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Here’s an analogy for you: the issue of tolerance and intolerance is kind of like a ping pong game that no one wins. No? How about this: the issue is like a dog trying to bite at its tail and never being able to reach quite far enough. Eventually the game does end and the dog either gets their tail and a nasty shock, or gives up and just lies down to rest. Tolerance and intolerance represent a tiring dance that never seems to end since one tends to lead into the other so frequently. When is tolerance okay? When is it not okay to be intolerant? For instance, people want to show intolerance to racism, ignorance, arrogance, a host of other negative characteristics, but then they’ll want to tolerate freedom of speech and the idea that others are free to think what they will. So who’s right?

The unfortunate part is that everyone is right when it comes to allowing the freedom of speech and the expression of ideas. But the trick here is learning to differentiate between what can be tolerated and when intolerance is a boon rather than a detriment. The word “intolerance” sometimes seems like such a nasty word that many people curl their lip just hearing it. But look at it this way, if we weren’t intolerant of the negativity that some folks love to bring then it could very well be the downfall of society, you know, the thing that some folks already think is happening.

Being intolerant of tolerance is hard to tolerate without becoming intolerant. See how that kind of goes back on itself?

People seem to miss the meaning of tolerance.

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It’s amazing really that people gloss right over the idea that they can TALK to others, CONVERSE over different ideals and not shout, not call each other names, and not feel the need to slam another person’s views simply because they don’t coincide with their own. It’s very true that some ideas don’t warrant the same respect simply because they preach negativity and possible harm to others, but remaining intolerant to all ideas means that you might very well miss out on the good ones while you’re guarding against those you believe to be harmful. It’s often a confusing and frustrating mess to work through when taking the opinions of others into consideration, but tolerance isn’t a blanket statement used for everything that you feel should be said, it’s more like a guiding principle that can allow an individual to parse out the viewpoints of others that are valid while allowing an individual to remain intolerant of those that are outwardly harmful to themselves and to others. It’s a mess when you look at it, but the truth is that tolerance and intolerance are social tools that, when used properly, can allow a person to realize just where they stand and why.

You can’t always have it both ways.

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You’ve heard the saying ‘have your cake and eat it too’ right? Well when it comes to being intolerant of other peoples’ opinions and trying to preach that tolerance is the answer you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot so to speak. Many people will be tolerant of just about anything as long is lines up with their ideals and can benefit them in some way. But tolerance towards a wide spectrum of ideals can be both dangerous and incredibly naive since without at least some intolerance of those ideals that might seem harmful or otherwise suspect a person opens themselves up to a confusing conundrum that sees them having to be tolerant when they might rather voice their opinion against a particular ideal that they don’t agree with. See how confusing this gets? Many people want the world to be tolerant of them and their ideas but won’t practice what they preach. To be tolerant of others is great, but to be intolerant of those same others if they don’t ascribe to your way of thinking is a bit ridiculous. One good rule of thumb is to allow people their voice and their opinions, but have the courage to stand against those that preach negativity and harm to others (be intolerant) while still allowing people to voice their views and express themselves as they see fit (being tolerant). So long as no one’s getting hurt and people are allowed to CONVERSE in a civil manner, then tolerance is the preferred path.

The dark side of tolerance however is accomplished by doing almost nothing at all.

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For evil to win all good needs to do is step aside. There are a lot of different variations on this saying but the gist of it is that if you want to let intolerance win, just be absolutely tolerant of everything and let it ride. This is the dark side of tolerance, the ability to just let everything go and not stand up or speak out against intolerance when it becomes a thing used to harm others. Tolerance has its place and its uses, but when people simply tolerate everything simply because they don’t want to start conflict, then it becomes a tool that allows the worst of intolerance to flourish. There’s a balance between the two that has to be struck, and while it will flow back and forth as is needed thanks to morality and the shared ethics of so many, being intolerant of those that would tolerate anything and everything is in many ways an effort to keep the world from falling into utter chaos and ruin.

If you can tolerate others but show intolerance towards those who would willingly harm another for no good reason then that’s a good start.

1 Comment

  1. Great stuff! I really enjoyed the read. And my personal opinion is that whether or not we agree with something we have to be tolerant so long as it doesn’t violate our rights. If you want people to change persuade them with your conduct and words but never through force. Otherwise let people be.

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