“Peace” and “love” as real tools for inclusion

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“Peace” and “love” as real tools for inclusion

By anupama jain, Principal Consultant

As a diversity & inclusion educator, I observe many workplaces rife with tensions and hostilities between employees. What I have discovered is that petty grievances and unaddressed bullying undermine not only a sense of community but also productivity, meaning that the core values of the organization are not being attended to while staff members engage in ongoing battles with one another. This is not unique to the organizations with which I work– 8 out of 10 American workers report a high degree of stress associated with their jobs and it shows up in interpersonal dynamics as well as in other ways. With such high rates of anxiety, frustration, and even anger among workers, it is no surprise that organizations and institutions are struggling to create environments in which diverse people can thrive, which is one of the major goals of inclusion.

When thinking about the challenges of the contemporary workplace, a poem that often comes to my mind is William Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much With Us.”  Just over a hundred years ago, Wordsworth bemoaned how much the “getting and spending” of industrialization interfered with people’s abilities to appreciate the actuality of living.

I was reminded of Wordsworth’s still-relevant insights at the Thomas Merton 100th Festival Reception last night commemorating Merton and other peacemakers. In his keynote speech (virtual though it ended up being, due to weather troubles interrupting his travel), Merton-biographer Jim Forest pointed out that seemingly simple concepts such as peace and love are actually key to building inclusive communities.  “Love” for Merton was not merely about a feeling, but instead love signifies a way of being, a way of living, a way of seeing the world that values all life, including those with whom we disagree or see as our enemies. One lesson seems to be intentionally reminding ourselves of the dignity due all people including ourselves even as we struggle in societies in which there is too much stress, injustice, and disappointment.

This may seem overly abstract but, in fact, highly successful diversity and inclusion efforts such as the Dignity & Respect Campaign are based on active and mindful strategies for so reminding ourselves.

And, as one of their board members, I am glad to regularly engage with values espoused by the Thomas Merton Center:

  1. Supports the uniqueness, wholeness, dignity and freedoms of all people.

  2. Enthusiastically advocates for the rights of all people as they may fully participate and contribute to the pursuit of peace, social and environmental justice.

  3. Views all human beings as having equal and unconditional value.

  4. Supports the pursuit of peace and justice in a nonviolent manner.

  5. Engages in peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations.

  6. Emphasizes cooperation in getting things done through peaceful and nonviolent acts.

  7. Proactively supports and advocates that prisoners are entitled to basic human rights and humane treatment.

  8. Educates others about economic justice and labor solidarity.

  9. Takes every opportunity to educate and advocate for the basic civil rights of all people.

  10. Proactively addresses oppression in its many forms.

  11. Advocates for the right to educate others for the basic civil rights of people.

Learn more about Thomas Merton and how the organization named after him supports peace and social justice in Pittsburgh and everywhere.

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