This blog item was originally written for the Subrosa Blog and is reproduced here with permissions.
Is tolerance in a society a good thing? My immediate answer to that is yes. Resoundingly yes. We have to be tolerant of other people and of the things that other people do. That’s fairly simplistic but nonetheless it should be the case. In return we ask for the same.
Just in case anyone is in any doubt what tolerance actually means here’s a dictionary definition – “the capacity for or the practice of recognising and respecting the beliefs or practices of others”, or “willingness to recognise and respect the beliefs or practices of others”.
We are all individuals and we are all different, unique and special. The specialness doesn’t stem from anything other than the fact that there is only one of us and there will never be another. Priceless is another descriptor, which fits. Some people pay huge amounts of money to own something which is unique be it a work of art, a car, a house… you name it, it’s priceless. The more exclusive it is the more people will pay for it and want to own it.
We don’t value our own uniqueness to the same degree of priceless, although we do try to live and let live but we all make different judgements as to the degree of tolerance we believe is right on a case by case basis. A libertarian definition is summed as – “freedom to do as you choose with your own life and property, as long as you don’t harm the person and property of others.”
There are things that we all don’t like. The vast majority of those are subject to laws, which deter actions, which we all find unacceptable. Murder. Violence. Theft. Religion has tended to define the morally wrong stuff and although our definitions change through the ages the religious definitions have formed the basis of our laws.
Is it just me or have things become more polarised over the past 40-50 years. Why is this? Is this the norm? I’d expect we would maybe veer from prim to permissive and back again over a period of time etc. As a species we seem to be cyclical which may be more of an indicator that we never learn.
Have the “politically correct” gang had an effect on where we are in the cycle then? Has it made things worse? Has it gone well beyond its good intentions? Has it been hi-jacked by people who perhaps have had other agendas?
It’s sad today to note that smokers are pretty much persecuted on the basis that if we non-smokers breathe in their smoke it will harm us or even kill us. Surely smokers are not going to go around with the intention of making as many people as possible inhale their smoke, second hand or not? Of course not, although we are doing a pretty good job of alienating them and they really could do with some reasonable tolerance from the holier than thou segment of non-smokers.
We seem to be able to tolerate much worse things from drinkers. Drinking affects different people in different ways. Some people mellow and pass out whilst others become violent. Some drink and then drive which is pretty dangerous although we could argue the point at which a safe level of alcohol intake is in fact safe or not.
Loud next-door neighbours, very loud car exhausts, litter bugs, dog owners who don’t bag it and bin it… the list is endless. We probably all irritate someone somewhere without even being aware of doing it.
I had a neighbour who grew those leylandi trees right next to my house because he wanted to keep the wind of his cars. A neighbour’s daughter played very, very loud music each time her Mum and Dad left the street.I’ve also practiced guitar in my bedroom when I stayed with my parents. Given I used a full concert kit I’ve no idea why the next-door neighbours never complained. I’ve also owned motorbikes and cars, which may have made more noise than they should have although, again no one complained. I was younger then. I was afforded tolerance.
I’ll leave you with the libertarian definition of tolerance again “freedom to do as you choose with your own life and property, as long as you don’t harm the person and property of others.”