Getting personal with diversity

Getting personal with diversity

There is something dark and nasty that we do with the English language.

We depersonalise it. We turn words into ‘terms’ and conversations into ‘engagement’ and stories into ‘narratives.’  We make the meaning and use of the word narrow, and often negative.


The latest depersonalised words doing the rounds are ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’. Or even worse D and I.

Once we have the label and even the acronym, we have already distanced ourselves from the meaning of the words.

Often we are doing this for expediency. We are in a hurry, and shortening, generalising, and depersonalising the word helps us to rush around in our busy worlds.

I just spent a weekend at a wonderful wānanga (workshop) on Te Reo Māori. For those reading internationally – that is the language of Māori in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

We had an awesome session where we pulled apart words from the language to find their origins, their deeper meanings. It shone so much light on the richness of the language.

The thing is, we can do that in English too, but so often we don’t.

English has lost a lot of its reverence: through use in the news media, or mangled in the mouths and on the keyboards of business leaders and politicians. Sadly, words have become cheap.

When it comes to the word  ‘diversity’, if you dig a little deeper, it comes from a very beautiful word and a beautiful concept. Great words are about great concepts and layers of meanings.

How the words are used matters a lot. It is all about the context, and when used in a ‘one size fits all’ context, meaning is often lost. The definitions of words evolve with time. Diversity was once used in a positive sense in the development of democracy to ensure that there was not one dominant group with unbridled power over others.

At an even earlier time, the word was used in a negative sense – to divert, to keep people separate.

In the 21st century, we are developing a new definition of diversity, because the way we live today in a globalised world offers an opportunity for us to not be so separate.

The most obvious areas of ‘diversity’ are around ethnicity, gender, and ability, as these are the most physical manifestations of difference.  But diversity is about more than this, it is about diversity of thought, behaviours, preferences, identities, that may or may not align with how the world sees us in terms of ethnicity, gender or ability.

So let’s fall in love with what being ‘diverse’ means, and let’s take the ‘ity’ off the end of the word, because that makes it separate.   We can be DIVERSE, more than we can be DIVERSITY.  We can act in a way that is DIVERSE.

I’d like to offer up a 21st century meaning for what it can mean to be diverse in Thought, Word and Deed.

Poetry and music have verses. Verses are variations on a theme.  So too, in humanity, our differences are variations on a theme of our common experience. We all live and breathe, and die,  so we all share something as living beings. We share love. We can love broadly and we can love all, without condition. We can be infinitely diverse in our expressions of love, it need not have conditions.

So to be diverse to me is to love the twists and turns of life, of humanity.

Rather than having diverse intimate separation, it actually can very much be about embracing our commonality through love and connection in essence, and at the same time allowing difference, uniqueness and identity.

It takes something to do this. It takes something to be with difference and sameness at the same time.

Drowning in Communication That Doesn’t Connect

Drowning in Communication That Doesn’t Connect

It’s insane. People can message me at least ten different ways on my device.


Sometimes I catch the popup of a new message out of the corner of my eye and then it disappears. I’m left wondering: was it on email, What’s App, Facebook, LinkedIn,  Viber, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, a text, iMessage or even very occasionally a voicemail message?  


Probably the most unlikely and rarest notification today is an actual phone call.   It’s no wonder we now seem to talk less and less about phones and more and more about ‘devices’.


I’m drowning in notifications.


As the wonderful U.S. poet Marie Howe observed, we spend more time staring into our screens than other people’s faces.


And here’s the rub, and the tragic side effect. The more ways there are to connect, the worse the quality of the communication and the more narrow the views I wish to hear.


However fantastic the number of pixels, that content, wherever it is from, is just not human. It lacks all the subtleties, intuitions and soul that exists in human interaction.


Now don’t get me wrong, I love the access that technology is giving me: to ideas, people, lives and realities… to the beautiful diversity of the people and environments of our planet.


But in the overwhelming reality of choice overload, I select more and more what I want to hear. I edit out anything uncomfortable, different from what I like to hear, or that I simply do not like.


Here lies the comfortable zone of the silo, zinging as an ever diminishing echo chamber where there is total agreement to my world view, opinion, and reality. I only reach out to ‘like-minded’ people.


And the more we all do this, the more separate we become from one another.  When we engage with difference it is at arm’s length, vicariously, as if the realities of others are some kind of animation.


Come to think about it, when did we start talking about communication, engagement, and narratives, rather than simply just talking, listening, writing and telling stories?


So much language we use today has been designed to create distance, or some convoluted sense of objectivity.


Business speak, government speak, all this officialised language is alienating greater and greater numbers of our populations.


We do really only have a few degrees of separation, but we make it seem like there are huge distances in one another’s realities – across ethnicities, ages, genders, abilities, economic status,  let alone geographic distances.


The work we are doing with The Weave is all about getting to grips with our differences, owning them, but also believing in our common humanity.  The Weave is about how despite our differences, our unique identities, we can come together around our humanity, our love for a fellow human being, however different, however far they are from our comfort zone, or however un-like minded they are.


It is a conversation, not a magic solution, but it is based on the belief we can evolve, we can grow, we can put an increasing dent in the inequality.