Imagine eating the same meal every day, or listening to the same song every morning, or going to the same restaurant every weekend, or reading just one author. How would that impact you?
I was born and raised on a farm near two small towns. It was a nice area with good people but ‘diversity’ wasn’t a community attribute. It was a mono-ethnic, gender-traditional, single-religion community. It was like many small communities – shut off from the rest of the world with little or no need to even contemplate diversity.
When I think about diversity, I celebrate the massive range of human differences – race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical attributes and ability, and religious, ethical values and political beliefs. When we think about diversity, we should be exclusively inclusive with our mindsets and behaviours because diversity defines us as humans. In fact, being different is the only thing we have in common.
Diversity is the biological trait that has kept us alive and evolving. Culturally, it’s obvious that our collectively diverse modes of thinking were the catalysts for who we have become as a species and the civilisations we have created. Diversity in the natural environment keeps it healthy – the same goes for diversity in our cultures.
I value, respect, and learn with and from all people – not regardless of their differences but because of their differences. It’s all or nothing. Celebrating diversity can’t be when we feel like it – or when it suits our own set of values and beliefs. We either celebrate all diversity – knowing that it comes with challenges for individuals and for communities – or we don’t.
With all this beautiful diversity around us, and it being all-defining in who we are, how did we get to the point where we need to even discuss diversity and inclusion? Is it just easier to manage populations by putting them into designated and differentiated boxes? Our human differences have been turned from a celebration of humanity to a mode of keeping us in line – notice the ‘divide and conquer’ mentality? Obviously the ‘Have’s’ never wanted to include the ‘Have Not’s’ because greed brought fear that there wouldn’t be enough for everyone. We somehow moved out of the jungle (where we were just a part of a diverse natural environment and where diversity was our strength) into different domino-civilisations that used ‘diversity’ to keep us in line by manifesting mindsets based on the exclusion of the ‘Other’.
Inclusion isn’t about just accepting the differences – we need to move past that. Being ‘exclusively inclusive’ means we learn, share, grow and celebrate from ALL of our differences.
Living in Indonesia (ie. a real set of data points – and not what my Australian home-country media dishes up) has taught me more about diversity than I could have imagined. My first memory of a road-trip through Muslim Lombok was to wait on the side of the road for a Balinese Hindu procession to pass us by. I’m also touched every time that a local Balinese friend invites me to a ceremony in their home or at the local temple. We celebrate diversity with every ‘Om Swastiastu’ and ‘Assalamualaikum’. Here, in Bali, me being different (specifically, not a Balinese Hindu) doesn’t shut me out from witnessing and learning from their beautiful celebrations. Here in Indonesia, where I am the odd one out, I feel included in both the Muslim and Hindu worlds – and then, with that inclusion, I have learned and grown so much.
Let’s move away from my own personal ‘dream world’ experiences and get ‘real’. In a world where 95% of CEOs are white men, then it’s obvious that diversity has not been celebrated. Societies have been structured in a way that has turned diversity against people. ‘They are different’ and ‘Different is wrong’. It’s ‘Us versus Them’. We are only just beginning to unpack the damage to our cultural identity, to the very essence of who we have become as a species, that this evil-spin of diversity has created. Race, gender, sexuality, politics, religion, physical traits – if you change the mindset from ‘different is wrong’ to ‘diversity is awesome’, we might have a chance of righting (and learning from) so many mistakes that stain our history.
At Green School Bali (with a ‘CoVid’ student number of 350), fifty-two countries are represented in our student body. This doesn’t automatically solve the diversity problem – but it’s the foundation of an opportunity to respect, learn, and celebrate diversity. Our GSB students not only understand their role in our diverse natural environment (read “Climate Love” or “Learning As, With, In, About, and For Nature” blog entries), but have innovative values-based diversity-focused learning opportunities integrated into the learning program. Like all values-based learning programs ‘diversity education’ is action-based – we need to experience being a member of a diverse population in a diverse natural environment. Whether it is learning about and celebrating Balinese ceremonies, ‘Access to Education SDG’ Thematics, service-learning experiences, community projects, a ‘Gender Theme’ in our High School program, our whole community ‘Bamboopalooza’ event (that celebrates the multicultural diversity of our community) – the list goes on.
Our Green School iRESPECT values – Integrity, Responsibility, Equity, Sustainability, Peace, Empathy, Community, Trust – align in our values-based learning experiences (for our whole community) and connect directly to our focus learning about and celebrating diversity in our local and global communities.
At Green School Bali we are not perfect. In fact, when you open up to ‘Diversity’ as an issue, you open yourself to challenges – and those, in turn, can be opportunities for growth and learning. But at GSB we are moving in the right direction in terms of providing real-world learning experiences that help us collectively recalibrate the mindset of diversity being a beautiful and all-defining part of life.