Intolerance comes in many forms and saturates our lives with a variety of hues. It is manifested by each of us no matter how open-minded we consider ourselves to be. For when we speak of being open-minded, most of us mean that we are open to those who share our views and beliefs. We speak of freedom for all, but we chain this freedom to a foundation of prerequisites and conditions. We don’t want justice or equality unless we have some say in how these concepts are defined. Now that we live in a godless society, we want to immortalize ourselves as gods. We want to measure out the privileges and opportunities that others are rewarded with. And even though we hear the opinions of those who oppose us, we don’t stop to listen.
We preach justice and peace for everyone while simultaneously speaking words of hate, contempt, and bitterness. Is it any wonder that we have such difficulty facing ourselves in the mirror? Perhaps it’s convenient not to believe in what we call “absolute truth” for then we won’t have to face the truth about ourselves.
If we can convince ourselves that there is no objective reality, then we won’t have to hold ourselves accountable for reprehensible behavor. And we can assure ourselves that those who say we have been unjust or cruel are only seeing things through the window of their own subjective perceptions. They are merely unable to grasp the truth as we see it, either because they are too stupid or too ignorant or both.
When we are judged for the intolerance we show toward others, we reverse things so that it appears that we have been the victim. Nothing is easier than noticing that which confirms what we believe and discarding anything that forces us to question ourselves. Instead of going out to fight for the causes we say we believe in, we prefer to heap scorn on political figures and groups who don’t subscribe to our beliefs.
It is always easier to mock than it is to create change. Mockery requires nothing from us. Even a fool can mock adeptly, though let us not forget that it is often wise men whom the fool mocks. A fool’s vision is myopic. He cannot see past his own opinion, since in his world that is all that exists. For a fool, there is no absolute truth but his own.
But we seekers of truth claim that we want wisdom! We are not content to wear the dunce’s cap. We want our thoughts and beliefs to be challenged. Or do we? Isn’t it more likely that we want to debate our thoughts and beliefs with others so that we can show them why we are right and they are wrong? If we could persuade them into seeing things the way we do, we would no longer have to be intolerant of them. Rather, we could create a state of harmony and unity where we were all brothers and sisters, linked together for a common cause–our cause.
Yet if we must impose our beliefs on others in order to get them to support us, is their support of any true value? Gandhi once said, “Intolerance betrays lack of faith in one’s cause.” Is it possible that intolerance could also betray lack of faith in oneself? If we felt completely secure in ourselves and our own beliefs, why would it matter whether anyone else shared them?
We may imagine that those who oppose us are infringing on our freedom. But if we cease to allow pride to deceive us, we will understand that each person has just as much right to his opinion as we do. So, even though it would be convenient if everyone agreed with us, what we would create if we were able to bring this about would be no different than the dictatorships we have condemned.
Intolerance will never be obliterated; for the level of humility and courage it requires to allow everyone the freedom to be themselves is more than many of us possess. We all seek power over someone or something, whether we choose to acquire this power through persuasion or force. The key is to turn this desire towards ourselves– to seek to master ourselves. We may claim that we want to learn and gain knowledge. Yet, when we focus on how the rest of the world can change instead of on how we can change, our efforts will be directed towards that which we have no true power over.
To want to conquer that which cannot be triumphed over is senseless, and this is the main aim of intolerance. As much as it stems from fear and doubt, it is also rooted in a compulsion for power. Intolerance believes itself to be a force of change. In its mind, it is the instigator of worldwide transformation. Yet, in spite of its vitriolic passion, intolerance remains as powerless as it is bitter. For genuine power is never to be found outside the structure of freedom. And the man who is intolerant, by trying to deprive others of their freedom, enslaves himself.
Peace, Love, and Joy,
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