Diversity. The buzz word of the anti-elite, anti-establishment world. I’ve been bombarded with it over the past couple of weeks. Whether it’s been oblique references on the news (my favourite being the highly newsworthy plug for the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup taking place on a municipal, dog turd ridden patch of grass somewhere in Surrey in July), or sneaky little columns tucked away apologetically in the bowels of the Torygraph, the notion is percolating through the populist conscience. It is making my eyes and ears bleed.
Let me say from the outset that I am not against diversity per se. Studies show that society and commercial enterprise benefit hugely when talent is drawn from the widest pool possible, free from prejudice and indifferent to gender, race, class, creed or sexuality. But propagating diversity must, in its very essence, be enabling, constructive and neutral in its application. It must framework a level playing field of opportunity through which a real, non-discriminatory meritocracy can flourish. But the hopelessly regressive box ticking of organisations that view it as a PR opportunity to be seen to be “doing the right thing” is the scourge of meritocracy, belittling and potentially inflammatory.
In its worst pc guise, the veneer of diversity that is so agitating the likes of the BBC, the FA, FTSE 100 companies and other corporations such as Lego is nothing more than a politically correct sop born out of insurgent populism. It ensures that the interests of every single Jack (sorry, and Jill) who isn’t part of the “elite” (which now seemingly engulfs anybody who is a) male and b) white) are somehow crowbarred into the fabric of public representation. In other words, it’s political correctness, repackaged and rebranded through the prism of “progression”.
Take the BBC. Tony Hall, the director general, has announced that the BBC will hire more women, disabled people and ethnic minorities to hit “increased diversity targets”. Apparently, giving Mary Berry her own cooking show demonstrates that the BBC is “tackling its problem with diversity”. Well Mary must be well chuffed. Here is a highly successful professional and business woman in her own right who has been wheeled out to be the BBC’s “face of diversity”. How patronising and demeaning is this towards the very groups of people whose interests the BBC purportedly seeks to promote?
There isn’t an utterance of “equality of opportunity” or “meritocracy” or any other notion that really would be progressive. Mary Berry is the best person for the job, so why doesn’t the BBC just say that? Why does Hall have to undermine the appointment by effectively suggesting that it is the product of positive discrimination against a white, male elite and has more than a rancid whiff of quota politics? Post-apartheid South Africa would be proud.
As for Lego. Well. In “one giant leap for womankind”, Lego is set to make a set of figurines to celebrate female astronauts, engineers and scientists at NASA. So far, so good. According to Maia Weinstock, architect of the idea, it is a “way to improve the visibility of women”. Ok, better gender awareness of brilliant women. Excellent. Looking at the figurines themselves, however, the notion of promoting diversity degenerates excruciatingly. There’s one black figurine: gender diversity, allied with racial diversity. Big tick. There’s one brown figurine: ditto. Double big tick. And then there’s, er, three…yellow ones. As a giant leap for womankind, Lego’s visibility of their heroines clearly isn’t up to much. Or is it somehow now acceptable that Caucasian women are painted in Lego yellow, lest somebody takes offence at the perceived advancement of a white elite? It’s pathetic; the flip side of the same discrimination coin that society is seeking to eradicate.
Superficially, the driving forces behind the promotion of diverse interests are laudable; but the angle is wonky and the execution is dreadfully ham fisted.
Left unchecked, how long will it be before some militant, politically correct leftie in charge of ticketing for sporting and music events decides that tickets should be allocated on a strict quota basis reflecting, say, gender and ethnic diversities? It sounds extreme, but the current direction of travel makes such a consequence entirely plausible.
Gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality, creed, able-bodiedness, I couldn’t care less. As a society we must surely strive towards the truly progressive goal of nurturing and advancing all talent, however this is distributed across society’s multi-representations. Constructs like diversity when artificially imposed are patronising, self-defeating and unsustainable. We surely want to see the right people in the right jobs and the best people in the best jobs: the best teachers and doctors for our kids, not accepting second raters and de facto under performance in the pursuit of a socialist ideal. A lowest common denominator, race to the bottom approach to social advancement is called Communism. And that’s dead. Sorry Jezza.
When it is manipulated by institutional cynicism, diversity is nothing more than the malignant cancer of political correctness. It undermines everything.