How to be free of Intolerance
What is it?
What is intolerance?
Intolerance is nothing but someone assuming an extreme position on the propensity to choose a particular alternative. In fact the preference to finding or choosing from a treasure of alternatives is one of the basic elements that separate humans from other forms of life. We humans show this every day, in whatever we do, and those who are able to choose from a greater amount of alternatives are considered to be leading a richer life. “What are my options?” is the first question we ask ourselves, whenever we are to take a decision.
There is nothing in this world that can’t be brought under the purview of subjectivity; variations in taste, color, smell, as well as, physical, chemical or other properties are there in abundance to let man exercise his selection genes! In normal circumstances, this propensity to choose, may amount to a liking towards the chosen one and an absence of it towards all the other ones. Whenever the ‘liking’ or the ‘absence of liking’ crosses the rational limit, these metamorphose into ‘intolerance’, a violent and dangerous form of ones harmless ‘tastes’. On other occasions, we celebrate such differences as enriching our cultural diversity. Both as guardians of values and as harbingers of progress, this diversity elevate the position of our race on the tree of life. This being a part and parcel of our life, it is no wonder that intolerance do find its way into human transactions, whenever the need to go irrational, arise.
How to Identify it
What does it do?
In fact, intolerance had a part to play in all that took place in human society since the earliest of days. All the inventions and discoveries, all voyages or explorations as well as, acts of love or scourge of war, owe its existence to someone’s intolerance in its mild form, disagreement or dissatisfaction with the existing. In other words, these can be easily attributed to a great extent to discontentment, of some, few or all the people, of things, beings or their doings. Quite a few times it did lead to something good. But many a time, we can say whenever it took to its extreme form, this resulted in vey bad things. Thus one may say, Renaissance is but intolerance to barbarism. Or, the industrial revolution is but intolerance to menial life. Like that, it is intolerance to disease, death or destruction, which kept on adding to the joy of living, all these years.
And wherever it did lead to something better, as in the case of inventions and discoveries since time immemorial, we are beyond ourselves in showering adulation. Even when the result involved large scale destruction and death, as long as we are not the sufferers, we are in awe of such instances. The only time we recognize intolerance as unwelcome, is when it is directly causing great harm, specifically to our society. That too, of a huge value, compared to whatever danger it is causing to the rest of the mankind. In all other cases we consider this abnormal behavior as devotion, dedication or hard work. Then, it is no real wonder that intolerance has become a part of our life.
How to Control it?
What nourishes intolerance?
Let us examine afresh, our attitude towards life. Let us analyze what exactly we do while encouraging or discouraging any of the aspects of our social life, like the transactions we constantly engage in, and other facets of human nature.
All those who make any form of worthwhile contributions to our society are honored with valuables, many a time accompanied by great pomp and show. Even those who exhibit irrational behavior are honored, as long as it is not about something that is of great harm to us. In a few cases we go much beyond that by showering such efforts with awards and other forms of recognition. These honors continuously force us to concentrate more and more on one single aim, whatever is one’s chosen area, overthrowing the natural human tendency of finding amusement anywhere and everywhere. In other words, such awards force us to be (positively) intolerant of other entertainments or occupations.
Another facet of the human nature that can give rise to intolerance is the way we are disposed to differentiate between entities even in the absence of such contributions, as a part of human nature. It should not be difficult to see that between the many honors and forms of discrimination there is only a thin line.
Both nurtures intolerance, though called by different names. Clearly, there is no wonder that intolerance continues to remain a part of our life.
What is the Current Approach
Presently, what are we doing?
We are trying to fight intolerance by intolerance. This is not an efficient response as the success of this approach is dependent only on brute force. Whose intolerance is strongest is the one who will eventually win. In all likelihood the struggle between the two will not reach an unmistakable end, making intolerance continue as a part of human life. And history will continue repeating.
Where are we now?
In fact, we have reached a situation where anything can become invaluable or worthy of adulation, as long as it is in the extreme. (It is also a fact; no ability (or lack of it) or talent is without its use, one can always try for a world record in that!) And as a result of the phenomenal value we have been giving all these years to any trait that is of high intensity, the populace is being encouraged to somehow achieve the extremes (read intolerance of the mediocre!).
Both in the form of material benefits and as great name and fame, the good that happened with the great men of the past turned all subsequent generations into seekers of the unattainable. Those gifted among us who are adept to intellectual pursuit, cultivated their intolerance in such paths suitable for scaling great heights of name and fame. Out came Nobel laureates, academicians or scientists, who sowed the seeds of happy living. Some of us took to arts and crafts and a few others happened to have their ‘taste’ in physical entertainments, all for leading a desirable life. And out came more people of greatness, like authors, poets, historians, or sportsmen, who are but the pillars of happy living. But finally, when from the remaining ones, the ones fastidious and were tasteful of physical entertainments or jobs, went to the extremes of their ‘talents’, out came another mighty breed, the practitioners of violence. But in this case, unlike other forms of arts or science, they posed a threat to happy living. Hence, instead of giving recognition, our society marks them out with a meaningful name, the intolerant. In short, the spread of intolerance is not by design, some of us happen to foster that, by accident.
Where do we go from here?
We are already seized of the dangers posed by intolerance, as could be gathered from our all out war against this. Sample poster shown here testifies to this, quite eloquently.
What Should be the Approach
As we saw earlier, the origin of intolerance being closely linked to our nature of ‘extolling the extremes’, a natural cure for this could be found in ‘a fresh impetus to moderation’. Intolerance is nothing but the extremes of quite worthy and desirable qualities like fastidiousness, exactness, or stringency, coupled with an ardent desire to tie ourselves down, to some dogma or the other. The qualities of a meticulous lifestyle as well as single minded dedication are a great boon in the material world, for example in scientific studies, research or medicine. But, not only that these are of no value in spiritual matters, but also there is the danger of it leading to, causing or inciting intolerance.
We can try to eliminate intolerance at the very source. Let us now show a Nelsons eye to the superlative, especially if that happens to be at the cost of neglecting any other faculty. I concede, such a move involves a revolutionary change in our outlook and may entail few unthinkable propositions. Like abolition of great honors and medals. Or restructuring them in such a way that only those who excel in moderation stands to be awarded. But I think it is worth the effort. There are no predictable losses and the benefits are uncountable.