23 October, 2008

Tolerance - A Way of Life

When one takes a good long look around oneself, the people around us, the world in general – what does one see ?

Does one see Peace, Harmony, Equality or Does one see Discrimination Prejudice, Inequity ?

One look around – at the world scene, if one may – and it is only too evident that if there is one thing definitely on the increase, it is intolerance. Intolerance of all kinds. Racial Intolerance, Religious Intolerance – it is all around and seems rather omnipotent.

Disturbingly enough, of late, there definitely seems to be an increase in zealots promoting religious divides. And they do so with unabashed pride. They are uncomfortably brazen and brash in their attitudes which reek of intolerance. And sadly enough, the tentacles are spreading – slowly but very very surely.

Sometimes, there is nothing more dangerous than old ideas and attitudes. And Intolerance has always been a key factor – has been one of the oldest surviving dogmas. It has always been there, waiting to be rediscovered, repackaged and reused.

We have had our email inboxes bombarded with Power Point presentations time and again – reiterating the theory that Hindus all over the world are being targeted. And there have been instances where our requests to be unsubscribed from such emails have resulted in rather ugly, condescending replies landing in our Inbox.

As adults, it is far more easy to cold shoulder things and to decide for oneself as to what one believes in. But imagine a scenario wherein children are being targeted. It is appalling but true. Groups on Yahoo are at the receiving end of such inflammatory emails and some of the groups are those frequented by children. To even imagine the kind of havoc such emails can play with the rather impressionable minds of young children, is rather unthinkable.

“Catch them young” seems to be the order of the day. It feels almost obscene to watch a young child walk around holding a weapon of destruction as though it was a toy. And how many times has one come across such pictures in strife torn regions all over the world ? Way too many times.

I remember during my school days when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own bodyguards – the whole nation was in shock, in mourning. There was this group of boys who used to play galli cricket (cricket on the road). That evening too, they had assembled there with their cricket bats, stumps and all the gear. It so happened that a couple of Sikh youths happened to be walking across the road. What followed was horrible – way too horrendous to be put into words. These group of boys, in their teens, just set upon those two Sikh youths with their bats and worse still, when calls went out to the police to intervene, they took their time arriving at the scene and much worse, did nothing. Now in what way were those two Sikh boys walking on the street responsible for what had happened with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ?

“Intolerance breeds Intolerance”. People start using it as a medium to express their hatred. And what intolerance thrives on is the already existing insecurities in the minds of people – insecurities which have been there for a long time or insecurities that are planted by people who specialize in power play. So much so that people begin to view intolerance as a very legitimate means of self-defense.

Very recently, virtually all the states in India celebrated the festival of Navratri – which embodies worshipping the divine feminine force Shakti. And at the same time, there was mayhem in the state of Orissa where women were being burnt alive, where women were being gangraped – all in the name of religion. There were also reports of women dying during childbirth because they were forced to give birth in extremely unhygienic conditions because they had been on the run from lynch mobs. What kind of sense does this make ?

While we do see intolerance all over on a global scale, the feeling that tends to creep in on us unconsciously is one of “What can I possibly do to reduce intolerance. Nothing. (*sigh*) it is here to stay. Might as well accept it as another fact of life.”

Don’t we all have our fair share of intolerances ? It could be anything - ranging from intolerance towards the customs and traditions based on religion or intolerance towards people from the lower income groups or intolerance towards widowed ladies as per terms of the customs specified by society Intolerances towards the physically and mentally handicapped, intolerance towards those who wish to swim against the tide, against the dictates of the majority … the possibilities are never ending.

“Divide and Rule” and “Subjugation” seem to be the order of the day.

If Intolerance breeds Intolerance, cannot the same be said of the opposite. Is there not hope in hanging on to the belief that “Tolerance will breed Tolerance”. It does sound tempting enough to believe.

And by saying Tolerance, I do not mean just Tolerance in terms of religion, caste or creed. Tolerance can be cultivated on many different levels, as The Mad Momma writes beautifully in this post of hers. Tolerance, not only in particular to any given situation but Tolerance, as a way of life.

Tolerance, as I’ve begun to realize, is not something that the society of today teaches or doles out willingly. Tolerance is something that has to be cultivated. Tolerance is something that has to be learnt. Tolerance is something that needs to be nurtured, needs to be encouraged at many different levels, it needs to be worked on and yes – most of all – tolerance needs to be promoted.

And once one is open to the idea of Tolerance, one finds it within oneself to develop some much needed mutual understanding and mutual respect.

Joshua Liebman put it very aptly when he once said

"Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another's beliefs, practices and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them."

post signature

9 voice(s) said so:

Priyanka said...

A beautifully drafted post, well said. Intolerance is definitely seen at various levels. And I wish people didn't target the young with their discriminatory ideas.

Aparna V said...

Very well written and I agree with everything that you've said. But what saddens me is that sometimes, "Tolerance" is mistaken for cowardice. Sigh !

Suma said...

it saddens me when i see children playing "throwing bombs'etc...they have been immunised to the horror that they may never realise what it means for teh unfortunate victims...

practising basic tolerance towards individuals in our daily life would be a big first step forward...

a much needed post, gauri and well written too...

Keshi said...

Great post Gauri! Absolutely loved it.

Tolerance is not the absence of courage...it is the ability to see beyond the naked eye, beyond our own 4 walls.

Alot of the big problems in this world today is due to Intolerance.

I only hope more ppl will read this post and u'stand what Tolerance really means and how imp Tolerance is for us to hv a peaceful life, both with others and with ourselves.


Random Thoughts said...

Aparna hit the nail on the head....yes, Tolerance is mistaken for cowardice....

Anonymous said...

Very well said. I get those damn emails too-from my own family members!

Solitaire said...

Sadly, many people equate tolerance with a lack of control or passivity and acceptance. It is people's EGO that comes in the way of cultivating tolerance.

the mad momma said...

i also think that people are unable to distinguish between tolerance, secularism and cowardice. thanks for linking me up G.

dipali said...

What you say is so true, Gauri. Accepting that people have different ways of communing with their Maker is basic courtesy and respect for others.