The diversity debate has lost sight of the fact that communities are made up of members who themselves may be very differentby Julian Baggini / May 22, 2019 / Leave a comment
When it comes to opinions about diversity in the UK today, there’s not much, well, diversity. There is rather an increasingly hard division between “authoritarians” and “libertarians,” as the most recent British Social Attitudes survey labels them. While libertarians are “comfortable with diversity” and “welcome the cultural variety created by a multi-linguistic, multi-racial and multi-religious society,” authoritarians “feel that a degree of commonality across these dimensions is needed, as without them the social cohesion that a society needs to function effectively is lost.”
Authoritarians present a challenge to the idea that diversity is a core British value. From Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony to the standard photo of coppers having a laugh at the Notting Hill Carnival or Pride, there are plenty of symbols at hand to bolster this comforting self-image. The Department for Education even includes “individual liberty” and “mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith” in the four fundamental core British values schools should promote. (The other two are democracy and the rule of law.) However, few can be in any doubt that however much we praise diversity, there is no shortage of people ready to try to bury it. Just look at the tone of British politics today.
All this makes it no surprise that it sometimes feels like Britain is split into two irreconcilable camps: those who favour of diversity and those who do not. But I would argue the truth of the matter is subtler. There is still widespread support for diversity in Britain, just not diversity as the term is often used. It is a core British value, and we can preserve it. But to see this first we must understand how people actually use the term.
Consider an anecdote I was recently told by someone who had come to live in the UK from Europe. What she found most attractive about the country was its embrace of individuality and difference. This is exactly what my better half says, explaining why she settled here in her 20s. She uses the word “eccentricity” to label this British value. In her home country of Italy and in some other parts of Europe there is a much more conformist culture, she says, which many find stifling. I agree completely with this diagnosis.…