A Mycenean death mask, culturally appropriated by the author.

Presumably, we agree that diversity and its good pal inclusivity are good things. We’ll also agree that open minds work better than closed ones, and acting like an arsehole is not cool. Especially in a world that could do with more empathy and less aggression.

Open minds work better than closed ones

However, when it comes to diversity I am conflicted. Much as I strive to conduct myself in an open-minded, collaborative and respectful way personally, I don’t think the power of diversity for culture lies in equality, tolerance and a Care Bear approach to others. I rather suspect that potent diversity is bloodier in tooth and claw. Consider ‘the melting pot’. Blenders are quite vicious machines – the drinks might be lovely, but the ingredients get pulped.

Here are three perspectives on creativity that are more about clash than harmony:

Tom Waits was asked how the creative relationship he has with his wife Kathleen Brennan worked…

“I’m the prospector, she’s the cook. She says, “you bring it home, I’ll cook it up.” I think we sharpen each other like knives. She has a fearless imagination.”

Grayson Perry on ‘cultural conversations’  (from his Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman)…

“New religions try to recruit by using the sites and symbols of the belief system they are trying to replace.”

And from the beautiful Phaidon Art Museum book…

“As would later occur when Rome conquered Greece only to be dominated culturally in return, so during the late Bronze age the mainland Mycenaean’s superseded the Minoans as masters of the Aegean world, while adopting and adapting many of the Cretan’s artistic and cultural traditions…”

What connects these is a theme of sparks are made from friction, hostile takeovers, and stealing not so much with pride as with a blasé ‘I’ll take that’ attitude.

Sparks are made from friction

The dark-side of diversity, where culture (like history) belongs to the victors. The kind that converts dirt-poor blues riffs into global mega-tours. Just ask Mick n Keef. And is the world poorer for the ‘Stones or Led Zep?

Cultural influence (something many of us reach for) is amoral when it chooses to engage with diversity. So if we want to aim for it, but don’t want to be dicks on a personal level, what are we to do?

I’ve no idea, but as I get older I seek to be in the minority. When I find myself in the uncomfortable position of being the odd one out, the least listened to or relevant, it is tremendously stimulating. Especially having been listening overmuch to the sound of my own voice for many years. Losing any sense of entitled platform will raise your game. And give you a much-needed kick in the pants.

Finally, we should brace ourselves for an era of radical cultural overturning in the wake of recent elections. It’s going to stir up radical opposition. Diversity works as much by having the doors kicked in as politely opened by others.  If we are on the wrong side of those doors, we must have an open mind about what’s coming through. Or go the way of the Minoans.

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Presumably, we agree that diversity and its good pal inclusivity are good things. We’ll also agree that open minds work better than closed ones, and acting like an arsehole is not cool. Especially in a world that could do with more empathy and less aggression. However, when it comes to...
Silas Amos
Silas Amos thinks in pictures and aims to talk in plain English. A founder employee for jkr, he’s been titled ‘ designer’, 'Creative Planner' and 'Strategic Director’. Now he’s solo he’s just the bloke who rocks up and has a ponder. Currently, this is with eve mattress who he has been with since their launch, HP, Unilever and others. He can be particularly verbose on the topic of how we are working in exciting times where all the old rules of who does what and how are up in the air.