Be warned…soapbox alert!
During my life so far, I have had the privilege of going to school with, University with, being friends with and working with a diverse group of people. When people talk about diversity, they usually mean gender, sexual orientation, disability or race – which is pretty narrow when you think about it, because we are all different, and applying quotas or allowing positive discrimination in recruitment based on gender or race is pretty insulting to those of us who are healthy, white, straight, males. It should simply be based on ability…but then not everyone is broad-minded and so rules we must have.
Since arriving in Auckland and witnessing the wide array of cultures, and indeed working in an office with (I am told) over 30 nationalities, I have been pondering whether this huge cultural melting pot is a good or bad thing.
Be honest, when a lot of people think about diversity, they think about food. They think that if they go out an eat a curry, they are being broad-minded and accepting of another culture. Food is an important part of culture of course, but you don’t become the all-seeing just because you went for sushi earlier do you?
I see understanding and mutual respect to be quite important and you can only understand either by immersion in another culture or by asking questions. Maori culture gives New Zealand a certain amount of identity which is unique to this country and, despite only around 10% of the population being of Maori descent, this is a reason why it is important to preserve this culture. Other than language however, you are not bombarded with Maori customs – there seems to be a healthy respect which I doubt you would find in Australia of the Aborigine people. That said, there is a racist undercurrent here towards Asian (meaning Oriental) immigrants…they seem to get the blame for high house prices, bad driving and who knows what else!
Your cultural history can be naturally antagonistic to another culture without you realising…just think about how the British love to queue and how other countries may not…it can be very uncomfortable adjusting to another culture…but adjust you must (although not on your moral values perhaps) if that is where you wish to live.
Despite an general acceptance of the fact that everyone here is an immigrant and the equal standing that results therein, I do ask myself when I look at senior management at my work why it is that everyone is white, European descent? This is not genuine diversity…and to be totally frank when considering the ability of those individuals at times, it is lacking as a result.
I have worked in and observed teams of people in the past who were basically the same demographic group and I conclude that it takes real courage to employ and promote someone who is very different to yourself. You generally connect with those who are like you…so it can take a bit of risk to go against such a feeling. If you have diversity for the right reasons, it should only ever be of benefit as you should get more varied ideas and direction. Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result! So true…it can start to hold a business back.
It is wrong to blame just the majority, however, for a lack of diversity. You also have to think of the way a minority behaves. When we arrived in NZ and were looking for somewhere to live, people said to us “you should live there, that is where a lot of Brits live” – but I didn’t come here to live with British people. I could have stayed in the UK if that was my desire. There is a basic behaviour at work by people to flock with those they feel most comfortable with – but where is the interest in that?
In many ways, this flocking is a root of so many issues because as soon as you have a group, a barrier is immediately erected for others which then breeds resentment due to a lack of understanding. But then this very behaviour of the minority is brought out of insecurity and a tendency for a few members of the majority to persecute. There is no quick fix to all of this other than society as a whole to evolve.
When you look at the fact that Northern Ireland has had tension for hundreds of years, and that Christians and Islamists have been fighting off-and-on since the Crusades (and now Islam is fighting each other!), and that someone thought it was a great idea to establish Israel where Palestine was, and then that there is no accounting for people like Putin – you really have to question aspects of humanity. History is full of examples of conquering nations imposing their religion and culture on others (just look at Britain’s chequered past!) and it is still happening today as the West tries to enforce its democracy on the Middle East – America has plenty of issues at home without trying to get others to fall into their way of thinking. At least now the world has the capacity for united outrage thanks to modern media…and the guilty can be held to account for such things.
In conclusion, parents brainwashing children to follow their own beliefs is not necessarily a good thing – especially when those beliefs are extremely negative to another person – it takes a strong child to step away from such narrow-mindedness. People need to share a mutual respect and a desire to learn about other cultures and other individuals. It is as much the responsibility of the minority as the majority and takes real courage at times. Society and the world is undoubtedly changing for the better but when you see how often we lapse it is clear that there is a long way to go. We are at base the most violent species on our planet which is so sad when we have capacity for so much more. Only when we stop talking about diversity, accept everyone for who they are and not badge them with nation, religion, cultural stigma (etc) and remove quotas will we be truly diverse. Here is hoping.