Homogeneity of Group Life

At the Group Relations Australia conference I attended recently, there seemed to be an unconscious fantasy from the group that homogeneity was a prerequisite to co-creation. By that I mean that there seemed to be an overwhelming need to establish our ‘sameness’  and deploy rules regarding the equality of participation and equality in the ways we chose to enact that participation. It was as if creating the group as a one homogeneous entity (by wiping us of our individuality and cultural influences) was the only way to build trust and keep the ‘not-so-nice’ parts of us at bay. Then, and only then, could we commence the work of co-creation.

I understand the human desire to look for ‘sameness’ within a group context in order to create a sense of a shared experience and build group cohesion sufficiently to achieve a set task. I guess what I’m questioning is the almost primal urge for homogeneity that can occur in group life when, in truth, our individual natures and experiences mean that we walk in the world quite unlike anyone else. Why is there so often a desire to diminish this difference rather than value it?

The concept of an exponential degree of individual difference is certainly difficult to hold in the mind and perhaps that’s why universal truths like love and hate offer such comfort – they demonstrate our shared humanity. But my point (and I’m getting there slowly I know) is that we seem to have a tendency to want to believe that in order to co-create something, we need to leave part of ourselves – the part that distinguishes us from everyone else – at the door.

Maybe this is partly my feisty Euro heritage rallying against Anglo societal codes of behaviour that seem to have an incessant desire to ‘normalise’ everything – as if ‘being me’ will ‘destroy you’ so best meet somewhere safely in the middle. Middle-ground has its advantages, but not without the acknowledgment of the ‘selves’ that we are casting aside. I’m no rampant individualist, quite the contrary. But I am fascinated by the paradox of living in an individualistic culture that often unconsciously diminishes an individual’s capacity to be fully present in group life.

Why do we do it? Is it because the old saying of  “we are one but we are many” is too difficult to hold to? Maybe its time to challenge the polarity implicit in this adage by changing it to “we are one and we are many”.