) strength.
Is diversity therefore merely a sign of the inherently superior nature of Western society, a signifier of our more advanced socio-cultural sensibilities? Awkward.
The question then arises: What exactly is diversity? Difference. But what kind of difference? Intellectual, cognitive or behavioural differences? Surely not. For do we not, under the skin, share the same biological and psychological characteristics? Do we not all broadly share the same experiences, have the same fears, hopes and ambitions?
If you cut us, do we not all bleed the same colour?
Yet for Trudeau’s version of diversity to have any validity we must accept an extremely invidious view of humanity: cultural homogeneity. Put simply, we must buy into generalisations, that Caucasians are fundamentally different to Asians, Europeans different to Africans, the French fundamentally different to Egyptians, and so on and so forth.
In other words, Trudeau’s diversity rests entirely on the assumption that cultures (and nations) are indeed homogenous, that an ‘African’ acts, thinks and behaves first and foremost as a typical ‘African,’ a view of humanity that is not only ignorant, but stupendously patronising. If you are unable to see how utterly reprehensible such a view of humanity is, allow me to explain.
In my working life as a university lecturer in Linguistics I have found much more common ground with colleagues from countries such as Turkey, Congo and Iran than with my own brother whose similarity to myself begins and ends with our shared genetic pool.
But according to Mr Trudeau’s theory, my brother and I – spawned in the same hospital in the same town to the same parents, and consequently sharing the same physical attributes and exposure to a shared cultural/social background – my brother and I should have much more in common than I actually have with my colleagues Hakan, Teddy and Mahmood.
Sorry to disappoint you, Mr Trudeau.
As surprising as it may seem, people who happen to share the same skin colour and the same cultural heritage can be, and often are, wildly ‘diverse.’ My brother has absolutely no interest in my love of Shakespeare or linguistics; by the same token I have no desire to emulate his own conversion to the catholic faith nor do I ever envisage voting Labour if I live to be a 100. Similarly, his delight in all things carnivorous is anathema to my own vegetarianism. The list goes on. And on.
By now, you’ve probably guessed we don’t see eye to eye, my brother and I. Indeed, we have a very different outlook on life, vastly different politics and entirely different hopes and ambitions. But I must confess, we do look similar. We do have the same colour skin.
If an individual can indeed have more in common with someone of a different skin colour than their own flesh and blood, how on earth does Trudeau justify his version of diversity, if not on wholly superficial grounds i.e. the way we look? Answer: He can’t.
For in the eyes of Trudeau, my brother and I are one and the same thing: white, male, middle-class, heterosexual, British, Anglicans. Ergo, there is no possibility we could be ‘diverse.’ For Trudeau’s diversity to hold any water at all, the same must hold true of virtually every ethnic group on the planet.
Suffice to say that when Justin Trudeau proclaims that “Diversity is our strength” he is not thinking in terms of ideas, attitudes or beliefs nor is he thinking of character or personality.
The Canadian politician’s vision of diversity is based, above all else, not on the psychological, the behavioural, the cognitive or the intellectual, but wholly upon the least significant aspect of a human being possible. For him and people like him, skin colour is the ultimate determiner of ‘diversity.’ It must be. How else to justify the Liberal multi-cultural fantasy?
If you happen to be an African-American, Donald Trump-supporting conservative who supports private gun ownership, then you might just send Justin’s head a-spinning. Liberals prefer their ethnicities to act to type. It’s easier that way.
Of course, this prevailing Liberal view merely reduces diversity to a set of simplistic cultural signifiers or ‘types.’ Throwing a few hijabs and niqabs into the school playground, adding a few turbans to the local council office, dining at the local curry house – such gestures seem more than enough to satisfy the Liberal conscience.
Strength can indeed come from diversity, but only in the realm of debate and discussion, only where opinions and ideas can be exchanged, challenged, modified and developed from multiple inputs irrespective of the colour of one’s skin.
As strange as it sounds true diversity runs much deeper than headwear or the contents of a lunchbox. But just try telling that to Justin Trudeau. He won’t believe you. Tell him that diversity can exist within a race or a country, within a city or a street, even within a family and he’ll shake his head.
For Mr Trudeau diversity is solely a matter of black and white. For humanists like myself however it runs just a little deeper than colour.
If Trudeau wanted to be a little more truthful with himself and his fellow Liberals, he could always modify his favourite slogan so that it represents his true sentiments:
“Diversity, it’s only skin deep.”
A university lecturer by profession, David Sedgwick writes about a wide range of topics including Theatre, Politics and Formula One. His forthcoming book, ‘Shooting from the Hip’ is a collection of political essays written from a Libertarian humourist perspective. In his spare time he enjoys cycling, camping and yes, marking student dissertations.
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