In the USA, a section of activists prefer the word ‘birthing people’ to ‘mothers’. This is erasure of womanhood, say feminists. Such feminists are deemed TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminists). Inclusion of trans-women seems to demand rejection of traditional definitions of womanhood, which is seen as a social construct imposed by patriarchy. Feminists argue that the transmovement is turning into a Trojan Horse that allows men to occupy women’s spaces by simply declaring themselves to be trans-women, women with a penis or women who do not menstruate. Corporations are enabling this process – so people who have never had periods, can now use women’s bathrooms, and participate in women’s athletics and endorse women’s cosmetics and fashion. Those who challenge this are deemed offensive, triggering, bigots and fascists, who need to be gagged with Cancel Culture.
In Indian philosophy, diversity is about including and accepting both words ‘birthing people’ and ‘mothers’ and using them as per convenience, context and comfort. There is no need for combat and conflict. But in the West, only one word or phrase is allowed. Alternatives cannot exist. This is because ‘diversity and inclusion’ functions differently in cultures comfortable with polytheism (i.e., India) as compared to cultures entrenched in monotheism (i.e. America and Europe). In the West, every idea is like Jesus. It has to be sold to everyone. And this eventually leads to the Crusades, where the other party is declared a heretic, or an infidel.
A few years ago, I was asked to speak at a diversity and inclusion seminar at a European company in India. The company wanted me to talk about LGBTQ+ ideas, which I did. But in the audience were young people for whom diversity was more about language, religion, caste and class. I was not allowed to address these ideas additionally. Because the mothership in Europe wanted to focus on gender diversity. It was June after all. Pride month. Scope was limited.
Diversity and Inclusion is a radical idea in the West because the West is governed by monotheism that is based on standardisation and exclusion. It has been so for the past 2000 years. There can be only one god, no other. Monotheism emerged in the Middle East and Near East. In lands we know call Iraq, Israel, Iran and Arabia. From there it spread via the Roman Empire to Europe and from there to America. Via the Arab Empire, it spread to Central Asia and Southeast Asia.
Atheism, secularism, rationalism and scientism are structurally similar to monotheism. They thrive by being sceptical about everything and everyone. They reject the supernatural but believe in one universal truth – be it Capitalism, Socialism, or Marxism. All these ideologies mock other ideologies like ‘false’ gods. Debate is just an excuse to convert people to one idea. The opponent in the debate is not another god. He is the Devil, the infidel, the heretic, who needs to be aligned. We can see where the evangelising spirit of ‘diversity and inclusion’ movement comes from. This annoys cultures that have long rejected monotheism.
India and the Far East are the only lands least impacted by monotheism. Chinese and Japanese kept Christians and Muslims out forcefully, using walls and strict imperial policy. But increasingly, in South Korea and Singapore, we see the spread of American Evangelical Christianity. In India, monotheism has been fiercely resisted, despite 800 years of Muslim rulers, and 200 years of colonial rule.
In the 19th century, Hinduism was adapted when Europeans insisted that polytheism was pagan and inferior. Hindus came up with an innovative idea. Hinduism sees one in many and many in one. All gods are forms of the same divine. This allowed Hindus to worship many gods while claiming to be monotheists – confusing everyone.
India has long understood that societies cannot be homogenous. Different communities have different gods, cultures, customs and beliefs. We have to figure out ways to negotiate with different communities. On the dark side, this negotiation with different communities led to the rise of the caste system. Communities restricted exchange of food and brides. On the bright side it allowed for different people to live, work, and worship differently. Different marriage practices, different rules of inheritance, different ways of coping with multiple genders and sexualities and desires. There was no standardisation. Wise people came up with wise solutions. Foolish people came up with foolish solutions. Diversity meant accepting all, the wise and the foolish, rather than enforcing one standard framework in the name of God, or social justice.
But diversity is inefficient. It demands more resources and more patience. Monotheism is efficient. It creates standard operating processes – it mandates how people should live, work, talk, eat, love, marry, parent, and die. It domesticates the savage and makes them all civilised. In earlier days, this civilisational imperative came from missionaries and evangelists. Today it is being imposed by politicians, judges, and activists. Everyone wants to save their world through conversion.