Peace, one and all…
What does diversity mean? What does difference signify and represent? Why are these things so challenging, and what makes them so deeply threatening?
Difference signifies another way of thinking, of seeing and thus, of doing. Diversity suggests a mutliplicity – not only are we forced to confront ourselves through others, we are forced to come to terms with a vast, bewildering plurality of visions. Perhaps a backward glance might help us acquire some perspective.
If we were to travel back in time to 100, or even 50, years ago the world would seem very different. Although there has always been interaction (because, if nothing else, self and other than self have always been with us), identities were more corporate, more national, more certain.
With the seemingly instant (and certainly insistent) appearance of globalisation identities merge, change and re-form at a much faster rate than in the past. In some ways, what used to take centuries now takes a few years: the slow and careful work of time has been replaced by a rapidly increasing cultural and human velocity (and as has been observed, increased velocity is a sign of downhill motion). Thus, we stand in a time of flux – when old certainties fade, and new ones emerge.
This raises problems, to be sure. One need only read the newspapers to see this manifest truth. But, this also brings us opportunities. In this contemporary world, it is perhaps easier to challenge and deconstruct the patterns of received life and opinion than it has ever been.
Another implication (or possibility) is that these very differences can help us to see ourselves as individuals. Group identity, that sense of belonging to a place and its history, is important but within this shifting diversity the one common thread, our one common denominator, stands forth more clearly: our shared humanity is that common thread and it is emerging ever clearer.
And, when it becomes sufficiently well developed, we can begin to peel away these narrow layers of ego, we can begin to focus inwardly – for underneath all else – we are all human.
This is why I am not afraid of diversity. Indeed, I welcome, encourage and invite it. Not because I would subsume all of the hard-won identities of others, but rather because I believe that our shared experiences should be shared and understood as belonging to our human store of wisdom, and that they can help us through these difficult transitional times.
And at the end of all things … praise be to God who maketh it so.