Great Britain: Valuing Dogs, Inklings and Bajans as Diversity Trainers

Deutsch: Tolkiens literarischer Kreis der Inkl...
Eagle & Child

It appears to me there are many people who, despite originating from a myriad of differing nations and ethnic backgrounds, actually value and appreciate all that is ‘great’ about Britain. But many are also fearful of admitting to that fact, why so? Do we really lack pride in ‘our’ country or, is that any pride we do hold, is artificially suppressed by the rhetoric of valuing diversity?

I say ‘our’ country and I mean that inclusively; when I think of ‘our’ country, I think of all the equally important component parts. This nation wouldn’t be what it is without England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, every resident, be they indigenous or immigrant are also important components of that structure. Whether or not you, or your forefathers were born here is immaterial, just so long as you value all that is good about it.

The fact that so many people want to come to Britain would tend to support how good it actually is. In November last year the UK net migration figures hit a record high. The Office for National Statistics figures showed an increase in people coming to the UK, against a significant reduction in the numbers leaving the country (see here).

I would like to think that fewer leaving would be indicative of some new-found pride however; I suspect it has more to do with the lack of financial where with all to jet off to pastures new. But with the now global recession having taken a firm grip of many nations, perhaps people are finally realising, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. Some however seem to appreciate Britain.

I love the UK but it doesn’t know how great it is: I feel like I’ve been adopted by this country and I love it here. But I couldn’t live in London for all the money in the world. The thought fills me with absolute horror… I’m getting more reclusive as I get older. I love remote places and solitary moments, quietness and calm…(Ulrika Jonsson)

Ulirika highlights the true and inclusive nature of our society. How the vast majority of us are welcoming and tolerant of the ancestry, history, preferences and views of others, despite what many would have us believe. You see, in general, Britain and it’s people aren’t intolerant, they aren’t bigoted or indeed against the development of diversity within our society per se.

What they don’t like is people telling them how to live their life, what to think, what opinion they should hold and consequently, get a little upset when others are afforded some advantage over them. Especially if that selective advantage is enforced as part of some politically correct agenda. When false conditions and requirements are invoked by government, local authorities, employers, or indeed individuals with a personal axe to grind for perceived  ‘disadvantaged’ chip they are carrying on their shoulder,  you can start to see why people naturally get uptight about the diversity topic.

Positive discrimination in recruitment, mostly designed to achieve politically correct quotas, is a case in point. How can it be right to discriminate against a person of any particular ethnicity, sex or physical ability, in favour of another, simply to balance the books of equal representation in the workforce? This almost continual quest, which in reality is little more than discrimination in reverse, tends to towards achieving aims opposite to those intended. Is that actually right, fair or sensible in a modern society?

Writing in The Training Journal, a publication for learning and continuing professional development (CPD) within the workplace, Dr Peter Honey a Chartered psychologist who also blogs for People Management, provided some answers to the question; What does it mean to value diversity?

Dr Honey starts by making the assumption – valuing diversity is worthwhile – a fact that most enlightened people would tend to agree with however; “diverse anything immediately means one size will not fit all, and that is irksome.” But despite all the perceived understanding, along with the craftily disguised misunderstanding, much of the ‘valuing’ process amounts to little more than hot air.

I notice a tendency for the valuing diversity rhetoric to be stronger on vision than it is on precise things to do…(Dr Peter Honey)

As Dr Honey points out; many people’s attitudes actually shape their behaviour so you “do your best to win people’s hearts and minds” and wait for behaviour to follow. Conversely, when behaviour shapes attitude, we have to “nudge people into using the behaviours that actually value diversity” sit back and wait for attitudes to align themselves to the new behaviours.

…imploring people to change their attitudes towards people who are different will always be a hit and miss approach (mostly miss). By contrast, carefully working out the ABCs will increase the likelihood of people knowing what to do and, even more important, actually doing it…(Dr Peter Honey)

Too often we miss the point of  truly ‘valuing’ diversity, partly because we believe we’re ‘forced’ to but mainly, because of our individual and social tendencies towards self-interest and self-importance.

When talking about diversity aims, inclusiveness or the non discriminatory social ethics in our society, I’m always reminded of an incident that occurred in my Father’s pub in the early 1960’s. Back then our society was, in general, far less tolerant than it is now (apparently). We didn’t have laws about discrimination or enforceable ‘guidance’ contrived by politically correct agenda.

Living in Oxford forty plus years ago, there was a reasonable proportion of what would now be refered to as BEM residents, even then. People who originated from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds, colours and creeds, all there to work and study to earn academic degrees. This was in the day when a degree was an even greater achievement for many, at least perhaps more than now, and not least for someone who’s first language didn’t happen to be English. A factor which I’ve discussed before (see here).

It was a Tuesday afternoon in early spring and the bar was fairly quiet. George, our family’s cuddly bear of a Golden Retriever dog, was wandering back and forth carrying his offertorium bowl. He was in search of generous individuals within the establishment’s patronage, the ones prepared to donate their last few drops of beer, before heading off to the bar for a refill. Strange perhaps but George had something of an insatiable appetite for Best Bitter, and was adept at convincing customers that he was indeed, a ‘needy’ cause.

One very early lesson I learned from our dog was; he showed no discrimination towards his ‘victims’, he was prepared and able to accept anyone at face-value, he looked upon all in a totally inclusive manner, until they showed any objectionable characteristics that is. Incidentally, this trait was usually also apparent in so many humans at that time, at least those of a more cosmopolitan and educated background. Perhaps we humans can actually learn a lot from our dogs?

The only noises, interfering with the peace of that Eagle & Child afternoon, came from the faint hum of vehicles and ching-ching of bicycle bells in St. Giles, along with the normal murmur of conversation within the pub. The usual small group of aspiring latter-day Inklings were gathered in the Rabbit Room  lamenting the passing of C.S. Lewis over a few beers. Their conversation was jovial and the company in the studious huddle was genial but all was about to change.

Through the door came a raucous and foul-mouthed group of young men, so obviously already suffering from an overindulgence of beer during a morning session – the original British drunken yobs. Heading for the bar, one tripped and fell onto a table knocking someone’s beer over, another kicked George’s bowl across the floor (lucky he didn’t get bitten) whilst a third, slumped on the bar and sneered at my father; “three beers and make it fucking snappy Grandad.”

My father attempted to offer them words of advice; about the colour of their language, that they were disturbing other customers and tried to explain how, manners and a simple “please” can go a long way. The young man, who happened to be of Asian appearance, took exception to the guidance and said; “look old man, no lectures just serve the fucking beer.” My father told them to vacate the premises. At this point all three gathered at the bar in a menacing manner.

The Asian looking youth shouted “you can’t kick us out, you got some sort of colour bar? That’s not right, we want more beer.” He ventured to go behind the bar and it was then that Herman intervened. Herman was a regular customer at the pub, a friend of the family and came to the pub for his lunch three or four times per week. Herman, who had been sat quietly in the corner, reading the daily paper whilst enjoying his pie and a pint had heard it all. He raised his six-foot four heavily muscled frame from where he’d been sat and walked over to the bar.

“Listen man, they ain’t got no colour bar, you is carrying it around with you and, you is also disturbing by lunch, like the boss man says you get out now or I’m gonna throw you out”. The young man with the most to say was about to start again when Herman picked him up, grabbed another one whilst the third, he scuttled out the door in front of his two mates who Herman dumped, unceremoneiously, on the pavement outside. They never returned.

Incidently, Herman was a builder, born and raised in Barbados, he arrived in England as an immigrant just prior to The Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962 with a view to finding a better life for his family. Herman’s son and I went to the same primary school and, up until the mid 1980’s, our families kept in touch, despite being at opposite ends of the country. From a very early age I learned that; it’s not the colour of your skin, your ethnic background or your beliefs that impact upon how others see you, it’s the way you behave and interact with others that really matters.

Ok, so back then (40+ years ago), we may have been in an age that was somewhat nearer to our colonialist roots however, is that really such a bad thing? You see in my opinion, our colonialism was mostly born out of an academic desire to explore and learn. A trait that, at the time, meant our underlying ethos was the desire to learn more about different Peoples, their culture, their environments and ourselves.

Yes there may have been an element of imposed authority in the lands we ‘discovered’ however; the difference between then and now is, any ‘conquering’ we did, also brought with it an element benevolence, and education for the ‘conquered’ and the ‘conquerors’.

This fact was partly evidenced by an incident in 1943 when Helen Ogden Mills Reid, sister of the anti-British owner of the Chicago Tribune, encountered Winston Churchill at a White House lunch. Immediately she attacked him on the grounds of Britain’s treatment of India and he replied…

Before we proceed further let us get one thing clear. Are we talking about the brown Indians in India, who have multiplied alarmingly under the benevolent British rule? Or are we speaking of the red Indians in America who, I understand, are almost extinct? (Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Churchill KG OM)

The predominant differences in our colonialism, and that of other nations in the western world, has continued but now, we also appear to be moving in the direction of self-interested control, to meet mainly nationalistic and/or financial agenda. Nations like the UK, but in particular the USA, now have a somewhat pompous and controlling tendency today. We tell the countries we interact with and/or occupy; “this is the way you will do things, the only way and we won’t accept anything less.”

This leadership trait obviously spills over into our society, especially when a large part of that society seems to glean many of its work and life ethics from the USA. Traits that our educational and business systems appear to have inherited from some of the more distasteful aspects of America. Doesn’t it therefore follow that as individuals, we’re also likely to adopt similar traits when interacting with others?

Grumpy Note: If interested, Ulrika Jonsson: The Importance of Being Myrtle is available for purchase now via my book shop, from high street book retailers and online at

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