Monday, 7 August 2006

On the true nature of tolerance

I am a bad example of racial tolerance.

The reason for that is quite simple; I am never offended by anyone's race, so there's nothing for me to be tolerant about. What often passes for tolerance nowadays is nothing of the sort; it is actually a form of indifference or apathy.

The exercise of tolerance requires that you first be offended. A deaf man who sleeps blissfully through his neighbours' late-night parties is not practising tolerance; he has not been incommodated or offended.

A person of profound and absolute convictions who lives in peace with his neighbour who doesn't share these convictions is the one who is really practicing tolerance, not the one who says "I'm not sure what to think, so whatever you think is fine with me." The latter is never offended and therefore is never called on to practice tolerance.

I would contend that most religious people are shining examples of tolerance. The head-scarfed Muslim neighbour who greets me warmly while politely ignoring my shorts is practising tolerance; the bikini-clad neighbour watering her flowerbed who waves at me is not, she's just being nice. The evangelical Christian who mows the lawn for his vacationing next door neighbours, knowing full well they are pro-abortion activists, is practising tolerance; the pro-choice neighbour who collects their mail is not (although he is still being a good neighbour).

Acts of tolerance, by their very nature, are quiet and unassuming and don't get much press. It is the obnoxious loudmouths who get noticed, and then the lunatic fringe is taken to represent the entire carpet.

Of course, presenting the lunatic fringe as mainstream in any number of areas is a favourite ploy of the media. Nothing sells like controversy and little thought is given to the antogonism stirred up against the majority who don't deserve it.

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