I don’t often agree with much that flows from the mouth of the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, (present) Prime Minister of Canada (okay, I might be using the title “Right Honourable” not completely unironically), but with one or two caveats, I might almost have to give him, “Diversity is our strength.”
In Canada, we don’t seek perfect assimilation from our immigrants. We’ve never aspired to the melting pot of our neighbours to the south. Rather than a melting pot, I’ve heard Canada compared to a salad bowl. And to tell you the truth, I prefer my salad looking like a salad, rather than blended into a salad smoothy.
I love the fact that Canadian culture is a mix of many distinct cultures. I love being able to travel around the world, in a sense, without leaving Canada. I love trying different nationalities of foods in local restaurants, hearing languages other than English spoken on the street, experiencing the burst of sight and sound of watching dances typical to other ethnicities.
The Apostle Paul on more than one occasion said something similar to, “Diversity is our strength.” He compared the church to the human body. The human body is made up of many different parts, all working together. None quite like the other. Each bringing its own unique gift to the table to create a functioning human body.
But the Apostle Paul would add the caveat, “Unity through diversity is our strength.” That’s the first caveat I’d add to Trudeau’s favourite catch phrase. Unity through diversity is our strength.
Division through diversity is not our strength. To carry the above analogy a little farther, it’s more like a cancer. In a healthy body, diversity is its strength, but the division that diversity can tend to turn into is the cell division run amok that is a cancer. Not all diversity is good diversity. Diversity that promotes unity is our strength.
I had to agree with another statement I heard accidentally issuing from the mouth of our Right Honourable Prime Minister. “Diversity is entropy.”
I say “accidentally” because given everything else he’s said about diversity, I’m pretty sure he just doesn’t know what the word “entropy” means. But he was accidentally right. There is that entropic principle that affects diversity as it affects everything else in the universe. The tendency is for all things to spiral into chaos, to move from order to disorder.
That’s why we can celebrate diversity, but it must not come at the cost of the things that unify us. Uncorralled diversity is entropy. Diversity, like every other good thing, needs some checks and balances in place.
Conservatives (in our constant fight against entropy) are often accused of being “anti-immigrant” or “anti-immigration.” There may be conservatives who are against immigration of any kind. There may be some who want closed borders. But I’ve never run across any. We are usually anti-mass-migration. We want the process to happen legally, for one thing, and reasonably. At a pace the system can handle. We want some vetting procedures in place. We don’t want to let in ISIS sympathizers or any more Ibrahim Alis (a Syrian refugee and the alleged murderer of thirteen-year-old Marrisa Shen in the Greater Vancouver area). We want immigrants who want to be here and who want to be Canadian with all that entails while still hanging onto the parts of their own culture that are not at odds with all that being Canadian entails. We want to stay a salad bowl, not the powder keg Europe has become through unrestrained mass migration. We want unity, not just diversity.
Some conservatives have suggested an agreement to some kind of values statement as part of the screening process; at least an agreement to abide by Canadian law. And I think it’s a good idea. True, a lot of people can say a lot of things they don’t mean to get what they want, but it would be a start towards making immigrants aware that there are some common Canadian values and they’ll need to embrace them. At least live under them.
For some reason, this position of a slowed immigration policy (which seems entirely rational to me) is branded “anti-immigrant” by the left and then inflated to “racist.” If that seems like a reasonable accusation to you, I probably have nothing else I can possibly say that you’d hear.
The other caveat I’d add to, “Diversity is our strength,” is that shaming “cultural appropriation” creates division, not diversity.
I was mystified (and a little horrified) by a Rebel Media story I saw on YouTube a few weeks ago. The story was about some Metis hockey players who were caught on video, dancing in their locker room. After this video was made public, a controversy erupted. The controversy arose because the dancing (though informal) was similar in style to traditional native North American dancing.
The online outrage mob got a hold of the footage and turned it viral by insisting these boys were racist and disrespectful of native culture and, you know, all the usual stuff the online outrage mob says. The boys’ remaining hockey season had to be cancelled due to threats they received. The head honchos of the team issued public apologies. All the results that usually follow the online terror strikes by the online outrage terrorists followed. You know the routine!
The Reb defended the boys on the ground that they were Metis. This was their culture they were appropriating. So they weren’t actually appropriating anything. They had the right to it.
I was almost as horrified by this defence as I was by the original reaction of the outrage mob. The Reb should know better. Who cares if these boys were part native? No one should. Who cares if white kids want to dance around in their locker room like they’re at a powwow? No one should!
I’ve been to a powwow. Granted, I didn’t dance in it. But I enjoyed it. The traditional clothing and the intricacy of the steps in the dancing and the food and the rest of the cultural experience; it was all great fun. I would have liked to learn some of the dances. And what’s wrong with that?
Besides the fact that he’s rhythmless, graceless embarrassment on the dance floor, the much-touted footage of Justin Trudeau attempting an Indian dance in traditional Indian clothing is probably when I’ve most liked my present Prime Minister. Sure, it’s good for a laugh, but compared to everything else he’s done in office, does anyone seriously dispute me on this being his finest moment? Should we be appalled by his cultural appropriation?
Even the constant flap we’ve seen lately about this or that public figure who appeared in some old photo in a blackface costume–I don’t get the fuss. And I don’t really want to. Maybe some of these missteps were intended as offence or mockery. Maybe some of these blackface-wearers are racists. Most of them are more likely not. Most of these culprits probably thought they were having fun or even offering tribute to some black celebrity they were imitating.
Is that the world we want to live in? Where we can’t enjoy and appreciate and participate in all that makes life colourful and flavourful in our Canadian salad bowl?
That’s not the world I want to live in. I want to live in a world where I can work on my powwow steps in the locker room or mimic the moves I’ve just seen on a Bollywood movie without any kind of reaction from anyone other than laughter. I want to live in a world where we value differences and can poke fun at ourselves and even (gasp!) sometimes poke fun at each other! Kindly, I mean. Not meanspiritedly. I want to live in a world that re-learns how to laugh. I want a sense of humour to come back in fashion.
The next time an outrage mob wants to shame us for “disrespecting” someone else’s culture by cultural appropriation, do not, I repeat, do not cave! Do not retreat! Do not apologize! Just shout back at them, “Diversity is our strength!”