The Tolerance of Intolerance

How Did We Get Here?

I am guilty of following US politics – sometimes too much. It’s like a train wreck about to happen. You know there will be carnage, but you can’t turn away.

I am struck not so much about lack of humanity illustrated every day by the rich and powerful, but more directly about the class warfare that happens every day and in plain sight.

How did we come to this place?

I have written a lot about growing up in Vienna, a village of 400 people. Never being exposed to other ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, skin types etc, I was a victim of my parent’s biases and those around me that influenced my thinking. I didn’t view myself or my parents as being racist or intolerant, even though by today’s standards, we clearly were. Lack of awareness, a limited worldview and geography contributes to our perspectives in myriad ways.

We aren’t born with hate or distrust in our heart; we are taught and subsequently develop these characteristics.  I look at my new grandsons with envy, as I know they are pure of heart. When does that start to change? When do they begin to form opinions and how will they be influenced by the opinions of those they respect – including mine?

I am ashamed to admit that as a much younger man, I used racial epithets, called people fags, queers, made fun of “pakkies”, called French people “frogs” etc. Never to their face of course – I was too cowardly for that – but to my friends. Laughing, joking, putting others down. We didn’t have anyone of those persuasions to tell to their face. We were strictly a WASP community. These admissions are hard to write and embarrassing to admit.

For goodness sake, as children we had candy that was sold and labelled as “N” toes. Who made that decision??? I never saw a candy labelled “Cracker” toes. How would that have gone over with us WASPs? Offensive you say?? No shit Sherlock!

It is easy to make fun of those that are different than us – to marginalize others – to make us feel better about our own inadequacies.

The Awakening

Years later, as my career was unfolding, I was fortunate to be immersed in project teams that were as diverse as the technology we were supporting. I spent many hours conversing with brilliant minds from all over the world. Pontificating over dinner about life’s challenges with Blacks, Asians, gays, lesbians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and others was revealing and life changing. I was  humbled by their intelligence and perspective. I was moved by stories of perseverance and overwhelmed by the obstacles overcome on their journey to arrive in North America – often with no family and no friends to support them – and the success that they found both because of and despite of the challenges they faced.

The Tenets of Tolerance

I admired their courage, their sacrifice and their commitment to overcoming the odds and supporting their family. I never once wondered if they were going to “replace me”, my job or my beliefs. I don’t know anyone in my sphere of family and friends that has ever left their home, family, friends, culture and language to move to another country to start over – to search for a better life. It takes an enormous amount of intestinal fortitude to do that. Often, only to discover on arrival, that you are looked down on, diminished, ridiculed, persecuted – sometimes with violence – simply for being different.

Who the hell decided that the white race is the superior race?

Hate has been around for as long as humans have inhabited this earth. A few years ago, a Muslim colleague directed me to a book titled “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, by Thomas Friedman – a history of the culture and religious wars between the Israelis and Palestinians – 700 years of hate. Atrocity breeding more atrocities. Many world leaders have tried to intervene and settle this conflict, but it is too ingrained to cease. Too many generations impacted by hate, murder and isolation. Always another score to settle. It opened my mind and gave me new perspective. You kill my family, I will kill yours!

I highly recommend this book. It is one of the best and most enlightening books I have ever read.

Are we that different?

Donald Trump and his minions are responsible for stoking these same cultural issues in the USA. Though clearly it has been simmering under the surface for years. He just made it ok to say the quiet part out loud. A combination of access to lethal weapons, the belief that Caucasians are being pushed to the side, class warfare, the proliferation of their own oligarchy (the collection of wealth among the few), the limited access to healthcare, the ability to use money to influence and lobby politicians, the lack of understanding and tolerance of other religions and the downward pressure on those that cannot break the cycle of poverty – all contribute to the hate.

The Contradiction of Religion

I admire people that are committed to their faith. From time to time, we all need to believe there is a higher power. But why do we believe that our religion is the only true religion – our God is the only true God?

Same Core Principles

All religions teach tolerance. All religions have extremists and extremist views. Since the beginning of time, there have been those that claim their religion is the only true religion, while at the same time espousing a lack tolerance for all others. Is it because Muslims wear turbans? Because Jews recognize different holidays? Because Asians speak differently? Is it the colour of the skin, the different customs, the inability to understand a language? Or is it simply that we don’t understand and don’t make an effort to find what makes us the same, rather than what makes us different?

In conversing with these same people over the years, I have found that they are no different than me. A love of family is generally at their core. In fact, many cultures look after their own far better than we do in North America. When parents age in other parts of the world, they are often revered for their wisdom and taken care of in the home(s) of their adult children. Here it is not uncommon to treat the elderly like they are a burden, putting them in a nursing home to live out their last days, so they don’t interfere with our busy lives. Instead of valuing their wisdom, we equate age with losing intelligence and reason.

Though all religions teach tolerance, most wars are fought over religious intolerance. Some religions don’t tolerate homosexuality. Some don’t tolerate women’s rights. Most only tolerate their own god, or own beliefs. Under Trump, several religious leaders contorted themselves into unrecognizable shepherds of religious doctrine to support a president that will deliver what they purport to believe. Never mind that the bible teaches to love one another. Some religions tolerate life until it is born and at the same time find tolerance for the guns that will violently end the lives of innocent children and thousands of others almost daily. Where is the reason in that?

Yet other religions promote love and tolerance while at the same time abusing children under their watch and simultaneously protecting those that committed those evils. Taking children from their homes and force feeding them a doctrine that they can’t understand and beating their own culture out of them.

As I look around the world, there is hate, mistrust, intolerance and suppression of people’s rights. We are so blessed in North America to have everything at our finger tips. No wars are fought here. People aren’t forced to abandon their homes and live in tents in the desert, or to flee their country to find refuge from bombs or genocide of different forms. No one has to start over, because their entire lives have been destroyed – or their families decimated. I can understand why “the west” is vilified for all we have. And yet we want more and revile those that are different.

How much is enough? Enough wealth, enough food, enough cars, enough toys? The only thing we don’t have enough of is TOLERANCE.

The King James version of the bible states in Mathew 7:12: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Is there a more important verse in the Christian bible?



2 responses to “The Tolerance of Intolerance”

  1. Well said and most thought provoking. The verse from the bible exists in other parts of the world and various cultures/religions in a variety of ways with the same message. If only we would place that on our heart in all we do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *