By Jonathan Timar 2 Comments

Is Tolerance Really A Virtue?

These days it seems that tolerance has become *the* most critical of all virtues. We are expected to tolerate everything, and if we don’t then it is a virtual guarantee that we will find ourselves on the receiving end of some harsh criticism by the politically correct crowd.

But is tolerance always a good thing?

I think not.

In fact, I can think of many things that we should not be tolerant of, such as racism, or sexism.

But those are obvious. No one in their right mind is tolerant of those things, and if they are, very few people in our society are going to take very kindly to them.

But there are other things that we are generally tolerant of that we most certainly should not be tolerating, and yet somehow, through a mix of politically correct idealism, and politically convenient opportunism, we have come to accept in our world.

We should not be tolerating China and its complete disregard for basic human rights, its invasion and theft of Tibet, its inexcusable level of pollution, its terrible abuses of factory workers, or its bizarre combination of communism and fascism.

But we do. We do because our society is greedy, and we have become addicted to its cheap goods. Ironically, our demand for China’s cheap stuff had resulted in a massive demand for oil in China which has caused prices to skyrocket and our lives haven’t ended up any cheaper, just poorer.

We should not tolerate any religion that attempts to force itself on the world or on individuals, and yet we do.

We should not tolerate people based on their skin colour, ethnicity, or heritage if their behaviour is otherwise objectionable.

And yet we do.

The Caledonia Sub-division Case

Several years ago a group of aboriginal Canadian thugs occupied a subdivision in Ontario. They claimed it was theirs. They hadn’t shown a heck of a lot of interest in that land before it was developed (a recurring pattern when it comes to land claims). They held the residents of the development hostage in their homes, preventing them from leaving to go to work for fear they would not be allowed back in. They attacked a family passing through and stole their car. They beat up reporters and damaged their equipment. They stole another vehicle being driven by a border services agent and then attempted to mow down a police officer with it. They stole documents from the office of the developer who owned the land and then attempted to ransom it back. They set piles of tires ablaze on the public highways leading to the site and blocked the operation of the nearby railway. They posted signs with racist and inflammatory statements such as “Canada: your home on native land”.

What happened?

Not what should have happened. None of these thugs were ever punished for their crimes. In fact, the police during the entire occupation were instructed not to interfere. The residents who already lived in the area lost their homes. The incident cost taxpayers millions, the Ontario Government purchased the land to be held in trust. In all likelihood it will eventually be handed to the terrorists who occupied and destroyed a neighbourhood.

What a despicable display of “tolerance”.

What happens to people who speak out against tolerance?

Often, those who have the guts to speak out about the misguided variety of tolerance face serious consequences.

Last year, the former premier of British Columbia, and now former Member of Parliament, Ujall Dosanjh (for my American and International viewers, you may have caught Mr. Dosanjh’s appearance on The Colbert Report during the show’s visit to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic Games) was in the spotlight because he spoke out against the tolerance of extremist Sikh groups operating in Canada. He himself is Sikh, but that did not save him from receiving death threats.

Around the same time, Jewish teachers in Quebec were actually reprimanded after complaining that their Muslim students were disrespecting them and making anti-Semitic comments in class. Imagine that! They were held responsible for being intolerant of intolerance!

The true meaning of tolerance

The dictionary defines tolerance as follows:

tol·er·ance

–noun

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.

One word stands out for me in that definition. Fair.

Tolerance has become unfair. And we have become so afraid to be seen as “intolerant” that we blindly accept everything whether it is deserving of acceptance or not.

I see it all the time. People tolerate abuse from their boss because they are afraid to be the squeaky wheel. People tolerate Wal-Mart raping their communities because they have been brainwashed into thinking that Wal-Mart is helping them afford to live, when actually it is making them poorer, and destroying their buying power over time. People tolerate disposable furniture, appliances and toys that have been intentionally designed to break. People tolerate hormones and antibiotics in their food supply that destroy their body’s ability to fight disease.

The list could go on and on.

But what is the point of all of this, really?

The point is that our addiction to tolerance is actually hurting us. We have been conditioned to tolerate everything, even when it makes no sense. We don’t want to rock the boat. But if we don’t stop the cycle, its only going to get worse.

The good news is we can change it. We all have the power to change the world, and the best place to start is with ourselves. Ask yourself; what have you been tolerating in your life that has been hurting you?

It could be something big, it could be something small, or maybe a whole bunch of small things.  Probably it’s the latter.

Maybe it’s your tendency to procrastinate, or a job you can’t stand. Or maybe it’s just a desk chair that doesn’t support your back.

Whatever it is, make the decision to put a stop to it. Stop the mindless and misguided tolerance.

2 Comments

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2 Comments:

  • Hi Jonathon,

    I think this is a really good article which accurately voices frustrations that people are for some reason unwilling to admit to. The point about tolerance no longer being fair hits the nail on the head.

    I think tolerance even to intolerable things has it’s uses, though. In a situation like the natives in Canada, tolerance meant avoiding correcting the problem. However tolerance is perhaps the most useful when you can’t correct a problem, but you still need to maintain respect for the parties involved.

    China is a good example. Is China doing some horrible things? Most definitely. But saying “I won’t tolerate China anymore” just means you’re going to stay frustrated. Not to say there’s nothing you can do about it, buying American made products and openly supporting Tibet and what not. But in the end you definitely need to accept that China is there and is very imperfect, while acting in whatever positive way you can. After all, using force to solve such problems, the epidemy of not tolerating them, usually makes things worse.

    So in this sense I think tolerance is something we do to keep our own sanity and to continue to work on problems with other people/countries. Tell me if i’m using the word in the wrong context.

    • Hi Kris,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that tolerance has its place. If you really, truly cannot change something, then of course we must learn to tolerate it. China may be a good example, it’s simply beyond our control.

      But in our society “tolerance” has become a mantra, to the point that we tolerate what shouldn’t and needn’t be tolerated almost as a matter of course.

      Jonathan

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