People often say that ” tolerance” is an excellent quality, but not many people can be truly tolerant in real life. Sometimes, we even have doubts about ” tolerance”:
Do we have to be tolerant? What is tolerance? To what extent is tolerance? Is tolerance always reasonable? Some things will naturally be we absolutely cannot tolerate. But does tolerating some important issues ( involving personal beliefs ) really mean abandoning the truth, or even showing indifference or even cowardice?
What is tolerance? Tolerance means being able and willing to tolerate things we don’t like. I can’t say to my wife or girlfriend that I tolerate her – she is bound to get angry. We can tolerate high temperature and hunger, annoying bosses, noisy neighbors and chattering colleagues. But why should we tolerate this? Because this has not caused us too much trouble, or there is no solution at all.
The word ” tolerance” itself reflects our negative attitude towards what we want to tolerate – we will not use this word on people or things we cherish or like. In addition, tolerance always depends on the degree of dislike we can tolerate and cannot exceed a certain limit. Once we have had enough, we will not tolerate it any more. Therefore, to be very tolerant is to try to expand the scope of tolerance as much as possible.
In addition, if important issues are involved, there is no room for tolerance. The state and the police can tolerate a certain ( lower ) degree of minor crimes, but under no circumstances can the printing of counterfeit banknotes be tolerated. There is no tolerable scope for this problem. The convicted person will be put into prison even if he only prints a counterfeit note with a low face value.
However, the boundaries between what I hate and what I don’t hate are neither clear nor permanent. Noises that are not annoying at all on one day may enrage us on another.
If everything goes well and my mood is very happy, then I can tolerate some annoying things – I will shrug my shoulders and laugh it off. After all, I am a tolerant person, am I not?
But if one day unfortunately my wife and I had an argument, failed to realize the plan as scheduled, or were distracted by worries and anxieties, then the situation would be very different. I will feel as if everyone is plotting against me and trying to defeat me. The man who gave me a push on the bus had a strange expression on his face, and the old woman nagging at the shop was also very annoying. This time you let me tolerate? No way!
Unfortunately, this is not only limited to trivial daily life, it also applies to all kinds of groups and countries.
From the Enlightenment to Hitler’s rise, German Jews lived in peace and were mostly regarded as respected citizens. However, what followed was Germany’s defeat in World War I, hyperinflation and economic crisis. All of a sudden, everything changed. All the certainties of a civilized society have collapsed, and people are frantically searching for those to blame. A large number of inflammatory remarks have suddenly sprung up in society, which will destroy the lives of millions of people.
In the former Yugoslavia, even one year before the conflict broke out, no one would believe that such a terrible thing would happen. People live leisurely, smile at each other and tolerate their differences. But then the situation deteriorated, inflation deprived people of their assets, and everyone began to look around for someone to blame and someone to vent their anger on.
All of a sudden, people began to notice that their neighbors looked a little strange. And the neighbors thought exactly the same. Until one day, they may see each other bring home a gun or axe. Then the turmoil began.
In the past, nothing big and tolerable suddenly became a fatal danger, and friends became enemies overnight. Therefore, human society cannot be based on people’s indifference to each other, because the difference between people who do not care is pitifully small.
But what else can we do? How should we treat those who are different from us? Do they also have certain significance? Let’s think about this problem from another angle.
Although there are still many people dying of hunger in the world, the number of people dying of hunger has not doubled due to the efforts of grain growers. For centuries, they have tried to grow as high-yield crops as possible, which can withstand arid and barren soil and resist parasites. They finally succeeded, planted the best varieties and spread them all over the world.
But then disaster struck. A new unknown parasite grew wildly in the crop of this variety, destroying the entire crop. In the past, wheat grown in different places was not of the same variety, so only a part of the whole batch of crops would be destroyed. In 1845, the potato late blight appeared in Ireland, and more than one million people died of the ensuing famine because the entire country’s crops were destroyed.
Therefore, the cultivators have made an important discovery: no variety, even the best variety, can be so good that we can only rely on it to survive. Even if it has the best properties, we cannot test its resistance to every disease and parasite, because we do not know all diseases and insect pests.
The epidemic disease will try to affect all kinds of crops, after all, they also have no other way. As long as the first chance is found, the epidemic disease will begin to play its role. The larger the area where we plant the same variety of crops around the world, the further the epidemic will spread.
Therefore, we must reserve other varieties at any time. These varieties may have lower yields, but they can resist unknown parasites. In fact, as early as 200 or 300 years ago, farmers began collecting cultivated and semi-cultivated seeds from all over the world to protect as many varieties ( biodiversity ) as possible. They did this not to put it in a museum or specimen room, but because we might need it some day.
Big countries also have their own gene banks, which hold thousands of seeds of different varieties of crops. They will sow new seeds and harvest them from time to time so that the seeds will not lose their ability to germinate.
The human species itself has experienced similar things. Modern society and life style exert subtle and efficient pressure on all of us, requiring us to assimilate.
People all over the world wear jeans, learn English, listen to similar music, live in high-rise buildings and hope to have independent houses. This has some advantages: no matter which city we travel to, we will not be too conspicuous. We have reasonable ways to walk unimpeded and communicate with people.
But this also has a big shortcoming, more precisely a danger. If everyone is the same, they will become prey to the same ” parasite”. This is not only biological ( we have doctors and drugs to deal with this problem ), but more important is ideological. Ideological infectious diseases are more terrible than cholera. Events in the 20th century have fully proved this point.
The Nazi epidemic mainly persecuted Jews, but it also affected Gypsies and others. These victims probably foresaw this was an infectious disease before others. They may be able to resist it, but because they belong to a minority group, most people did not hear their warnings or provide them with assistance.
Why are there these infectious diseases in today’s world? Because people are too similar to each other, they are easily influenced by the same kind of incitement. Therefore, there is no other way to deal with ideological parasites except the diversification and differentiation of choices.
Everyone’s ideas are outrageous, but they are less worrying than the consensus. Because sooner or later, a society where everyone is the same will become totalitarian and will arrive early rather than late.
When such a totalitarian evil is finally overthrown, everyone will suddenly wake up and feel a little ashamed of themselves: how can we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this? We must start from scratch, and this time we must change course. But if everyone said so, it would be easy to fall into the same trap again.
Some people around us are rejected by us because they are different from others, but in fact they are the only early warning mechanism against collective ” puppet” or totalitarianism. This amazing discovery is called pluralism.
Please note that this does not mean unlimited tolerance, but rather that we can see in people different from us the advantages and potentials we do not have, or at least the advantages and potentials we have but have not tapped.
The advantage of diversity lies not in the fact that they are different from each other, but in their ability and willingness to communicate and continue dialogue with each other. ” Four eyes can see better than two eyes”, in other words, two people can benefit from exchanging views.
This became clear when ideological parasites attacked and tried to gather us like sheep and surrounded us with black talons. Because if I can be fooled like this, then everyone like me will be fooled. Four eyes not only means safer, but also means more possibility to catch a glimpse of better solutions and find opportunities.
Tolerance means that we should tolerate our neighbors who are different from us and bring us inconvenience. Diversification represents that we should pay attention to their differences.
Tolerance guides us to adapt to each other within a certain limit, that is, try to reduce the gap between the two sides, of course, they also need to adapt to our way. This tendency of assimilation tends to lead to conflicts, especially nationalist conflicts.
Diversity naturally understands that we cannot be like them and they cannot be like us. In short, they are different from each other. However, pluralism does not think that this will only bring inconvenience, but rather regards it as a very useful quality or at least an opportunity. This is very different from tolerance.
However, has pluralism really been realized? We know that there have been periods of tolerance in history ( prosperity is often more tolerant ), but has diversity been realized?
Diversification is not a statistical feature of society, but an individual’s inherent ability and belief. So far, there may not be a pluralistic society, but the cases of pluralism can be traced back to a long time ago, when no one even thought of pursuing pluralism.
There are such examples in the Bible. Around 500 BC, unknown Jewish scholars who fled their captivity were surprised by the difference and often contradiction in the contents of the book when they collected ancient texts and traditions. However, wise scholars did not attempt to ” unify” those contents. They maintained the status quo.
We are all different from each other, which may sometimes be an obstacle in our daily life, and we all feel upset about it from time to time. However, people who want their children to live in a free society should realize that those pesky people ( they may be minorities, factions, etc. with different views ) should not only be tolerated, but also be valued. It is very likely that one day they will save us from something worse than Nazism.