You have to be a grown-up to be able to hear opposing view while remaining calm and granting these views a dispassionate analysis. Such behavior is beyond the capacity of most people – certainly those with strongly held beliefs. There are many people with such beliefs who feel compelled to insert them into ordinary conversations where they are inappropriate to the context. These out of context remarks often emanate from people who are convinced they are more knowledgeable and informed than they really are. Suppose you ask an acquaintance about the chance of rain later in the day and a harangue about climate change is the answer. There are several possible reactions – get into an argument, agree and launch a tirade about climate change deniers, or consult your smartphone for the weather information remaining silent waiting for the issue wear to itself out and the topic to change.
A more difficult problem is that of the loudmouth who has a platform provided by an official position that he uses to pontificate on unrelated issues. Asking him to stop is likely to result in a hostile response. Ignoring him can be painful, especially if he’s serving a term which has a ways to go. Dropping out of the organization may not be an option, so your tolerance will be sorely tested.
Divergent views always seems to elicit surprise, forgetting that it’s been a human characteristic since the cave painters fought over which shade of ochre was preferable. People typically divide in a Manichean tally of good guys and bad guys. We, of course, are always on the side of the angels. Civil discourse is too much for most of us. Our blood is too close to the surface. Politics, envy, and jealousy seem to top the list of issues that form unbridgeable gorges. When not diverted by the sheer need to survive, we will fall for the wildest folly and argue, sometimes to the point of rupture, over the most trivial of contentions. Humans are not programmed for prosperity and leisure. The more we have of both the greater the mischief we engender. Work is not just necessary to supply food, shelter, and clothing – we need it to keep us out of trouble. It’s much easier to be tolerant when you’re busy earning a living.
Atheists are convinced the God does not exist. How they can know an unknowable doesn’t seem to trouble them. Pascal’s wager aside, God seems necessary for for orderly human interaction as well as for mental tranquility and inner peace. Thus, it seems to me, that the question of God’s existence is a frivolous one that has only one rational answer. But there’s also a downside here. Belief in God results in religions. These religions when they grow beyond a certain dimension tend to be intolerant of the others that have emerged, often to the point of violence. Tolerance of other religions and their dogma seems to be a terminal event in the lifespan of a specific religion. Consider Christianity in Europe versus that in Africa. How to keep religion simultaneously vibrant and tolerant is a feat very difficult to master.
Politics has replaced religion in many “advanced” societies to the detriment of both. There’s an obvious difference between the two that most people can easily discern when calm. The need to deeply believe in something must be met. The old adage (attributed to a host of sources): Those who believe in nothing will believe in anything, applies here. Mysterious is the reason why anyone would substitute politics for religion. Tolerance is in short supply in this neighborhood.
Gender has gone from being straightforward to a minefield. Aside from a few and very rare disorders of sexual differentiation, the pairing of sex chromosomes determines gender. Confusion is a torrent among the gender fluid. Gender as a social construct is a fable. Nobody knows why people are homosexual, nevertheless many think it an inborn and immutable trait. These same people commonly believe that gender which is determined at conception, with the rare exceptions mentioned above, is moveable and subject to change at virtually any stage of life. And they are intolerant to the point of combustion about the certainty of their beliefs. When you are committed to more genders than there are letters in the Italian alphabet, you have a species of deranged thinking. Crazy people are difficult to reason with. So I guess we’ll just have to wait for this latest madness to wear itself out.
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there,” is the famous first line of LP Hartley’s The Go-Between. Those who want to topple statues and deface the names of those who behaved badly by today’s standards would be well to think a while before going further. What will the “woke” generation of a century hence think about them? I doubt many of today’s social justice gladiators will rate a statue, but there will be photographs. In 2120 it may be faddish to deface them. Morality signaling is weak rather than woke.
Race has become a hive of intolerance. Not the way it was, but in a through the looking glass mode. Were Martin Luther King, Jr to give his “I have a Dream” speech today he likely would be denounced by a lot of those who profess to venerate him. It’s the one that contains the wish for people to be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. The problem is that tolerance, like moderation, is boring. It’s like an anonymous gift; you don’t get any credit for it. Far better make a lot of noise and be in flagrant motion which will display what a virtuous fellow you are even if you’re a dimwit.
There’s a recent book that covers a lot of the territory discussed above. I’ll write a review of it soon. But for now, it’s time to move to something more entertaining.