Beyond Tolerance

(This piece first appeared in The Herald on 24 December 2015)
I don’t really give too much thought to the war in Syria. There’s just too much else to think about all the time. I mean right now I am facing a real dilemma: do I buy the silver baubles  for the Christmas tree or do I get those shiny red ones with a picture of a snow man on them? …..And what about the Christmas lights? Do I get the white flickering ones my wife wants to match the candles she bought for the table or do I get the brightly coloured blinky lights that remind me of my child hood?

As children we’re taught  to tolerate nonsense  for the “sake of peace”

What I can say about the war in Syria though is that Isis has given intolerance a bad name. Realistically, Isis are just the last in a series of zealots, warlords and dictators that have left most thinking people rejecting any and all tendencies toward intolerance. The Spanish Inquisition, Robben Island and Stalin’s Gulags are all recorded testimony of murderous path down which unchecked intolerance leads. Nixon could not tolerate the idea of the Vietnamese choosing to live under communism so he bombed Hanoi back into the dark ages. Bush could not tolerate Saddam, so he bombed Bagdad.
So I completely understand how it is that the mindful and well-mannered people spend much of their time advocating “tolerance”. For much of my life too, I have argued for “tolerance”, but I have now begun to re-think
You see, in a very real way “tolerance” means putting up with what I know is wrong “for the sake of peace”. But I have come to see that this is really a very short term solution. In fact, what I am calling for now, on this Christmas Eve, is a healthy dollop of “Intolerance”. Let me explain. I am making this call to all good people, all patriots and all lovers of this beautiful ecosystem of which we are an indivisible part.  I encourage you all to take inspiration from the students who this year said: “We will not tolerate Universities being for rich people only” or from the banks and unions who forced our president to backtrack when they said: ”We will not tolerate you destroying our economy”. I encourage you to become intolerant in your home, in the street in which you live, in your shopping centre parking lot.  Because it is the poor and defenceless that carry most of the cost when our society tolerates lawlessness. It is the poor and defenceless that cannot afford short term insurance, it is the poor and defenceless who must tolerate starvation because their chickens are stolen from their back yard. It is the poor and defenceless who can’t get the time off their dead-end jobs to tolerate being sent from pillar to post by brutally mindless corporations and institutions.
So, where you witness drunkenness, littering, late coming, rudeness, cold cappuccino or institutional nonsense; don’t tolerate it. Make a scene. Find the courage to speak out. If each of us does this every day, we will be victorious.  Mayor Giuliani proved in New York, that by becoming intolerant of little “crimes” we create environment where the bigger, more serious crimes begin to dwindle. We can’t expect our overstretched Police to deal with the small stuff. There is just too much really serious crime going on. So it’s up to you and I to become intolerant today.

Go now and rest; but rest with one eye open for that drunk uncle that may be thinking of stepping out of line. And when you put him in his place and correct his behaviour know that it is no less than your patriotic duty to have done so.

Author: Tim Hewitt-Coleman

The World can be a better place.... But how? Taking the debate beyond the political, beyond the theoretical into the real economy, into the physical and spatial dimension where cities, landscapes and livelihoods take form.

2 thoughts on “Beyond Tolerance”

  1. Ivan. It takes energy to make a scene. But I suppose when good people don't stand up, we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by criminals, zealots and all other manner of mindless types.


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