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Diversity Is Our Default

Updated: Jun 5, 2022

I run a tiny consultancy strategising on innovative ideas for interfaith projects. We named ourselves Being Bridges since faith traditions provide ways of being in the world and our work aims to be a bridge for dialogue amongst these various ways. So when Nick Pang, who designed the award-winning Smol Tok conversation deck, raised the possibility of collaborating on an expansion set around the topic of diversity, I jumped at the opportunity.

The author, Basil (far left), at the end of a community building session for diverse youths from the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), Singapore. Photo credit: Nazath Faheema.

The idea of conversation as a bridge has always been an intriguing one. Bridges bring together, but at the same time they distinguish. We often think of conversing with people as a way of coming together, of uniting ourselves, feeling like we’re one. But what we tend to forget is that it is also through our conversations (even with friends) that we get to know our differences. We notice little things we did not expect about the other person; little things that are not like ourselves; things that set us apart from the other.

Yes, the beauty of human conversations, and in fact the beauty of dialogue in general, is that in bringing together we also distinguish. But because we focus so much on the positive of unifying, we tend to look at the opposite of unity as a negative. And what’s this opposite of unity? I dare say — without describing it as contradictory — that the opposite of unity is diversity. But just because unity can be a good thing, it doesn’t mean that diversity is bad.

I believe we can have a good unity and we can have a bad unity — and in the same way a good diversity and a bad diversity. We wanted to emphasise this. When Nick and I first started brainstorming our underlying philosophy for Diversity by Default (DBD), we kept rallying around this anchor: