“I believe in being tolerant …”

The 16 November was the UN’s International Day for Tolerance. Sounds highly desirable but then I think it also sounds arrogant. It’s like that old tag-line for the 1960s – ‘the Permissive Society’. Who has the right to tolerate or permit another’s existence or behaviour? According to my dictionary, tolerate comes from the Latin word ‘tollere’, meaning to lift up. That’s fine if someone asks to be lifted up but more often they’re demanding not to be held down.

Whether it’s race, religion, caste, class, income, gender or sexuality, our world is riven by divisions with those on top consciously or unconsciously bearing down on those lower in the hierarchy than themselves. Asking them to ‘tolerate’ their poorer or weaker neighbour is not what’s needed. Nor should those lower in the pile tolerate their supposed superiors. They have a right to their intolerance but not by categorising all those who seem to oppress them as enemies. Sometimes education and understanding (or ‘overstanding’ for the Rastas) are enough. Sometimes, however, a fight is necessary.

RA 4.11.17

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