Value Universalism and Learn From Diversity

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I wrote a piece for What Ya Think  called “Value Universalism and Learn from Diversity” I used it in relation to spirituality.  That is not the first time I have thought about that phrase.  It was about a year and a half ago when I was visiting my parents in California.  I had mentioned to my sister-in-law my growing dissatisfaction with the slogan, “Value Diversity.”  Her response was quick, as many of your responses may be.  Just hear this one out.  As Prince said  in the song Race, “Cut me, Cut you, both the blood is red.”
Many years ago now, the phrase “Value Diversity”, appeared on the scene.  The well used phrase, the slogan in trying to forge a bridge between people of different races, countries, cultures, religions and lifestyles. I have to say, “Value Diversity” for a long time, made sense to me. I was in school, in a melting pot of races and cultures. Surrounded by light and music and colour and interesting history. Everything intrigued me and I loved learning new things. I still love learning new things. If I could be a perpetual student I would be. Not all people are this way. We like to be around people that we are similar to.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that trying to build a positive relationship based on differences rarely works. If you don’t believe me try sitting at a family function or holiday dinner where two members of the same family have opposing views. Though we may learn in the end, after days or sometimes even months of people not seeing eye to eye, or worse yet not communicating at all, it did not most likely make the experience anywhere near fun or joyful not to mention caring or loving. Keep in mind that is a group that already has a bond, hopefully somewhat positive.
The thing is; I have never once, in social settings, seen differences bring people together. Value by definition indicates importance placed on the said object. Or to put it another way, the worth associated with an object. When the object is differences and value is to difference as value is to friendship, I see a glitch. I live in a rural area. And in case those of you living in the city have not noticed, tolerance is a struggle.
Even psychologists will tell you that the more you focus on a problem, the bigger it will become in your mind. The more you focus on a difference the more that difference takes over. Almost every Religious tradition and Philosopher will tell you the same. The say ask for what you want, and it will be given to you. They don’t say think about what you don’t want and it won’t happen.
I tried to search briefly for where the phrase “Value Diversity” came from. What it’s origins were. Asked a few people. I couldn’t come up with anything. Seems odd. Perhaps the people that coined that phrase wanted to maintain the differences, point them out, and let that shape the world. Perhaps they had every intention of it being a good thing and it started the ball rolling. But lets complete the circle.
I believe every one should be able to celebrate their holidays, celebrate their native cultures and enjoy their lives. That is what we are on this earth to do and to be, happy. Many people have their own way of celebrating things…the point is, we’re celebrating. Special dinners, special times. How Governments deal with that is not our worry so much as theirs. They just need to figure that out. Here’s a solution, each employee Pick 13 stat holidays for the year sign that those are the ones you want and then go from there. There are always people who want to work overtime. Find a way to make it work! You might be surprised to see that you won’t need to pay as much overtime as you thought.
Those of us wanting to promote people getting along and peace etc. jumped at the chance to find a way to bring it all together. I myself, just as guilty at jumping on the “Value Diversity” wagon, at pointing out the brilliance of learning new things about different cultures. But these differences can not be the basis for our caring about the other people or cultures. As a matter of fact it seems to me that in many ways it has brought so many differences to the table that have just add to the cultural and ethnic disagreements.
Bottom line, everyone is someone’s son, daughter, mother or father, sister or brother. All of those people were children that needed to be cared for at one time, all of those people will be elderly and need help. All of these people have holidays things to celebrate that bring joy and happiness to their lives. Learning about diversity in school is a must. Then again, children innately know that a child is a child and people are people, and they care about people because that is what children do unless someone tells them or shows them differently.
Much of “Value Diversity” has been put into workplaces, not to grow positive relationships but to prevent bullying and racism. We go to work many of us, probably most of us, because we HAVE to. We have to work to earn a living. We go into work and its a place that we must “behave” a certain way or face consequences. Lets face it, the majority of us don’t love our work and we don’t live to work. But we get outside of work and things change. Let’s get real about that.
I think putting “a” value on diversity is good, but it is on Universalism, the things we all share in common, that we need to place the highest value. Value Universalism, lets put that first. While we build the relationships on the universal things we can learn from the diversities of those people that we share so much in common with. We can find a common ground for love, compassion and caring. If we don’t care about people first then trying to get people to put any value on diversity is a hard sell. That is what “Value Universalism and Learn from Diversity” is about. That is what should be being sold to our children and in the workplace, in our communities. Because in the end, it’s about human beings. It’s about living a life that feels good when you look back on it. It’s about what we all have in common.
©Adrienne McLeod 2011

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