Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tolerance and Intolerance

It is a popular trend in schools these days to teach tolerance. I agree with this policy, but I must say that I have much respect for a person who still stands-up, speaks-out, responds to intolerable acts -- instead of just tolerating such acts, for they believe that there is something that need not and should not be tolerated or at least something that needs to be rectified. No, I do not mean that intolerance is a good thing in and of itself, nor do I condone any vile and evil acts that result from intolerance. What I do mean by the above statement is that these individuals still believe in the objective reality of truth, goodness, and evil.

Now, what lies at the root of tolerance is something that is most normally not good – possibly evil. For example, we tolerate drunkenness because we know what would happen if alcohol was to be banned – this was a tough learned lesson during prohibition, where more evil came out of the ban than if drunkenness would have been tolerated.

However, not everything we tolerate is actually bad and evil, some of which might actually be good and can lead to an act of humility – like going to the opera with your wife or a nagging mother-in-laws -- no, I don’t mean you have to tolerate your wife, I mean you might have to tolerate the opera, and yes I do mean you have to tolerate your nagging mother-in-law: both of which are good.

What lies at the heart of intolerance is the fact that a person believes that there is something worth not tolerating – like late trains and late busses and murder. It is an intolerable act that a runner steals second base, and it is even more intolerable for the catcher to tolerate the runner’s actions of stealing second base. It is this willingness and need to respond to the intolerable act t that often bothers people, for the responce can come in a variety of ways – everything from a heated argument to down right mass murder. The problem people have with intolerance is that it often challenges a person’s views of right and wrong as well as the uncertainty of how the intolerant act will be responded to. Intolerance forces a person to be active in the world and make a difference: in tolerance is not for the weak of heart and passive person.

It is of little surprise that to the mind tolerance is more peaceful and sought after only because most of the time its end result is peaceful. But tolerance is only peaceful because most of the time it is passive and ignors certain intolerable acts. Passivity, as most people know, is nearly never the best of actions.

It is this passivity that is a danger with tolerance, as it might lead a person to think that every evil needs to be tolerated, and it might cause a person to fall into indifference about many aspects of the world. Not to mention, through the toleration of such evil, one might slowly begins to lose the true reality of the existence of evil and slip into the never-ending cat-call of “what’s right for you isn’t right for me”: relativism. For to tolerate something for the sake of tolerance, ease, or fear is equivalent to saying, “I don’t care.”

So in schools we should not be teaching tolerance for tolerance’s sake, which is too often the case. Instead we should be teaching what deplorable acts, views, and beliefs need to be tolerated, for what reasons, and how we can improve those truly intolerable acts so as to make them straight and right once more.

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