Monday, November 9, 2015

Tolerance

There are those days when you sit at the laptop and find nothing funny to say (Not all the time, thank you.) Then you see a friend's status about tolerance and what he says strikes a chord in you. The sort of things people want you to be tolerant about is, indeed, amazing.

I mean, suppose you hit your new school for the first day and your classmates say, "You are skinny and black while we are well-built and fair. Never mind. We will tolerate you", do you really feel all warm and fuzzy, and friendly with the lot of them? Or you move cities to take up a new job and your boss says, "Well - your English accent is kind of funny. But we will tolerate you, nevertheless", do you feel that THIS is the place where you want to work for the rest of your life?

The word 'tolerant' somehow gives me a feeling of a person holding his nose and swallowing his bile, while manfully trying not to scream out his dislike. The very word 'tolerance' gives me to understand that there is something to be 'tolerated' - as if it were something obnoxious and the other person is generously putting up with it. If someone did show 'tolerance' to me, I rather think that he will not endear himself to me.

But, surprisingly, it seems that the best that we humans can do, when it comes to interacting with people who are in some way different from us, is to be 'tolerant'. There is this quality of 'open-mindedness' - of being able to look on differences and embrace them, unless they are immoral, illegal or both, that seems to have been relegated only to the dictionary as being unfit for practical use. Hence, we all need liberal doses of tolerance to even deal with different dietary preferences and sartorial inclinations. So, it is not surprising that our 'tolerance' gets tested to the limits when skin color differs or, horror of horrors, the other person calls on the Divine by a different name.

I have always felt that the very word 'tolerance' holds within it the seeds of intolerance. The moment you talk of tolerance, someone or the other pops up and says, "How long and how much are we supposed to tolerate?", sooner or later. THEN, even a Rip Van Winkle, who had been in a coma for the last twenty years, realizes that he has been gritting his teeth and swallowing his bile, in addition to being in a coma. The fact that you were not even aware of all the suffering that you put up with adds insult to injury and you start looking around for the nearest cudgel to bash up these sly people who so troubled you.

The world can do with more understanding - and, above all else, the understanding that people, who are different in some way from you, are not merely to be tolerated but accepted. Tolerance, I suppose, is much better than intolerance but, if tolerance is the best that Humanity can aspire to achieve, it does not exactly say volumes about the goodness of human beings. I mean you are not really held up as an example of goodness if all you can do is weakly protest, "But I never did anything bad".

But, then, are we still living in times when human beings thought that they had it in them to be or become noble?

12 comments:

  1. Deeeep thinker!Half way through your post,just as I was thinking that tolerance ought to be substituted with acceptance-I come across this word;though of course even acceptance has it's limits.Like when I was asked to accept the obnoxious behavior of a friend I refused point blank.And yes,we cannot accept what is immoral or illegal.
    Good post Suresh.

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    1. Thank Indu! Yes - there are things that we do have to tolerate; for a vegetarian, for example, the smell of non-vegetarian cooking is something that can only be tolerated, maybe. The issue I discuss is more one of where we think in terms of tolerating the PERSON or COMMUNITY merely because there are some aspects of their life-style that we do not like and can only tolerate.

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  2. Respect is what we need. But everyone wants respect for himself/herself, nobody wants to give it. There certainly are things - ideas, ideologies, thought-processes etc which I can never respect. So I merely have to accept that they exist in other people's minds, beliefs etc. That could be tolerance with an acceptance of their right to exist. Of course, as one rises in one's consciousness where one can see the truth behind each and every set of ideas/ideologies/preferences, tolernace may change from genuine acceptance to respect. Personally I am not enamored by either capitalism or socialism, but I can see the truth of each and can value and respect both these systems for what they have to offer, and yet criticise them both for what they lack. But can I have the same level of acceptance and respect for those ideologies which I see as fundamentally divisive, fundamentally against humanity, against nature, against environment? No. At least not today. And so I merely tolerate them :)

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    1. All those 'fundamentally against' philosophies, Beloo, are they not the 'immoral' if they are not 'illegal'. Though, yes, one needs to take care before judging them so.

      AND, even when we get there, it is still good to 'hate the sin but not the sinner'. In other words, we tolerate the 'sin' in the person but if we get to the point of only tolerating the person, we fail as humans. Esp. when it is one of opinions and lifestyle choices that come only out of where a person is born more than anything else. The life philosophy of most people in the world is merely what they have been brought up with and not something that they have thought of and picked by themselves. To hate the person for such a choice is to hate the person for not thinking for herself - and if THAT is sufficient cause for hatred, there will be hardly anyone left in the world to like :)

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  3. Food for thought, Suresh. I think there are times when we tolerate traits and behavior even in people who are close to us because we can't possibly modify everything. And why should we? Another has the right to live the way they want. It is a tricky idea actually. Tolerance of behavior, ideas, values, lifestyles and then like you said you start feeling that all the accepting is done by you with very little being reciprocated by the others. Then you being questioning your own acceptance?

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    1. THAT's the point, Rachna! There is always something to tolerate even in people close to us. The problem for me was that we have started applying the word tolerance to people and not merely some of their traits/habits.

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  4. Amazingly well written Suresh and you hit the nail right on the head. I can 'tolerate' a bad smell but can I 'tolerate' a person with another value system. Actually that way, even acceptance has a problem. If I were to see a tiger with stripes. I dont need to 'accept' the tiger for what it is. Or a person of another religion, I cannot 'accept' that person because that's rather presumptuous. I think 'to live in harmony' sounds better where people can simply co-exist peacefully.

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    1. True. I meant 'accept' as in accept that people will be different not as in accepting the difference :)

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  5. Well, a thought provoking post. I hope the law makers and ban-creators of this country read this and let us live in peace.

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    1. They never have and they never will. We will have to tolerate them :)

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