Wednesday 21 December 2016

BAFTA Diversity Changes Could Also Help Us Suspend Disbelief In Storylines

Idris Elba as DCI John Luther
BAFTA (The British Film Academy of Film and Television Arts ) has just changed its rules to increase diversity in its awards and membership. The changes are designed to ensure that both outstanding debut and film nominees demonstrate that they’ve increased opportunities for minority ethnic and disadvantaged film makers by reference to gender, and disability in front of and behind the camera. Well l applaud them for efforts in the right direction. But I’m writing about storylines and depictions reflecting the life we live and not the laudable dream we wish to achieve.
I remember the day I first watched BBC TV’s Luther starring Idris Elba as DCI John Luther (years after every one had been raving it) and was so impressed by it!!
No I didn’t delay watching the hit show because I was  jealous all my women friends became weak kneed at the mention of screen heart throb  Idris Elba's   name. Now I better understand what made me feel weird about the drama, why I could not suspend disbelief to really get into it.
The real dynamics of of race 
The truth is it didn’t portray the actual workings of racial dynamics like “white privilege” on screen when the black character is cast as the senior officer with people calling him "boss" or "guv'nor". It’s not that black bosses don’t exist, rather that when they do they don’t behave with the freedom and ease portrayed by Idris and his white colleagues around him on screen. In our popular culture the black guy who behaves as if in charge is acted as a screen fantasy. It's as rare in actual daily life as hen's teeth for many reasons. Firstly, the stereotype does not exist, and secondly people just have not been taught to react with ease to black men or women as characters in charge. Most black men that have executive titles in real life appear more there on sufferance than with the authority a real leader should have. That's why all these portrayals are such a huge fantasy, a picture of the world we might like to see but have not yet actually realised. This must be shocking to some because I’ve never read anyone else say this on any medium in the UK. But it’s the truth black folk won’t tell you because they judge society doesn’t want to hear it.
BAFTA: British Film Academy of  Film and Television Arts

Shifting goal posts
I'm no shrinking violet and while for years I focussed on getting better at everything I do, the day I realised our social environment would keep shifting the goal posts to frustrate my goal strikes, I heaved an enormous sigh of relief. I knew at last I was not perfect, but not bad at all either. There was nothing wrong with ME. It was just that society was not yet ready to accept the best of me without reacting with defensiveness and the sense that it felt hugely threatened. My way of being, apparently, challenges white supremacy because I've never believed white folk innately better than me. White privilege is about subtly enforcing that falsehood. Of course, it is always denied.

Nikki Amuka-Bird as DCI Erin Gray
Real dramas not fantasy
So, I'm gagging for the drama that tells the story as it is NOW! The script that puts the black guy in charge and acknowledges that our philosophy or social working of white privilege means the character would be a snowball in a very hot room. That would be a real slice of life, and an uncomfortable but enlightening one for us all to watch. Till then I guess we must learn our lessons on this paradigm from the reality show running in America with Mr Trump and his followers who are happy to live in denial of how they are. If BAFTA has made the changes in personnel possible, I’m looking forward to the changes in output also!!

Saturday 17 December 2016

Blame Yourself If You Keep Buying The Snake Oil

When you’re buying the fifth bottle of Snake Oil it’s time to look at yourself, not blame the salesman for his product being a fraud.

Who to trust, Putin or the CIA?
When America is told by security services experts who have served both Republican and Democratic governments, some for decades, that a foreign power attempted to and possibly did influence elections to choose her leader, you’d have thought the President Elect would listen. When the same agencies questioned the inappropriate use of private emails for state business by Hillary Clinton, the then campaigning Donald Trump threatened to investigate and even put her in jail. But no. the same agencies are saying President Putin authorised or knew of the cyber-attack on the Democratic National Committee's emails, the same, now president Elect Trump, says their advice can’t be trusted. Weren’t they, he now says, the same people who claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq leading to that country’s invasion? But America, the nation that bought the snake oil from the salesman is caught in the headlights not knowing what to think, who to believe, their security services or their greatest adversary in President Putin.

She can’t blame the salesman who conned her into the first bottle of snake oil now she has bought and consumed so many bottles. This is the sales man that buys 800 jobs for a $7million kickback to Carrier Corporation for keeping those jobs in the USA, and sells it as evidence of his economic wizardry. Set this against the 168,000 jobs that were legitimately created in the USA that month without crony capitalism, and that went almost unremarked in the media or by the voters.  Only a change in America and its people’s attitudes will stop her buying more and more of a product of highly dubious worth.

If America continues to lie to herself, she remains vulnerable to further gaslighting by her new elected leaders. All the snake oil salesmen are having to do is repeat the lies America tells herself and which she so desperately fears to confront.

The biggest lie of all 

The biggest of these lies is that America is egalitarian, that she values all people equally. America says she is not racist, that her institutions are not predicated on maintaining the social economic and political superiority of any white Americans over any other Americans. But that's exactly the opposite of the truth. Any policies or activities that will deliver the prime yet  vociferously denied need to maintain white privilege there will pass muster among the masses. The nation will continue to buy the oil from the salesman as she gets sicker and sicker. The promises to “drain the swamp of establishment insiders”, to control immigration, to control abortion, to maintain law and order - all are cyphers for maintaining the established heirarchy in the USA, especially if the ostracised parties can in any way be associated with the liberalism that diminished white power in America. Many women voters went for this pitch, sacrificing their dignity on the alter of their soon to be restored ethnic superiority.  Buyer beware. Wake up. The medicine you’re being sold certainly diminishes your perceived enemies but will undermine the sovereignty, ethics, morality, cohesion and international dignity of your nation. Everyone can see America is being conned. Her enemies will enable it all they can, but only Americans can start owning their truths and lies to change this situation. 

Monday 12 December 2016

4 things I learned From Engaging With A Trump Supporter

It is in the face of ugliness that one recognises and yearns for beauty. It is when confronted by anti-value that one discerns the importance of creating value. I have learned 4 lessons from engaging with a Trump supporter, and all incline me more than ever to seek the beauty and goodness that is the potential in all us humans, for to be a Trump supporter one must abandon many of the higher aspirations that spring from our humanity. 

 They answer with questions
Trump supporters answer questions with questions leading one on a trail of disjointed issues all disconnected one from the other. At the end of the conversation you’re left empty, wondering what they really said, because there is no overarching logic or narrative that connects their thoughts. Thus, they themselves are unable to say what they stand for except on a few, mostly self-aggrandising issues. An example is when asked how they justify a dog whistle campaign that unleashed the legitimation of racism and misogyny, they won’t answer that question they’ll answer with the question, “what about making America great again?” or “why are all American jobs going abroad to Mexico?”

They see no big picture
Trump supporters being very disjointed in the issues they espouse are unable to draw a big picture of the world they will create. They are unable to connect the dots of their individual ideas to form a panorama anyone can examine as ugly or beautiful. Connected to this is their short termism in thought. They don’t consider the flow of history beyond a few years ago, and so are completely unable to draw from the lessons of history. While they know the facts of what happened before, they cannot string them together into a narrative that yield moral or other lessons. So, they’re confused when you ask them about how Hitler came to power, and any parallels they might see in the present. It’s irrelevant to them. They just don’t do “bigger” pictures.

The ends justify the means 
Trump supporters think the end justifies the means, implying that immoral acts are justified to achieve their personal goals. So, in an election it’s ok to demonise Mexicans as rapists, the disabled as freaks, blacks as criminally violent, women as fair game for predation, so long as these ideas play to existing stereotypes and get the vote out. They are a morality free zone when it comes to social and ethical values.

Extreme information sources

The final thing I learned was how ignorant they are, or appear to be. This is not because they are unintelligent, but because their human intelligence is applied to sources of information, oft repeated, that make them hold what seem to be bizarre views. Thus, climate change becomes a figment of the imagination, the mainstream media is an instrument of a conspiracy to bring them down, and Clinton is the demon that deserves to go to jail for email malfeasance she’s been cleared of by the FBI. Elsewhere, the advice of duly appointed security agents (The CIA) is shunned even when they warn of dire threats to the constitutional integrity of the united states as in Putin interfering with US Presidential elections.

The net effect of engaging with Trump supporters for the neurotypical person is emotionally bruising and intellectually draining. The former because it hurts to recognise a fellow human you want to respect is demonstrating a callous disregard for the humanity of others. And the latter because they are simply impervious to reason owing to the extreme sources from which they take their information and the shallowness of their analysis avoiding the big picture. So be prepared when you encounter a die-hard Trump supporter, it will be debilitating, though the up side is you will come away yearning for the light and fresh air of reason and humanity.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Being Seen But Not Heard: #BeingBlackInBritain

"The Cart that overturns on the road ahead is a warning to the one behind” said the Buddha in an ancient text. Sometimes we learn from the failures of others and by observing take lessons that could save us pain and anguish in the future.

The outpouring of racial tension in America this summer brought on in equal parts by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the shootings of young (and older) black men by uniformed white officers, shocked the world. Here is a country with a black President not just in his first but in his second term of office - how could things be so bad when the popularly elected chief executive himself is black? Then there is the apparent willingness to absolve Trump of wrongdoing in his core support (mostly white, non-college educated voters) group following his "Pussy Grabbing" live mike incident, in which he suggests you can do anything to women so long as you’re a star. Endless radio programmes have wondered how the “Teflon Don” has not yet had any accusations stick despite the loud calls of his unfitness for Presidential Office. 
As the Trump Clinton campaign has laid open the fault lines hidden but denied in American society, so we in the UK have also hidden fault lines in our social fabric. I’m going to lay bare some of these in my series #BeingBlackInBritain. The challenges I write about all hide in open sight but are cloaked by a web of public denial, personal censorship and minimisation.

The truth hides in plain sight
If black folk in Britain act as society expects and say only what is “welcomed” by society, the faults lay hidden, incubating to burst forth in unhealthy ways later. Black folk can even act in a criminal way, especially the younger ones, and be absorbed. They are acting out the stereotype script. They can fail educationally and be absorbed, again acting right on script. Above all the most important thing that ensures our societal status quo is for blacks to be silent - not engage too vociferously with the democratic process or social relations in terms that white Britons don’t approve of. That would include talk of issues like white privilege or the unspoken but presumed greater value of white lives in all ways than black lives. The statistics from the judicial educational and economic systems don’t lie.  All put black Brits far behind other ethnic groups. So long as this silence is maintained, our social fault lines remain well hidden in plain sight.

Blacks can’t lead, the stereotype does not exist.
The immediate result of this law of silence, this mafia style social Omerta , is to give a false sense of normality, even progress. However, the current silence hides the fact that a stereotype or role of a black Brit as a leadership figure does not yet exist in any group activity. In individual sports and creative endeavours like music you do find exceptions, but wherever recognition depends on the support or cooperation of others, blacks must play the invisibility card; they advance best when they are silent or saying ONLY that which society wants them to say. But of course the most important thing about being an executive is to be a little more visionary, to go beyond what everyone else says does or thinks, and so open new vistas and pathways. If the stereotype of a black person at the helm of affairs, does not exist, even talented black folk must be limited by the imaginations of their judges and appointers – a mostly white society. The second big effect of the great silence is that it stifles creativity. Who even knows what black folk can do if they are disapproved of, for speaking freely.  

Society “assumes” what black folk think
Finally, society by so dumbing down thought and expression in the minority group act on repeated assumptions of what black folk think and want.  My experience shows that the best advocate for the individual is themselves. We end up with people who have no idea what black folk actually think and feel speaking on their behalf. Because of the social pressure to dumb down public expression of their experience, such expression from blacks when it finally bubbles over is loud, angry, and sometimes destructive.  Meanwhile a stitch in time could have the saved the nine that are required following say radicalisation into a terrorist cause, crime, a riot or even mental health problems brought on by the social pressure to be mute. In another post I will explain why Black folk do not speak up, but even in social relationships, blacks don’t typically talk to their white friends about how they feel. Such talk leaves people uneasy and is quickly disabled. So even when white Brits and black Brits are friends, the former don’t discover what the other knows thinks or feels.  They only know what they ALLOW black Brits to tell them. Conversation is censored to avoid embarrassment on both sides, but mostly the white side because, being dominant, it sets the agenda for what is on the menu of "appropriate" talk. All of this is unspoken, unacknowledged and usually just denied.

So, until black Brits rise beyond being seen and not heard, we store a world of unease for our society, block social mobility, destroy creativity and exclude many from the social mainstream, then wring our hands in wide eyed disbelief that this could be happening. It happens because in this case society has decided silence is golden.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Ignorance Not Immigration Caused Brexit

The chattering classes don't speak up
A historic change in the future of one of the world's most powerful countries has been made on the basis of what many now acknowledge was a series of half truths fed to the whole nation at the EU Referendum. They were swallowed hook line and sinker by the nation's least informed and voted for. Ignorance of: macro economics, the EU, our place in the world, what underpins it, and the wider implications of our votes, has put Britain out of the EU.
Chattering classes
I do not blame the ill informed. Macro economics is a total yawn to most except economics nerds. The complex linkages between growth, governance, security, immigration, is like solving a Rubik cube even for the informed. I think it is the middle classes, the relatively well-travelled, the relatively well informed who pulled the stunt of not speaking loudly enough (for fear of causing offence or intruding on others' points of view, even exposing their own privileged positions perhaps?). The only people in Britain who EXPLICITLY talk to their children about racism and immigration are the fascists, extremists and racists. "Decent" people talk parenthetically and think they've covered it off! Like talk of drugs, sex education and pornography, if you dont discuss these things clearly and offer young people steers, they will grow up to be informed by a media and public opinion we absolutely cannot trust. We will grow ignoramuses in very important areas of life even among the chattering classes.

Related Post: Brexit - A New Dawn Or A Long Night

How ignorance grows
Speak directly to children with guidance on race
Finally the biggest lie of all...Britons are too great to be ignorant , that being English willy nilly, ipso facto means you are savvy with the world. Neither are true! Being British gives you a fantastic opportunity to be savvy with the world because Britain has so many connections with the entire world. However this is so only if you avoid the know-it-all sense of entitlement, or the "let's take it all for granted" attitudes which are the greatest incubators of ignorance. Again it's the literate, chattering classes who are best placed to lead this charge, but do they? No! They sit on their hands, feel embarrassed or ashamed to call the issues and act on their RESPONSIBILITY to themselves and their society based on what they know.
Denial has a price
Brexit Leader Boris Johnson - Half truths
Sometimes I think we've had it too good for too long. We feel our privileges will remain forever without attention. Or we act to maintain the narrow privileges assured to mostly white Britons which they take for granted yet often deny. It's this casual denial and avoidance that puts us in the pickle we are in today, and enables a few strongly motivated totally self interested Britons to present themselves as social saviours when their falsehoods border on the treasonous. Treasonous because their popular but false claims have facilitated the disintegration of the nation and its status. Well now we shall see the price of denial and minimisation. And no, wringing our hands won't be good enough in response! We are going to have to engage with the mess we are in and at last call a spade a spade.

Friday 24 June 2016

Brexit - A New Dawn Or A Long Night ?

Cameron resigns at No.10 via Daily Telegraph

The British people have just taken their country out of the EU by a narrow margin of 52% to 48% on a huge turnout of 72% of the electorate. Donald Trump has called it a great result because "people everywhere are angry!" The result flew in the face of early polls all of which predicted a narrow Remain win.
Rebellious north
It seems traditional labour voting areas like the North East and Wales handed the Leavers this referendum. They are not nuts. They, like many leavers acted on the information they were most credibly fed. Economic decline in their regions was painted as the result of an influx of foreign migrants, giving rise to a sense that we had lost control of our borders, and with that our national character and even independence. So the pitch to call this referendum a vote for independence or taking back control sounded not only appealing , but a way to kick back at the migrants, their patrons (read political elite on all sides), and the cosmopolitan rather effete and even dilettante urban well to do in places like London, who had neither listened to or responded to the pain of the poor.

Related post : Ignorance Not Immigration Caused Brexit
Election Results via BBC

Ugly campaign
The campaigns took on an increasingly ugly, border-line xenophobic, sometimes crypto-racist , tone on the one hand; and rather out of touch, pie in the sky, we know better than you ordinary folk (despite your experience of recent government policy) tone on the Remain side. No one could own up to the fact that austerity for the many presented as economic success for the few was the main cause of the anger. The scapegoating of migrants who make a NET contribution to our country was totally overlooked. To defend migrants was seen as unpatriotic. The rest of the claims about the Brussels gravy train and unaccountability of un-elected officials were easy to present and make stick.Especially in a country like the UK with centuries of Empire in its past , and used to being looked up to everywhere, our language spoken in most of the world, the call for a return to past glory , freedom and the economic privileges this country once enjoyed easily found traction. Even if not consciously, I am certain these thoughts played strongly in the subconscious of many, particularly older, Leave voters.
New dawn or long night for the UK?

Reaping what we sow
This referendum was won on a lie. But life is lived on the bases of truth and reality. We are about to discover which of our attitudes were political and media manufactured fantasies and which were really true of life. There will be consequences which have started already. The PM has gone, Corbyn and the Labour leadership can expect to pay a price for the rebellion of their voters. The Kingdom has moved steps closer to losing one of its parts (Scotland), and the international economy will act on facts not emotion. Sterling has dived, and Banks like Barclays have lost 30% of their share value within minutes of the results. The anti migrant rhetoric has been legitimated by the result and it will become more "ok" to be fearful or nervous of people who look and sound un-British.
I think Britain just became a smaller country and it hurts. Yet no one can buck the law of cause and effect. You reap what you sow. We shall see in short order what crop we shall harvest

Friday 8 April 2016

Winning The Shame Game In 3 Easy Steps

Pic by courtesy

Encouragement is using  people’s aspirations to motivate them to achieve more than they thought they could. “Shaming” others looks similar but is in fact a passive aggressive way of extorting compliance with values which may well not be in the interest of the shamed person. Shaming usually occurs when there is a power differential between the shamer and shamed. This differential often, but not always, is manifest in the shamer being in the majority and the shamed being in the minority. Sometimes, the power differential has nothing to do with numbers and more to do with the influence a minority group has over the majority. Cultural values can empower one group over another and thus give that group the power to shame the dis-empowered. Common ways in which we see shaming work include “slut shaming” - where sexual independence by women is demeaned as slutty behaviour to control women's behaviour. This is enabled by cultural dis-empowerment where women, mothers, and wives need the approval of men to see themselves as "worthy". Another example is in speech censorship in which certain subjects simply don’t come up for discussion because they create social unease. Examples of this include talk of race, sexual orientation, gender equality, or ideas on policy issues like immigration, drug legislation, religious affiliation even body types. Shaming can subtly happen in business too, when ideas disfavoured by powerful members of the corporate hierarchy are not even tabled for discussion.
Pic courtesy of  Naypong at

How shaming works
Shaming works because it relies on the natural human desire to belong and be approved of by the group or tribe, be it society, colleagues, family members or just your set of friends. By the threat of withdrawing approval or even ostracism from the group, individuals are quickly brought in line with the status quo. Shaming is costly because it leads to the exclusion of brilliant ideas, just because those in authority dislike them, not because those ideas are bad. Many companies, families and societies limp along with long defunct ways of doing things because of shaming to gain compliance. Here are 3 ways to become free of the scourge which has limited so many potentially brilliant lives and killed so many useful ideas at their birth.

Step 1: Change your locus of thought.
When you change your way of evaluating the worth of your idea from what others think of it to what your values tell you, you have changed your locus of thought. Who you want to date, how you want to date them, how to run the business, what would benefit society; all look very different when you refer to your own ideals and principles. Those ideals and principles, remember, were developed with just this situation in mind. They exist to improve not just yours but all life around you. What could possibly trump your own principles? You see your ideas as they truly are when you see them through the lens of your own values not through the prism of public opinion. Go with public opinion only if it’s as good as your ideas.

Step 2: Be the change you want to see.
Put your principles into practice and act on them. Nothing beats actual proof. If your life is broadened enhanced, unburdened by living as your conscience dictates, no one will be able to deny long term that your ideas have lifted you, widened your sphere of influence, widened the horizons of your thought and widened your possibilities for achievement. At the root this requires that you take responsibility for your life, and not hand responsibility to anyone else. When this happens, the environment invariably responds in kind. Those round you may not agree with you, but they will know you mean what you say and think.

Step 3: Beware of Stockholm Syndrome
In 1973 hostages taken by terrorists at a bank in Sweden started to display empathy with their captors and even advocate the hostage takers'cause. Called the Stockholm Syndrome, psychologists say it results from traumatic bonding. By identifying with the oppressor, the individual’s ego is protected by ceasing to see itself as a captive, or the oppressor as an abuser. All is then "well". Stockholm syndrome is delusional behaviour which abandons the principles and values of the shamed or abused person and embraces the values and agenda of the shaming or abusive party.

Pic by courtesy
Fear of abandonment or fear of reprisal by the group are usually paper tigers that cease to roar when confronted. On the contrary, people who, while having respect for the group, do not abandon their principles and values, always garner respect.  Such people become effective actors in life work and society. Furthermore, the freedom to explore new ideas and new possibilities is such a great reward, that you will wonder why you may have laboured so long under the yoke of social, political or corporate “shaming”. 

Saturday 19 March 2016

Iain Duncan Smith: When A Quiet Man Goes With A Bang, Forget The Sizzle, Check The Steak

IDS resigns
Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), self-proclaimed “quiet man of politics”, former leader of the Tory party, Work and Pensions Secretary and Cabinet member resigned in an incendiaryletter to the Prime Minister yesterday. He left because the cuts to benefits announced in the budget just 3 days ago are going to be shelved and re-worked. He had long opposed these cuts, but been forced to defend them publicly. In essence IDS like many in his party had started the reform of the Welfare system with the assumption that people were work-shy, that disability benefits had been the sinecure of scroungers and that all that had to be done was to “encourage” and “motivate” people who had become economic malingerers, through failures in Welfare Policy, to become economically active, taxable individuals who could contribute to Britain’s recovery. The  "BedroomTax" , the re-badging of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the Personal Independence (PIP) and a raft of changes had the net result of hitting the disabled and the most vulnerable the hardest. When then it became apparent that Chancellor Osborne’s budget rewarded his political targets - young people, entrepreneurs and the very wealthy -  with benefits in the context of swingeing cuts against the poor, IDS resigned. He said of these benefits: “they are not defensible in the way they are placed within a budget that benefits higher earning tax payers”. He goes on to wonder if: “enough has been done to ensure we are all in this together”, calling into question the core Government claim that we really are all in this together.

PM and IDS hold opposing views on Europe
Meanwhile the timing of this resignation at a time when the Tory party has given a hall pass to its members at all levels to campaign for or against membership of the EU according to their conscience, makes his resignation politically deadly. He has thrown The Chancellor’s budget into complete disrepute and with it the judgement of a key stay in Europe campaigner and potential leader of the Tory party in George Osborne. This is a double blow to the PM, the Party and the Stay in Europe campaigners. If the budget of the government is unsound, what else, one might legitimately ask, is unsound about the political vision of PM Cameron, his Chancellor and the Stay in Europe cohort?
The answer to these questions do not lie in the alphabet soup of re-branded benefits or the arithmetical juggling of the Chancellor benefiting some, hitting others and clearly demonstrating we are NOT all in this together. 

Forget the sizzle, check the steak
Assumption: Benefits claimants are scroungers
The answer does not even lie in our understanding of government accounts and fiscal policy. To understand what is happening, all one needs to evaluate is the basic assumptions those who campaign for our votes hold about their fellow citizens. What view of men and women do they subscribe to? Do they respect the equal dignity of all, or do they think some are more deserving than others, no matter how well they spin their message with slogans and brand their policies?
People are the same everywhere. They can be driven by greed, haughtiness, a contempt for ordinary people, compassion, a sense of respect for their fellows and a sense of morality that renders some decisions unconscionable. The question is, which values our political aspirants have at front of mind. I’d argue that only a delusional person could not see what is happening in the UK politically now. Whether that person cares is of course another matter. And what is worse, the media is simply reporting the cosmetic facts and only joining the dots at the most superficial level. Will voters be smarter? They need to look beyond the sizzle of the steak and seek the beef to see how fresh it really is, in spite of the sweet seasoning we all smell and find so appetising. 

Tuesday 19 January 2016

6 things I've Learned About Denial That Directly Impact Diversity.

Diversity is about our ability to embrace people from varied backgrounds with respect and ease. To do this requires the social skill of viewing things from multiple perspectives so we can accept new ideas and new ways of doing things. In business, where "innovation" has become the word du jour in recent times, and society in which people of diverse backgrounds are more and more in our spaces, our ability to embrace diversity not only makes us mores successful business wise but also happier as individuals. In a working life spanning several decades I have discovered that the human tendency toward living in denial is perhaps the greatest roadblock to our ability to embrace diversity as a way of life and doing business. Here are 6 things about denial, not all bad, that directly impact our ability to embrace diversity.

1. Keep Calm And Carry On

When we live in denial of any reality we numb ourselves to the impact and presence of that reality. A good example is bereavement. When first told of the loss of a loved one, many people just cannot accept that they will never, and I mean never, talk to, laugh with, drink with, hug, hold kiss that person ever again. The reality is so awful we numb ourselves to it and subconsciously deny it’s happened. Not a bad thing if you have to comfort others reeling in shock, organise funerals and the like. You are numb with shock, but crucially are able to function because of the shock.

2. Let’s Face The Music And Dance

Well that’s not entirely true, you actually deny the mood music and dance anyway, because denial enables you to keep up your spirits, even make light of and joke about the awful event that you can’t face. Again, useful in the short term. Who wants dive into a bottomless depression and fall apart? There’s the famous anecdote of the paratroop officer on Arnhem bridge in WWII whose lightly armed men, facing a crack tank brigade, were being torn to shreds in that ill-fated action. He carried an umbrella throughout the fight and explained to his men just before he died, “I’m hopeless with passwords but everyone knows that only an Englishman would be mad enough to carry a brolly onto a battlefield, so our boys would always know I was one of them.” Total denial to the point of surrealism, but he kept his men’s spirits up to the end!

3. Dodgy Logic.

We deny reality by minimisation, rationalisation and fantasising, using their logic to hide from the facts. Minimisation as in “Oh come on its not that bad really is it?” or “well look on the bright side, things are getting better aren’t they?” This is the logic which says, look on the bright side, the terrorists at Charlie Hebdo could have killed 20 or 30 journalists not just 12.

Rationalisation to maintain denial is where explanations for behaviour are made without comment on the value or worth of that behaviour. Saying that “well he behaves like that because he’s never met anyone from that background,” may well be true, but fails to acknowledge that the behaviour itself is hateful or inconsiderate. Rationalisation feels to its victims like an excuse for bad behaviour.

Fantasising, living in a dream world seems bizarre for adults but is very common and is one way of dealing with unpleasant or thorny problems we cannot face. It’s almost as if by repeating the fantasy often and long enough reality will disappear, but of course it never does. Examples in daily life are pretending you did not very publicly snub someone just the day before, yet meet them cheerily at the next occasion. The denial is so effective that the victim asks themselves, “did I imagine what happened yesterday?”, which of course they didn’t. Other ways in which fantasies are maintained is censorship of speech where certain subjects including diversity itself are just not welcome in polite conversation. The unease created is a powerful way in which groups are held in line with the fantasy. If no one is talking about it, then it cannot be happening says the dream.

4. Denial Maintains The Status Quo.

Denial of a situation helps maintain stasis and never addresses the problem. If an issue has been censored from sight, it can’t exist and of course will never be addressed. How can you solve a problem that does not exist?

5. Denial Is The Perfect Growth Medium For Impending Catastrophe.

Any problem facing an individual or a business metastasises and grows when not addressed. The problems can be hidden in plain sight but owing to a collective denial of the issue it can grow to the point it becomes totally toxic to the larger community before it’s addressed. This happens in personal relationships, in businesses and in communities. Couples slowly growing apart,  Group Think  in businesses leading to awful decisions are all examples. Why did our society not see radicalisation  looming over the horizon, given years of social statistics indicating exclusion in certain demographics? Why did it take so long for the authorities to act despite countless allegations of paedophile activity by high placed celebrities like Sir Jimmy Savile . By contrast, diversity and other social challenges which are widely spoken of without fear of censorship (such as women’s rights) see continued progress even though resistance to them is deeply embedded in prevailing cultural values and memes.

6. Denial Does Not Stop By Itself.

People need permission and an enabling environment to stop denying realities that may be toxic to themselves, their businesses and their communities. Individuals and usually those in positions of social, executive or opinion forming authority usually need to take the lead and champion a constructive way of dealing with the issue being denied. On a personal level, each individual has to decide (or not) for themselves to liberate their thinking and way of being. The rewards are plentiful – an enriched life based on reality, and an improved sense of self-worth that is shame and guilt free. Denial of reality holds us all back and limits our lives to a fraction of the possibilities we can help ourselves and others enjoy.

Your comments on Denial are welcome. Can you add insights on the subject?

For coaching in managing diversity email Tet Kofi Media at