Thursday, April 7, 2016


I am hearing the terms tolerance and intolerance recently; I see people strongly recommending others to be tolerant or bashing someone to be intolerant! Sure, I understand their intent. But, I am wondering if we are trying to solve the right problem. The term tolerance is defined as "the ability to accommodate an opinion or behavior one dislikes or disagrees with". Anyone who is familiar with or anyone who observes  human behaviors can easily understand that more and more we "accommodate" we are only bottling up things and we will explode at some point in time. In spite of this understanding, we seem to promote the culture of being "tolerant"!

Let us look at the "beef eating" issue. If I dislike or disagree with eating beef, I have all the right not to eat beef. That is my personal choice. If I am only tolerant, I will avoid talking about eating beef as a bad thing but in my mind I can still think that eating beef is a sin and all beef eaters are cruel. This thought will express itself at some point in time; may be even out of proportion too. But, if I start thinking that I am not used to eating beef but there are people who enjoy beef and it is their choice. This is not very different from me liking my potato curry and my sister liking potato fry. We are two different individuals with different tastes. That is all. How can one taste be called as better than the other? Why should one "tolerate" the taste of others? If I like potato fry too, I will eat it with her; if not I will let her enjoy it alone. Where is the question of tolerance? As long as she does not force me to eat the fry, it is fine. Of course I can talk to her about my experience with my potato curry and she can talk to me about the fry, as long as we don’t call each other's favorite as "yucky".

Okay, things are not as simple as potato fry. Existence of God, is God a She or a He, what is the form of God, which direction is He in, should humans work to live or live to work, live to eat or eat to live, what kind of clothing one should wear and not wear etc. can turn into  complex "tolerance" questions. How different are these points from the potato fry example? What if my friends have a different belief system? How does it affect me? Why should I "tolerate" their views? Is it not their personal choice?

If I share the same belief, I can pray with them or join their pilgrimage plans; if not I will let them enjoy their own plans. As long as they do not force me to join their pilgrimage, I am fine. Sure, we can talk about all these different view points. Problem comes only when we are not able to talk about it without criticizing. Whether we accept or buy into the other's view point or not does not matter. What matters is, are we even able to listen, consider, entertain a different view.

It tires me when people are more encouraged to "tolerate". Even the "elite" communities that coach others to collaborate get into  either "my way or high way" or "tolerate" mode. I am seriously thinking about the quote of Aristotle who lived more than 2000 years back - "it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it".  Does this mean that, in 2000 years, we have not learnt how to educate people?  What is even more scary is the "educationalists" and the "coaches" being not able to entertain different views!! Are we really progressing / evolving as a civilization? Or as believed by many religions, are we regressing/ devolving?

Okay, it is a gross generalization and exaggeration from my side that we have not made progress as a society!! Sure, we have made reasonable progress in many fronts. But the human behavior seems to be a challenge still. Looks like each person, each family, each team, each business unit or each organization has to go through almost the same learning curve. We are able to "productise" scientific discoveries as tools. We publish "hype cycle" to prepare people to use the tools, develop competence to use the tools / improve the tools. What are we doing with people? Can we "productise" psychological discoveries as tools that people can use?

All civilizations have tried to pass their behavioral and psychological learning  as religious concepts or as poems or as stories. But, that does not seem to be sufficient. People still have to understand the reasoning to a large extent for making any sustained behavioral changes; this takes time and follows the learning curve! For common man to use a scientific discovery, they do not have to understand the scientific theory or any reasoning; they just have to use the tool! For example, I do not have understand how planes work or internet works for me to use them and benefit from them. Can life be simplified like that? Are there any tools to make people more collaborative and considerate rather than "tolerate"?

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