Quote by Charles Colson

Should we tolerate the intolerant?

Since the beginning of time intolerance has always been not tolerated. In Mahabharata, Pandavas had chosen to war against Kauravas as their behaviour towards Drapaudi was not tolerated. Oath-Bound Bheeshma sat in the court while Kauravas were stripping Draupadi in the court. Just to set the premise, Pandavas lost to Kauravas and had to give away Draupadi to be a dasi to Kauravas. So, they did what they deemed fit with her.

I want to highlight the two sets of people here. One who tolerated the shameful act done by Kauravas. It included Bheeshma, known as the most powerful and respected man at that time. And the other set were those who did not tolerate this act and protected her when she was being stripped. As per the games honour code, Pandavas could not do anything about it, but Krishna was one such person who saved her during the situation. Here there two sets of people each choosing their side. Either to tolerate or not. If they chose not to, the great battle of Mahabharata would have been avoided. But the fight against intolerance was fought and won by the Pandavas.

After the battle, the ones that tolerated the act were all killed, and the people that chose to sides with these intolerant Kauravas also met their demise. Many among the killed included Pandavas cousins, gurus, friends and other relatives. All of them knew they were on the wrong side and yet they chose to side with Kauravas and fight against their most loved Pandavas.

What should have been the ideal scenario? In the ideal situation, this act should not have been tolerated at all by anyone. A lot of family members life would be saved if only the Kauravas were punished. But a battle has to be fought to punish the offenders and those who chose their side. With this perspective, the intolerant were punished and those who sided with them too.

In another instance much before Mahabharata, Krishna tolerated 100 mistakes of Shihupal which was the son of Krishna’s aunt. But the 101st mistake was not tolerated, and he punished by death immediately. Another perspective where the offender was not tolerated.

Both the stories one thing in common the intolerant were not tolerated even if they were family members. By now it’s already established that it’s easy to tolerate the fanatics acts. Which brings out the following questions:-

  • What level of tolerance should we show to our family members?
  • Should we show our intolerance to a behaviour immediately or provide them with a chance to correct?
  • Who are we to tolerate other people(does not include fanatics) behaviours?
  • Do you know about your behaviour that probably others are tolerating which should not be the case? Or do you think you are always right and all of your “behaviour” have an explanation or have a hidden agenda to fix the other person? Or you may call it an act of self-acclaimed method with an explanation that should be tolerated by the other person?

Perhaps, the line between tolerance and acceptance is so blurred that it’s mostly absent. And it is in its absence, that most often, the justification for everything starts. Tolerance and Acceptance are not of binary values to be a zero or one. It’s not black or white. It’s a combination of both, which heavily depends on the subject. For, after all, the shades of grey only depended on how much black and how much white was in it. For it was never composed of its own.

I appreciate the perspective of Yonatan brings out in his article on Intolerance who in the list of top 50 writers in Politics. But, I would go the quote written by Charles Colson, who President Nixon’s “hatchet man” and has also written many books.

True tolerance is not a total lack of judgement. It’s knowing what should be tolerated be tolerated, and refusing to tolerate that which shouldn’t.
— Charles Colson

After all, we have the power to make our reasoned choice but be prudent of the dangerous trap of confirmation bias.

If you are interested in reading a perspective on Intolerance, you can read it here.

Originally published at F X NIKEE.