Something recently started me thinking about the true meaning of diversity. Strangely, corporate life or statements of best practice from the CIPD did not stimulate my thoughts; rather they were the result of reading an innocuous seasonal message on an advertising hoarding, which simply stated “Happy Holidays!”
There was nothing unusual in what was written; the words simply accompanying a rosy-faced image of Father Christmas and promoting a product that I have long forgotten; yet the effect on me was to cause profound irritation. Am I alone in feeling the dead hand of political correctness?
I’m proud to live in a multi-cultural country and open-minded and liberal by nature. For me, other cultures hold endless fascination. I feel enriched by exposure to the different sights, sounds, smells and tastes that travel brings and curious to dig deeper into the origins of the various festivals that we often celebrate without much thought, one layer of tradition being covered by another over time.
But politically correct blandishments such as labelling Christmas as the “Holiday Season” alienate and frustrate me. I feel compelled to ask Jewish friends more about Hanukah, to explore what happens during the festival of Eid with Muslim colleagues and to wonder how Buddhists celebrate the passing of each year. None of these lines of enquiry would be helped if the very label that accompanies each of them were obliterated for fear of causing offence.
To my mind we create understanding, tolerance and the conditions in which mutual respect can thrive when we celebrate not stifle difference. The world has beauty when it seen as multi-coloured; with individual facets each reflecting their own view. Diversity is fundamentally about working with, learning from and often adopting ways of living that are fundamentally different from ours and not about spraying the globe a uniform shade of inoffensive magnolia.
So, unapologetically, I wish you Happy Christmas!