The Illusion of Tolerance

I grew up with a strong understanding that I was required to be polite to pretty much anyone I met. Why? Because everyone deserves this level of decency until they prove themselves unworthy of it. I think our society preaches on all fronts how important it is to “respect” everyone and how we should all be tolerant of one another. I’d be willing to wager that most of the worlds leading and most widely followed religions all praise and preach tolerance and understanding somewhere in their holy scriptures as well. It really should seem like a given. I mean, after all, don’t we live in an incredibly tolerant society?

Congratulations; if you are laughing at how ludicrous that sounds, you’re paying attention.

Tolerance is definitely one of those things that we “preach but don’t practice.” No one wants to come out and admit that they think X-group are beneath them, lesser or they hold them in a negative regard. I mean, what would be entirely politically incorrect (or rhetorically insensitive, as they call it now). The basic fact of the matter is that we are all internally, unconsciously and consciously biased. Stereotyping is how our brains process and compartmentalize information. It is a very important process, and not in anyway bad in and of itself. We shouldn’t feel like we are doing something wrong by describing a person based on the color of their skin or the religion they follow. They are defining characteristics of a person just like hair color and height are. Where things start going wrong is when people start confusing tolerance and bias.

I can’t even count how many times I have heard someone use the, “I’m not racist, but…” line. Another one of my favorites is, “Oh, no. It’s okay, I have a ____ friend.” Congratulations, ignorant jerk, you just made an intolerant comment! Understanding that people are inherently different is fine, disliking a person for the specific fact that they’re different isn’t. Xenophobia is a very short, often crossed, distance from intolerance.

I understand that it can be hard to notice our own negative biases when society and the media tend to propagate them so affluently. When you hear sects of Christianity saying, “Love thy neighbor.” one second, and then, “not if they are homosexual though.” the next, I can  see how it gets confusing.

I think main problem stems from the fact that a lot of people are taught from an early age that certain kinds of intolerance are acceptable.

The only kind of intolerance that is acceptable is the intolerance of bigotry.

I’m not preaching  love for everyone, I’m not that simple-minded or naive. I’m merely saying that we should dislike the choices people make and not the qualities they can’t control or the people themselves.

-Benjamin

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Posted on January 22, 2014, in Daily Rantings and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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