“Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival.” –Rene Dubos
“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
― John Lennon, Imagine
“Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.”
― Cassandra Clare
It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to be an individual. It’s okay to be these things because there is no such thing as being completely the same as anyone else. We all have similarities and things that we have in common with one another, but there are no two people on planet earth that are exactly the same. Even identical twins have differences. We are, by nature of being human, very diverse. Each one of us is a complex combination of various traits.Yet, it seems deeply ingrained within humanity to attempt to categorize and label one another so that we know where each other fits within the puzzle of belonging. It tricks us into feeling safe and secure. I know who and what you are, therefore I know where I stand in relation to you. Unfortunately, this always seems to result in an over simplification of one another and inevitably results in us deciding whether another human being belongs with us, or with them. We focus on the differences so emphatically which leads us to take sides, choose teams, we exclude, we ridicule and we reject, until we have separated ourselves from each other so efficiently, that we as people, loose the ability to see past the labels and categories to the essence of sameness that lies underneath. The sameness, that is ultimately, our individuality and difference. It’s a conundrum. We are all different from each other in some way, yet our focusing on the differences instead of the similarities is what divides us and leads to separation at best and hate towards each other at worst.
Let’s look at the past. If we look back throughout history to the beginning of humanity, we can see a pattern. People began living within small groups or communities with a basic set of rules and values that everyone agreed on and followed, until an individual had a different idea or opinion. This created conflict within the group if one person, or a few people were not willing to conform. Often, this led to that individual or individuals, being rejected by the community and they became outcasts. Quite literally, they were kicked out, or they left of their own volition. If their ideas were so different that no one agreed with them and went with them, they would often parish, and their ideas would parish along with them. If a few people agreed with them and were brave enough to leave the larger group, this led to the development of another separate community that represented new ideas. This pattern has repeated over and over and over and created a diverse human civilization. When we look back at history, we can clearly see that the world is not the same as it was in the 1800’s, 1930’s, 1960’s, 1990’s, etc. Every new generation has new ideas, new values and new dreams about how they want to the world to be. If history has taught us anything, it is that the old ways die out and the new ways determine the future of humanity. If you want to know where the world is going, whether you like it or not, look to the youth of your community. Look to the new ideas and values. Whether you agree with change and evolution or not, history has shown us that it is inevitable.
When we look back at human evolution, it becomes clear where we got the idea that being different, or not conforming was bad. It often lead to conflict and separation. It meant being rejected and having to survive on your own. It meant having a tougher path and possibly death, yet we can also see how incredibly important it was to human development. Each individual that challenged the status quo, lead to the evolution of the human race. We now live in a time, where human diversity is so incredibly vast that it is becoming more and more difficult to label and categorize people. Yet, we still try our level best to continue doing so. We sort other people constantly. He/she is the same as me, he/she is different than me. Us and Them. Yet, it is almost impossible to know someone’s ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political views, or basic values, just by looking at them. There were times in history where this was much more obvious and simpler to do, but it is far more challenging in today’s world. There are a few obvious exceptions of course, like clothing intended to signify someone’s religion, but generally speaking, we still make far too many assumptions about one another based on very little actual information. We also get very frustrated or even angry when we can’t easily put people into boxes, or if our assumptions based on appearance lead us to reprimand people for cultural appropriation, or mis-representation, without actually having the slightest clue what someone’s culture, life experience, or up-bringing has been. Just when we think we have someone pegged, they surprise us with something we never knew about them. For example, most people don’t know, that I have at least six different ethnicities in my heritage, one of which is Mi’kmaq (First Nations people indigenous to Canada’s Maritime Provinces). You may just see a white girl with naturally blonde hair and blue eyes, and an Irish name. The truth is, I am much more diverse than that. I have also been asked on many occasions if I am Scandinavian because of how I look. I have a diverse heritage, but Scandinavian, the ethnicity I apparently look the most like, isn’t part of it. Funny now, that I married someone who is partly Scandinavian, and so now my children are, so it has become part of my family’s culture. My story, is a common story, especially in Canada, and it is becoming more and more common with the globalization and integration of many cultures, religions, ethnicities, etc. Inter-racial marriage, adoption, mixed families through marriages, not to mention all the people who live and raise their families within a culture that is not their culture of origin. Our ancestors fought for generations to allow the diversity and integration that is now common, to become socially acceptable. Lest we forget how it used to be, and the intolerance that previous generations had to endure.
So, I ask myself, given the state of the world, what if we are at a tipping point in humanity, where a pattern that existed to focus on the differences between people in order to sort and separate for the sake of creating human diversity, is no longer in our best interest for our evolution? What if, we have become so diverse and so separate now, that the only way for us to evolve further is to switch our focus to the sameness and oneness that is humanity? What if carrying on in the same manner as we have been with a population as large and diverse as it currently is, will only lead us towards conflict and self destruction? I mean, how separate can we possibly get before it all falls apart? History has shown us again and again that too much separation makes us vulnerable. We know innately that we are stronger together, and I can’t help but notice that a shift in much of society has been occurring. A shift towards inclusion and tolerance and in the allowing of each individual to just exist without a constant need to label them. This shift becomes quite obvious when you listen to the youth.
To see just how complicated the world has become, just watch people ordering a coffee at Starbucks or buying a pair of jeans, there are so many options now, it’s overwhelming. It is also overwhelming to try to constantly put people in boxes. Gay? Straight? Bi? Male? Female? Trans-Gender? Religion? Ethnicity? Culture? Age? Liberal? Conservative? Rich? Poor? AHHHHHHHHH?!!! Let’s not even get started on all the sub-cultures, sub-religions, etc. The diversity makes some people so frustrated, that they flatly refuse to even acknowledge some of the diversities that exist. They can’t even process more categories so they simply say, “There is male and female, that is all! Blue and Pink. End of story.” Well, here’s another perspective. If the complex diversity of people makes you feel threatened, or confused and overwhelmed so much so that you don’t even want to acknowledge it’s very real existence, why not stop trying so damn hard to label and categorize everyone, and just see other people as human beings instead? Admit it, trying to figure everyone out and sorting them into boxes gives us anxiety. So, let’s stop! Ask yourself, what is the point? Why spend your time and energy doing that? To what end, and for what purpose? Why not take a load off of yourself and surrender to the simple fact that we are all Humans? We all live on planet earth, we all have a heartbeat, we all come from a woman’s body, we all have families and friends, we all feel love and fear and a multitude of emotions.We all breath air and look up at the same starry sky. The sun rises and sets on all of us and we all move through our lives within the same 24 hours per day. We all are born, we live life and we die. We are also, each and every one of us, complex and diverse individuals. This too, makes us the same. We are one people. One race. The Human Race, and our diversity is our strength.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media
STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams
VINTAGE & THRIFTED FASHION: Fur hat, fur coat, mukluks, military-style cropped jacket, leopard print skirt, necklace, belts and rings.
CURRENT FASHION: tie-dye tights and faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg, black military-style coat by Ralph Lauren.