corrective vision; or: the intolerance of tolerance

Everyone is equal.

No, that doesn’t mean we’re all the same: that would be a preposterous thing to suppose. We’re all different, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, we all bring something special to the world – we are all unique. Unfortunately, most of us have been too tied up in the superiority of our own kind to embrace or celebrate those differences on the scale on which we should. Instead, we fear those who are different, sometimes without even attempting to understand. This sort of behaviour leads to narrow-mindedness and intolerance; and I want to take issue with that terminology.

The word tolerance infuriates me. The concept that a sort of person, a type of behaviour, an entire race or gender of people should have to be tolerated, is categorically ridiculous. We all have the same parts, the same feelings, the same basic needs and desires; it is the misunderstanding of one another that creates the barriers between us and fosters the idea that one faith, one colour, one gender should have to be tolerated. Sure, the annoying behaviour of your kid brother should be tolerated, but saying that a group of people – no matter what size – needs to be tolerated is just not good enough for the 21st century.

Okay, so, yes: we know that Group A saying, “Group B needs to be tolerated” is unacceptable, but what about when Group B steps up and says, “Hey Group A! Tolerate us, or else!” (Note that the terminology can vary here, and that the absence of the word does not indicate the absence of the concept.) Group B’s got a problem: they – themselves! – seem to think that they need to be tolerated, which isn’t doing much for their case of wanting to be equal to Groups A through Z. My mother always told me that if you say negative things about yourself often enough, everyone else will start to believe that those things are true. In our hypothetical situation, Group B is touting their need to be tolerated, which doesn’t change the perception of Group A at all: it just makes Group B more of an annoyance than previously believed because they’re kicking up a fuss about themselves. Great.

What is it that I’m getting at here? I think the rhetoric, logic, and language of tolerance as it applies to relations between human beings needs a well-deserved overhaul. Attitudes need adjusting and eyes need opening. Understanding should, (perhaps?) take the place of tolerance. Yes, that might be good; then we could dispense with racism, war and death, and the world would be a happy, jolly place! It’s that easy, and we can’t say that it isn’t, because we haven’t been able to tolerate one another long enough to try it on a large enough scale to know.

One or the other of us is not right, but we’re all wrong without each other.

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