Tolerance

One of the common words that we hippie-type people like to use is the word tolerance.  We need to be more tolerant.  I said it myself in my last post, but based on a discussion on that post I decided that it was worth investigating this concept of tolerance.  While I think many people derived a theme of being more tolerant towards Muslims, what I really meant to look at is what are better and worse ways of dealing with a difficult situation.  I’ve come to realize that often when I use the word tolerance, the meaning I hold to it is different than others.  And so maybe what I am suggesting is not tolerance at all, but something else.

Ahirhsa refers to non-violence

What I think we can agree on, is that tolerance is definitely not something we should always be doing.  We live in a very PC culture where we are being told constantly to be tolerant, but tolerance can lead to passiveness, and there are some things we should not tolerate or be passive about.  One could say that being intolerant has led to many important social changes.  When laws are unjust being tolerant of them isn’t getting you very far.  Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr are good examples of historical figures who were not very tolerant and accomplished great things for their people in the march towards equality and self-determination.  But then I also thought about the importance of context.  If laws are unjust, if there is oppression, then it is these practices that are intolerant.  And shouldn’t we be intolerant to practices that are intolerant.  For instance, if black people are not allowed to sit in certain restaurants this would be an example of a system which is not tolerant towards different races.  White people would not tolerate a black person sitting next to them while eating.  Did black people owe it to white people to be tolerant of their practices so as to not make them feel uncomfortable?  Of course not.  On the other side we could point to Kim Davis.  She doesn’t agree with a law that allows gay people marry.  The law is just because it gives equal rights to people of different sexual orientation, and doesn’t infringe on anybody’s ability to practice their own religion.  Thus we would ask Kim Davis to be tolerant.  Of course, whether it is people not wanting blacks in their restaurant, or gay people to marry, what we are really saying to those people is “you’re wrong, get used to it”.  We’re saying, your “intolerance, will no longer be tolerated”.  And I believe this is fair and this is right, but there is a little bit of a subtext there that says “You really should change your mind and agree with us, because other ways life is going to be pretty annoying for you”.  And again, I’m not saying this isn’t fair, but to the other person they would easily say that we are the intolerant ones of their views and why do they have to show tolerance and we don’t?  The word “tolerance”, at least to me, is sort of a confusing word when you think about it.

So going back to the issue of “banning the burka”, if I say tolerance is prudent, what does that mean?  First I think it’s important to note that tolerance of an action and condoning that action are different.  But if you are really against something, being tolerant and thus passive can be seen as equal as condoning it.  I think there is some truth to that, but it’s important to remember that not all people would fight a battle in the same way. Some methods of fighting are more effective and/or cause less overall harm. Kim Davis’ beliefs may make her decide that she should not tolerate what she’s sees as an unjust law and she is welcome to fight it.  However there are better and worse ways to do such a thing, and the choice she has made is ultimately ineffective, and denies legal rights to fellow citizens.  The burka or niqab is a troubling practice.  Women have become so oppressed in some countries that many of them are even complicit with that oppression and would feel real spiritual pain by not following what they believe to be true regarding their value compared to men.  Should we tolerate such gender equality?  The answer once again is, of course not.  However should we be tolerant towards women wearing the burka?  Then I would say yes, but I would say that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it.  So maybe when we ask for tolerance, what we really mean is patience and careful thought.  Let’s not have knee-jerk reactions that are governed by our fears, but let’s take actions that are based on our love and compassion.  The fight for gender equality is really one about love and compassion.  Telling women that they have equal freedom and value as men in society is just that.  Freedom of religion is also one of love and compassion because it says to people that you are allowed to keep your beliefs and that the law will not dictate what you must believe.   No one else wants their beliefs infringed on so why should we pass laws that infringe on others? Of course that doesn’t mean that you can come into a country and expect that a belief structure that by design causes harm to another group will be easily tolerated, especially when that country has fought long and hard to try and erode the traditions you still hold on to.   At the same time, you may also expect that new laws shouldn’t be passed that specifically target you for doing what you were raised culturally to accept as normal.   I think it’s also important that when we oppose certain cultural practices that we consider immoral, that we don’t reject an entire a culture.  Cultural practices are not homogeneous and thus are not all bad or all good.  At the very least some practices may cause no harm at all and thus we should be tolerant of those.

What we are really after, therefore, is a way in which we can present a group of people who have morally unsound practices with a better way of living.  In the case of the severe oppression of women in some Islamic countries, a proactive way of doing this is to empower women.  Self-determination goes a much longer way in affecting change than oppressive laws.  And while it would be nice to have men on the same side, many will resist due to the fact that they will be losing a position of privilege in their society, but ultimately just as the fight for equality here in the U.S. has required the support of men, so will it need to be the case in Islam.  One possible way in which we can appeal to the rational in both men and women would be to offer education into the development of children.  This article was shared with me by Victoria over at VictoriaNeuronotes and discusses the important of babies being able to see facial expression in their mother.  From the article:

Teacher Maryam Khan, says: “Working with young children, so much is read just from facial expressions, you don’t have to speak to a child.

“If they can’t see your face, they don’t know what you’re thinking – a glare, a smile.”

Psychologists agree. “It’s particularly true for children under five because their communication is non-verbal, they’re much better at reading it than adults,” says Dr. Lewis. “If they’re denied these signals they become quite confused.”

If, when in public, the mother’s face is always covered, this has an adverse impact on a baby’s mood and reactions to situations.  The YouTube video below demonstrates this impact clearly.  And there may be other things that we can discuss with them such as the importance of sunlight to pregnant mothers and babies for Vitamin D.  Given that a love of children is cross-cultural and people generally want the best for children, this seems like a proactive way to change minds by connecting with men and women emotionally through the love they have their children, while presenting also a rational argument for the value of not covering your face.  What’s best is that is also reveals the best about us.  We aren’t trying to persecute anyone, we are showing another culture, our value of education, our shared love of children and wanting the best for them, and that what we want is a conversation and an exchange of ideas, not forcing a behavior through a punitive law.  It also shows another culture that we have humility.  That we too had practices that were not always beneficial and through the act of investigation and learning we have grown to become more loving and compassionate.

As I ponder more about the word tolerance, the more it seems like a word that isn’t overly descriptive.  Because within the idea of tolerance is an implication that one isn’t happy or supportive of a particular behavior and that in some cases, when a particular behavior is harmful we would rather do something about that behavior.  What it does not imply is a hasty reaction.  We can be patient and thoughtful, and act in away that is inclusive and not exclusive.  We can act in a way that is proactive and not adversarial.  In the end, I believe, such tactics are more successful.

The Whole Story

Who doesn’t love a good story? We see it television, in movies, and in books. We all love good stories told around a campfire, around the dinner table. We love writers and directors and people who can weave a good story together. Are stories just something that purely are for entertainment if they are fiction, and education if they are true? Is there any such thing as a true story (and if there is, is it exciting enough to listen to)? Is there any such thing as a fictional story?

There are plenty of people I’m sure who have addressed this topic, so I don’t think I am coming up with anything new here. The value of stories and storytelling has been on my mind ever since I read Patrick

From kkc.wikia.com

Rothfuss’ two books The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear. The main character in that book is from a group of people that are somewhat gypsy like. They live their lives on the road traveling from town to town putting on performances of plays, telling stories, acrobatics, and playing music and singing songs. They are performers. The main plot of the series (which is not finished yet and I’m anxiously awaiting the 3rd and final book in the series) is that the main character is trying to determine the truth behind a traumatic childhood incident (don’t want to give too much away). The source of the traumatic event was something that he heard as a story and thought it was just a myth, something not real, and thus when this myth does seem real he questions his own memory of the event, since he was a child and could possibly have just made a story fit what he witnessed, or did it really happen. As this main character grows and travels he hears more stories from different cultures and different people. Stories are always slightly different because good storytellers exaggerate a bit here and there and of course stories generally change throughout time as they get passed down and pass from region to region. taking on aspects of the culture they move into. In a way the main character is learning about what’s real through what everyone thinks are fictional stories. Taking bits and pieces from all the different stories and putting it together into a narrative that might explain what happened to him as a child. The books represent masterful storytelling themselves, but the author really hits home the value of stories in general. The main character states at one point “There is truth to every story”.

Truer words were never spoken.

Fiction is defined as:

1. a. An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.
b. The act of inventing such a creation or pretense.
2. A lie.
3. a. A literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact.
b. The category of literature comprising works of this kind, including novels and short stories.

Even the most damning definition of fiction here “A lie” can carry with it truth.  If you know someone is lying you might know then that the opposite is true.  You might know that to find truth more investigation is needed.  You might try to understand why I’m lying and learn something about why people lie. I think we need to be mindful that this doesn’t necessarily mean that there still isn’t any truth to be found within the context of our imagination. And I think everybody sort of gets that, but for a while I was heavily into non-fiction because I was like I have so much to learn, and I still do, but I think in my mind I had forgotten sort I also decided to write about this today because of an article I read recently regarding stories and how they impact our view of the world. For instance if we are old stories about violence repeatedly this may skew our view of how prevalent violence is.  The article has many more thought provoking ideas than that, but the gist is that stories shape our lives, because we do search for meaning in every story and when we read only one kind of story all the time, whether it is non-fiction, a news story in the media, or in a movie, our neurons start to forge pathways that make that one kind of story a narrative for our life.  So it seems it is important to actually fill yourself with different types of stories.

I love reading.  My wife and I actually read stories together, with usually me reading and her listening.  I tend to read in a British accent most of the time, because hey it makes the story sound better for me, but I also try to do different voices for different characters.  She likes the way I read, but I sort of wish she would read to me more too, because when we started she was the one that read to me, and it was actually her getting into the reading and doing different voices that made me feel comfortable getting into it. 🙂  She says I’m better at it, and maybe that’s true, but I just hope I haven’t taken something away from her that she enjoyed doing.   I do find value in reading a story out loud, telling it.  It makes you think about the characters more, what their moods and emotions might be.  I sort of find that when I read to myself I pay

Orpheus and Eurydice (from www. maicar.com).

more attention to the non-dialogue part, where as when I read out loud I pay more attention to the dialogue.  It’s a very different experience.  I strongly recommend giving it a try. 🙂  Rothfuss’ books have also made me think that it would be cool to have, instead of a book club, a story club where once a month you meet and tell stories to each other.  I am super excited to read stories to my child that is soon to be in this world, and I hope I can share the appreciation I have for the value of stories. 🙂