We were talking tonight, my husband and I. We were talking about how people are so afraid of things that are unknown and different. We were talking about how it’s important to have diversity in a group. And he said, “do you know what the opposite of diversity is?”
I wanted to say “normality”, but I had a feeling that wasn’t what he was thinking. I thought of it first, because I know that when people look at our family and see our differences that they assume we would prefer to be “normal”. Normal seems to be an acceptable goal to most people. We do, as a society, seem to be fascinated with being normal, blending in, being part of the group, existing with ease in a society created for chameleons. When a child is identified as neurodivergent it is common for the parents to be advised to pursue therapy or medication that makes the child less divergent, less noticeable as different- more able to blend in, more normal.
I was on the right track though, he had just followed the thought a bit further. I paused, so he explained to me, “if everyone was normal, if there was no diversity, if we were all the same, eventually as we reproduced we would be weakening the species.”
“The opposite of diversity is extinction.”
You might think it is a bit extreme, but I’m not so sure. We are always looking for a cure for anything that shows itself in a person and identifies itself as atypical. People with disabilities are offered genetic counselling, to help them decide if they want to risk reproducing. Parents of children with disabilities are offered advice about the wisdom of having more children in case they get more imperfect ones. Disability, divergence, atypicality is seem as a bad thing, a tragedy, a burden to be endured.
Yet, if we were all the same, where would we get our strength from? Where would we find people to do all the different things we need done? Where would we get the different viewpoints and perspectives that add colour and interest to our lives? Where would we get the friction that helps us grow and change? How would we evolve?
When we wish for a world in which disability doesn’t exist, we wish for a life of ease and freedom from struggle. When we fail to acknowledge that what disables is not diversity but intolerance of diversity, the result is often to try to eliminate the disabled instead of adjusting the world we live in, and by doing that we put ourselves in a dangerous position.
The opposite of diversity is extinction.