Conflicting Winds in Tolerance

We’re conflicted. We have a globalised world. A world that comes to us in snippets, bites and sometimes strong gusty winds of news and challenging information. Our now globalised minds breathe, absorb and digest the many flavours of beliefs that abound in those winds of words.

However, in that very same world we are fed the notion of our own individualism. A calmer wind for sure. One that helps us feel secure with the knowledge of respecting our beliefs, and driving them in to the winds of beliefs. Never failing. And never letting our education, our pasts and ourselves down.

So now a conundrum. Two different winds at play creating a tornado of conflict. How can we, after all, be tolerant to the many varied beliefs around us and to our own conflicting ideas?

Just a few weeks ago this was questioned for me. I was watching Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. I knew it to be educational in offering insight in to a set of beliefs that has come to me on those global winds, but something I didn’t actually know about.

What I didn’t realize tho, as tolerant as I think myself to be, from my own upbringing I had some deep-seated prejudice and ignorance that was making the documentary content nauseate me. The level of psychological interrogation or ‘auditing’ that scientologists go through was an invasion on peoples’ rights to me. I thought they were being intolerant to peoples’ own lives and how they chose to live.

However, the irony was that my own moral judgements had made me intolerant of this different set of beliefs; this different way of living.

The United Nations celebrates International day of Tolerance on the 16th of November in hope that we are tolerant of these many beliefs and thus recognizing “the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others especially people who are naturally diverse” and that “only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.”

In Wellington we celebrate our multi cultural and cosmopolitan community with many events that include, rather than exclude. Annually we celebrate Diwali, Chinese New Year, have Gay prides, and awareness of many differing belief sets. However scratching the surface a little discloses a different reality. Being a woman of dark coloured skin I have had doors closed on me for jobs, flats and I had a good dose of racial bullying at school.

If we turn households insides out perhaps they are tempered with the fear of what tolerance means to them personally. Is it immigrants coming in and taking jobs? Could it be different religious backgrounds filtering in to schools thus asking for a more tolerant revision of our education system? Is it our own backgrounds that conflict with this fast changing society? Or could it be the gusts of intolerant media wind that brings central-right biased, somewhat racist, ageist, and intolerant news in to our homes?

How can we challenge this if it doesn’t essentially reflect who we are as a city, and even perhaps as country on the edge of a fast growing and over lapping world? How do we quieten the storm, and go forward as a genuinely tolerant society? As Ban Ki Moon says we should “recognize the mounting threat posed by those who strive to divide, and let us pledge to forge a path defined by dialogue, social cohesion and mutual understanding.”

So let’s revise this. Education for tolerance should include open dialogue, genuine social cohesion and mutual understand and negate the forces within us that lead to fear which might exclude others. Our young people should be encouraged to develop independent and critical thinking with sound ethical reasoning. Because, as Lloyd Shearer says, we should “resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong” as at some time in your “life you will have been all of these.”

So lets part those winds that divide ourselves from the path of tolerance and let the awareness of tolerance not just be on November 16th but everyday, and in every thing we do and think.

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