Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Book On Intolerance: The Shocking Ways We Are Made Intolerant & How To Beat It

We as human species are vulnerable and insecure at heart. Any threat or insult to our ego/pride can turn a simple event into an explosive situation. 

It is good to criticize as long as it is based on facts and is done in a manner which is decorous and sensible. To insult or smear someone or a community with unfounded lies and damaging slander will only provoke a messy reaction. False accusations, defaming allegations and tainted mockery of people only serves to vitiate the environment and incites the society to hate, isolate and even terminate the victimised sections. The end result- the poison of hate engulfs the society as a whole and there is no going back to normalcy.

If someone is committing a wrong act, should he be paraded naked, stoned, inked, lynched to death etc? No, and we all agree to it. Yet when it comes to penalising someone who we think has done something wrong, why we secretly or openly wish to hurt him with offensive words or fatal bashing. Think about it.

Hence the question we need to ask is – why people insult and how to logically address our opinion without acting as prejudiced, fanatical, or intolerant.

We pride in our culture, in our genes, looks, sect, boiling down to my-way-of-doing things. It is but natural. However, it gets wrong when such a way of thinking is imposed on others suggesting that my-way-of-doing things is superior to others. The pride of an individual person or a community has more impact if they belong to a dominant class in the society – so their way of doing things gets a legal sanction while everyone else is thrown to the margins and is considered inferior, illegal, and insignificant etc. This can happen in a school, home, government, and it is such a common occurrence that the need to engender TOLERANCE is indispensable. As someone has rightly said, “We are each burdened with prejudice; against the poor or the rich, the smart or the slow, the gaunt or the obese. It is natural to develop prejudices. It is but noble to rise above them”. It is hence an utmost necessity to inculcate the sensibility of tolerance so that DIVERSITY is not seen as a threat but a good thing.

Our way of doing things if is different than those of the others, that should not be a reason to segregate societies and discriminate one against the other. The key element of tolerance is appreciating the difference be it based on CULTURE, COLOUR, DOMICILE, SEX, or RELIGION. The resolution lies in allowing one person or community the freedom to live with a condition that it does not curtail the freedom of the other – the conflict between majority and the minority can only be resolved if it is understood that the liberty of each does not imply one should dominate the other or consider the other inferior, or irrelevant.
The Book On Intolerance: The Shocking Ways We Are Made Intolerant & How To Beat It
WHY INTOLERANCE PERSISTS? Why Is It Here?
INTOLERANCE is prevalent in the society as people jump to conclusions without knowing the two sides of the story. It is not enough to hear what one part is accusing the other part of, but to also hear out the second party which is being prosecuted. Only after analyzing the two-sides of the issue, one can foster a logical public opinion. Otherwise in a lopsided hearing of facts, the other party will remain discriminated against and the whole society will remain divided over religious, cultural and nationalistic grounds. And such conflicted divisions tend to linger on and take a long of time to regain peace.

Intolerance persists as it is not patiently and logically ascertained as to which cases are instances of intolerance and which are being blown out of proportion. Sometimes it happens that even when there is no cause of alarm, the issue is dangerously politicised, exaggerated, and exploited to create disorder for ulterior motives. And mostly instead of resolving the issue, it is further fanned and provoked to dangerous levels of violence and unrest.

Along these lines, it also has to be assured if a person is practicing his/her culture the same person and others are not being hurt, or undermined by it – i.e. in practicing your way of doing things, it shouldn’t pose a threat to another person’s sentiments. Freedom of Opinion if is allowed that doesn’t invariably suggest such an opinion if bordering on offensive, vulgar, racist, fanatic can be considered permissible. No not at all.

Finally, it should be accepted that hate, fear of the other, envy etc are emotions which can infect even the most literate and sensible person. When it happens, the greatest power of humans – SENSIBILITY should be called in to control this hatred against the other and to not let it control us. It is natural and a human tendency to develop HOSTILITY for some people, but we have our brains and our hearts to keep such aversions contained and to rectify them sooner than later. You might think badly for someone because you might not like how he dresses up or looks like but your actions should be informed by TOLERANCE to ensure order in the society. Oscar Wilde has rightly said, “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike”.

Hence it is the onus of the society to ensure sensitive issues are not abused for propaganda, and the diversity among societies is not taken as a threat. Also, only after reading between the lines and knowing the complete story one should take an action as half-knowledge of the masses is indeed a very dangerous weapon of the dictators, extremists and fundamentalists to pollute and vitiate the peace in a society. Even if you do not like someone, do not let it become a habit and a reason to activate your ire against others in insulting or violent ways.

TOLERANCE is to be practiced and sense as well as sensibility has to be taken as a yardstick to keep the logic and emotion uncontaminated from absurdity and fanaticism. Again, while we are being tolerant, let us not be intolerant in our way to preach about it.

PRACTICES OF INTOLERANCE: How it is Bred and Propagated
Intolerance is not a new thing and almost all of us have encountered it in our lives. Capitalising on our fear of the unknown, practices of intolerance ensure they are successful in stamping one community as immoral and the other as the pillar of truth. The ways in which intolerance is propagated and bred in our society is shocking and defies the beliefs of human civilization. Some of these have been mentioned below to highlight how a person/community can be exploited to become intolerant and how it can be and has been legitimised over the years. In knowing these we can take a major first step to ward off these dangerous and monstrous abuses of human sensibility and empathy for each other.

As a child we care for the next fellow, then why while growing up we begin to feel hatred towards the other? INTOLERANCE is a social construct and the following are the ways it happens.

Universalizing/Generalizing

In the conflict between the majority and the minority, one group is empowered over the other to ensure one type/kind/caste/race of people exist while the other is either exterminated or marginalised.

Generalizing or universalizing implies if one person, for instance, sings, then it is believed that people belonging to his caste/race/sect are singers too. This is a simple example but we can imagine its deadly repercussions in the society. In the news and in our personal to public life we are ashamed and shocked to find that how if one person commits a crime, the community he belongs to is also condemned as immoral and shameless.

Sweeping statements and generalizations are made to stamp the entire community accountable for the malevolent actions of the few which is utterly wrong and highly nonsensical. Once we know how this strategy works, and understand it in the arena of our current state of affairs, we can sensitise ourselves and correct such dirty stratagems.

Legitimising Intolerance
There have been systems created to keep one community marginalised and other free to chart the course of their lives. Such systems can be either backed by legal authority or social say/statements by the dominant class or the majority. Caste system for instance which in India has for long segregated the society into discriminatory hierarchies of high and low. Similarly, Racism, also divides the masses but on the basis of colour of the skin and in the past it employed scientific facts to justify and substantiate itself. On the similar lines, Patriarchy or Male chauvinism can also be cited which sabotaged the half of mankind- womenfolk to keep them imprisoned in the homes and deprived of education, employment etc.

Such systems have continued to either bluntly or indirectly hinder the progress of the subjugated sections of the society and the consequence has been violent retaliations, stark

poverty, lack of basic amnesties, inaccessibility of education, jobs and etc – a grim truth indeed.

Popularizing Intolerance

In the media, in group discussions and public spaces and even in home front, we come across insensitive jokes, comments, caricatures etc and considering them harmless we pass it on, share with others and do not realize how insensitive they can be and hurtful as well. Until we are made a joke of, such insensitive takes on other communities do not cause any alarm.

These acts, not all of them, are based on the STEREOTYPES and PREJUDICES prevalent in the society and help perpetuate, propagate and popularize these insensitive notions. Some jokes are funny but some are meant to hurt, undermine, belittle and disparage others. In order to be tolerant, we need to appreciate the good humour from the ones which are symbolic of the bigotry and injustice in the society.

Propagandist Intolerance

Since time immemorial, propaganda has been employed by infamous dictators to justify invading other nations. Even today such deadly tactics are employed to enforce one’s discrimination against the other. The cases of scandals, character assassination, calumny, and other cases of gross misinterpretation of facts, distortion of truth and smearing of people’s dignity etc are some of the ways propaganda is made to circulate in the public to critically damage the image and life of one over the other. Let’s be aware of it so we can stop it.

HOW TO BEAT IT? HOW TO STOP IT? Salman Rusdhie speaks, “If my child had prejudice in his head, I’d be ashamed. I would see it as my failure as a parent.” To teach about tolerance, you have to talk about it and become an example to strengthen it. Start with people around you – your kids, neighbors, and friends etc. It takes few simple ideas to wipe away the deadly smirk of prejudice which fans intolerance.

Listen to the victim. Don’t get manipulated by third-person theories and narratives about him which tend to get distorted along the way. Don’t be swayed by rumours, hearsays and scandals.

Tolerance is a deliberate action. No matter how logical or literate you are, intolerance can easily sway your words and actions. It is present everywhere and so can easily poison your mind. So do not succumb to fear and hate, and keep logic and sensibility at hand to face and rectify Intolerance.

Don’t jump to conclusions or rush to hasty interpretations.

You might have aversion towards a community and find it impossible to get over such a feeling. True, Intolerance can easily influence you and also in such a way that you find yourself at a loss to stop the bigoted views entering your mind. But you can empower

yourself with reason, logic and scrutinized information to control it, restrain it and contain it before it controls you.

Do not allow scandals, falsehoods and fabrications to sway you.

If today a community is being made a scapegoat of, it can be you tomorrow. And then the whole world will be in a state of distress just because we were too intolerant to know the culprit and branded the entire world as evil.

You love your culture and to show it you do not have to hate others.

Consider it your moral responsibility to sensitise others about the irreversible damage of INTOLERANCE. If once inflicted, the damage tends to cross generations and creates violent HISTORIES that no one can forget. And hence violence does not end but becomes a vicious circle.

So Stay Logical, Sensitised and Tolerant. Solve matters with logic and sensibility than fear and hate. Read history, local and global to know how intolerance has and continues to disturb the stability of human societies and minds. Read it lest we repeat our mistakes in haste and regret in leisure.

In the simple yet meaningful words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Let us not shame democracy by being intolerant be it in personal or public matters. We are a democracy after all; let’s not do things which make us doubt it.


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