Intolerance has been a thorn in our side for centuries. An infection in humanity that spreads through race, religion, culture, sex, and opposing ideologies. All of which have punctured our society, cutting deeper into an already wounded world.
It starts with warp perceptions like the unwillingness to accept contrary beliefs and views of others. Slowly brewing in the minds and hearts of many, this inner conflict creates turmoil, an emotional disturbance that rattles the soul. The guarded judgments erupt into hate speech that snowballs through communities. The verbal harassment escalates to acts of violence, and that my friends is how we wage war based on intolerance.
The proof is in our history. Wars, fuelled by the rejection of others whom we discriminate against and deem inferior. Regimes that exploited and tortured communities through the ages based on the color of one’s skin.
Senseless killing due to contrasting religious beliefs. The massacre of Jewish communities because of anti-Semitism. Hate crimes and the mistreatment of people through acts of homophobia. An expression of contempt for foreigners led by xenophobic attacks.
Humankind consistently chooses alienation and violence.
Intolerance is a grave concern for a society that is still bent on division and segregation. Do not be fooled by the facade we have managed to build. With our history, it’s no surprise that we still face an everyday battle with long-held prejudice. Quite frankly, we have produced generations of people filled with antipathy and hatred for others. We have modeled behavior that forms the notion that people are less than because of a,b and c. We have created a, b, and c. Boxes and labels that fit people into categories. A narcissistic approach that distinguishes classes of people. We see it in all frameworks of society, for example, a race distinction on examination papers or political preferences in public censuses. There is always an either-or. Tick one, pick one.
Take the simple act of meeting someone for the first time, we immediately determine their race, weight, gender, sexual preference, and religious beliefs. Our mind spirals into judgment mode, where we must ascertain what and who they are?
It’s no longer acceptable to just be a ‘fellow human.’ The specifics are important. We are obsessed with labels and providing pre-made boxes for everyone. The crazy part is that even with the knowledge that we are complex intricate beings – we still seek ‘the need’ to simplify one’s uniqueness into labels that do not adequately capture the dynamic essence of a human. We conjure up stereotypes based on our boxes that further separate and generalize one’s individuality. These labels portray ‘superficial dimensions’ of a human- income, fashion, size, etc. and do not define who you are. It diminishes one’s character and identity. Imagine being reduced to preconceived notions based on a postcode or tax bracket. Determinants of who you are and what you can offer. Well, if you still have the luxury of ‘imagining’ it – lucky you.
It’s the hasty ease of placing judgment and classifying people that affords us a feeling of superiority. I guess this falsehood allows one to sleep better ‘knowing’ that they are better than someone else. Now, if that doesn’t scream ego protection & a lack of perspective then I don’t know what does.
I know of people that ‘solve’ their intolerance by simply shutting down controversial conversations. Note – (The controversial part is that they refuse to accept viewpoints that differ from theirs).
A movie scene comes to mind here. Stay with me. In Sleepers, the barman (following a request from John) tells the two gentlemen sitting nearby “You know the rules, no politics, no religion.” A mindset too many share. A feeble attempt at keeping your intolerance masked by not entering a discussion. Ignorant- fearful views that must be met with education and enlightenment. Let’s not forget individual awareness. If you are easily moved by an opposing belief, this sounds like a ‘you problem rather than them’. You are wrestling with an internal conflict that gives you a distorted view that your way is the right way. We must tackle this intolerance by starting with an understanding of ourselves.
With ‘true’ introspection, your beliefs and values should not shake by the first utterance of disagreement.
A matter of this magnitude does not only require individual change but a shift in governance too. It is the government’s responsibility to cultivate a socially cohesive environment, one that prioritizes unity in the nation and equality for all. Too often, we have witnessed self-serving governments with divisive rhetoric create tension and rifts resulting in civil wars.
A leader who is divided, only serves a favored part of the nation, usually the majority. This sets the tone that even the government whom we “entrust” has a preference. When intolerance in society starts at the top through law and policy, dogmatic thinking has a ripple effect. It is here where we become pawns in a mob mentality that benefits the initiators.
It doesn’t help that media exacerbates the issue. Turn on the news and you’ll see a broken world- why would they want peace when chaos sells. Social media has several new platforms that accelerate the spread of intolerance. A place for extremists to spur each other, feeding off each other’s hatred. A digital space that can be used to criticize one another. More access, more intolerance.
We need local education to combat this indifference. Knowledge of different cultures and viewpoints should be a focus. We must aim to spread the importance of essential virtues and what it means to practice acceptance and respect as tenets for a peaceful society. As a community, we have to remind each other of our similarities and appreciate the differences. Communication is key for any type of relationship to prosper, what we are facing is a breakdown of our interconnectedness as habitants of this planet. The urgency to restore understanding is our only hope at diversity flourishing.
Mind Over Matter.