Growing Intolerance In Societies – Who Is Accountable?


I have always been deeply disturbed by intolerance and wanted to write about it but I have always turned my face the other way, trying to avoid it, knowing well how deep-rooted this sentiment is and how less I know about it.

I have tried to understand it in my own limited arena, how it develops and gets aggravated within the families before it spills out onto the streets.

Quite early in life, I had my first encounter with this emotion albeit I had no idea that people call it intolerance and it is so widespread! With the passage of time I learnt that intolerance is the refusal to accept, appreciate and respect the views, beliefs or behavior of a person or a social group.

I also learnt that we are not born with intolerance. Children are too innocent to understand the depth of this term, which is defined for them by their parents, environment and the society in which they are raised.

So it is a learned behavior. It is most often trigged by fear or insecurity that people face in their immediate environment.

It is a universal phenomenon…in some societies it is camouflaged under empathy and help that leaders try to offer, only to exploit it for their own benefits, which could be political, religious or related to caste and color.

Mahatma Gandhi felt, “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”

We inflict this violence on each other, without caring for the emotional hurts it causes especially on young adolescents who have to deal with it in educational institutions and neighborhood.

Role of families: As a child, whenever I visited my grandmother’s home, I saw a weird form of intolerance towards the working class, who could not mingle with the landlord families, had to sit on the floor and eat in their own plates, which had to be kept separate. Feudal masters looked down upon them just because they were poor and worked in their fields.

It is quite obvious that the children of such houses would grow up with the feeling that this kind of behavior was right and that is how it got embedded in social set up. It could never be rooted out despite the best of opportunities and laws. It still exists in a veiled form because certain people refuse to accept the underprivileged and the downtrodden as their equal. They share their beliefs and opinions with their children in their own narrow-minded way and the vicious circle continues.


Role of groups: There are fanatics who want to underline the importance of their own caste, region, race or religion. They create such groups to highlight the superiority of their race or religion. They keep raking the age-old traditions to prove that their ancestors had rightly created the class divide. Their constant endeavor is to sow the seeds of narrow-mindedness in the impressionable minds.

The atrocities of the past, the brutalities, which were inflicted by a certain group of people, are never buried. They are kept alive by talking about them so that the posterity remembers the prejudices, so that the youth can be instigated in the name of never ending vengeance.

Education, awareness and globalization has done little in eradicating intolerance, which is much more deep-rooted than we think. It is associated with the biased views of a parent, a teacher or a leader whose influence on growing children cannot be prevented.

Role of educational institutions: Children who study in minority schools and convents are conditioned to follow a set of rules, which contribute immensely to their development. They may not be told that others are lesser than them but the way their own beliefs, principles and philosophies are drilled, do create a subtle feeling of superiority for their own group.

Some of those who are confused try to rationalize those beliefs and principles but many more are easily carried away by the radical groups and that is how fringe elements get an impetus to keep themselves active and alive to exploit the sensitive matters.

Image courtesy:

Intolerance is also self-perpetuated and controlling this emotion is possible:

  • Think rationally
  • Learn to control anger and jealousy
  • Be sensitive to the hurts of others
  • Nurture kindness and compassion
  • Respect the opinion of others
  • Don’t feed doubt, vengeance and outrage

Intolerance is another form of discrimination. To my mind, they are synonyms.

Intolerance begins from homes, not hearts.

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Thank you for your support. Please add your valuable comments, they are much appreciated.

Balroop Singh.


23 thoughts on “Growing Intolerance In Societies – Who Is Accountable?

  1. An excellent post dear Balroop..
    Yes it is learnt behaviours and it seems human behaviour has to have its own click/groups and gives labels out left right and centre to those who do not fit into their group or particular way of being..
    Sad it begins in the home I agree, learned behaviours from parents as their prejudices spill out, and then in the class room.. and workplace..

    We are fickle when it comes to just learning to see someone with their own values instead there are many who do not stand up for injustice or who will stand out to tolerate another who is different from themselves..

    Fear is the key to a lot of it I feel.. Fear of rejection, of being classed within the same brackets of those they are showing intolerance too.
    Fear of not being accepted, within their own groups they mix with..
    And I think sometimes Balroop. People just do not think for themselves.. they have to feel they are part of the herd.. so agree and go along with what others are doing, which is worse.. For they are then condoning the actions of others who show such intolerances..

    Wonderful thought provoking post my friend.. and loved my catch up today xx Hugs and Blessings Sue

    1. Hi Sue,

      I appreciate and agree with both the points raised by you…most of the people don’t stand up to injustice and therefore the perpetrators get emboldened, exploitation and discrimination continues, many times in a veiled form. Yes, fear is the biggest factor that drives human psychology and quite difficult to eliminate.

      True, people do have a herd mentality and like to move with the flow. Those who try to resist have to face a lot of challenges. Social changes take a longer time than we anticipate!

      Many thanks for a profound perspective, immensely valued. Hugs and blessings back to you too.

      1. Always my pleasure when I catch up with your posts dear Balroop.. and I enjoy reading your thoughts that I so often totally agree with.. xx Love and Blessings for a wonderful rest of the week xx

  2. It is very much a learned behavior. We can hope those who recognize this and don’t continue the cycle will help change the world through their love and acceptance. We must try to remember we are each much more alike than we are different. We are each needed in this life.

    1. I agree with you Suzi, we do need each other but the emotions have to be genuine. Only then we can develop love and tolerant behavior.
      Thank you for standing by and sharing your view, much appreciated.

  3. A very sensitive and well analyzed article Balroop. You have so rightly pointed that Intolerance is not inborn but inbred from homes, schools and in societies. Insecurity breeds intolerance and conditioning accentuates it. Though each of us may not be able to change the views of people at large but what we can definitely do is to control our own intolerance by being sensitive to others, thinking rationally and keeping check of our jealousy and anger.

    1. Hi Somali,

      It is indeed a very sensitive topic, especially for the people who are victimised and that is why I have restricted my views to only experiences around my own self. The growing, impressionable years are the most vulnerable as they sow the seeds of right values and emotions. Negative perspective always seems more attractive and youngsters like to explore what is different.

      We may not be able to change the view of others but we do play an important part in molding impressionable minds in various forms and the roles we have in their life. Sensitivity and rational behavior can be nurtured if we play our roles in a responsible manner.

      Thanks for sharing your insights, much appreciated.

  4. You raise some very important points, well done. Intolerance is certainly a learned behaviour. I always enjoy watching young children playing together no matter what the colour of their skin, the clothes they wear, the income of their parents, etc. These things don’t matter to them. They just enjoy being in each other’s company and learning and playing together. Warm greetings, Sam 🙂

    1. Hi Sam,

      Welcome to Emotional Shadows! I am glad I could write such content to attract your attention.Thank you for sharing your positive observation for all of us to see.
      Yes, lets just learn from children…they have no such feelings for any single person that could ever hurt anybody. The seeds are sown by the behavior of people around them in various forms. They exemplify harmony and togetherness.

  5. I love the quote you’ve written “Intolerance begins from homes not hearts.” So true! One exception may be that some people are born with less empathy (or none if they are a sociopath). I believe that contributes to intolerance. For the most part though, we absolutely teach our children tolerance. It’s an interesting fact you’ve pointed out here that groups tend to perpetuate a superior attitude.Great post, Balroop!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      We do teach tolerance but we are not the only persons who influence the thoughts of our children. Peer group, teachers and society at large have a bigger role to play. Friends circle is the most powerful group and the views become stronger when they are discussed in such a circle as children feel more attached and free to air their thoughts in the company of peer group. The leanings of parents and what they say in the presence of their children also leaves a deep impression on their minds.

      Thank you dear friend for your lovely support. 🙂 Much appreciated.

  6. Another fine and comprehensive article Balroop, for which many thanks. There is something of paradox buried within all this though, and which Karl Popper identified:

    “The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom, in the sense of absence of any constraining control, must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.

    Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

    1. Hi Haroid,

      I am extremely grateful to you for sharing this powerful piece, which is indeed contradictory. I have to read it again to fully understand its meaning. I understand that I am too naive to fully digest such a profound view with just one reading.

      I appreciate your reading this post and look forward to the analysis of public opinion and what is the most important influence that incites intolerance or who can be held accountable for it. I revere your sagacious thoughts and insights.

  7. Your “role of families” point reminds me of a time when I lived in Malaysia. Some of my relatives including my grandparents had house helpers. But they called them “maids”, and looking back this word sort of made us all see they were second-class. The “maids” would often we excluded from our family gatherings and made to eat in one corner of the room or in the kitchen. However, they’ve always just seemed to be another person to me.

    This is an incredibly sensitive subject along the lines of racism. I applaud you for tackling this in such a level-headed manner. Agree with you that we aren’t always born with intolerance but rather, our surroundings often condition that feeling within us. It is a selfish kind of feeling, an attitude where we look down upon someone just because of the way their roles and the way they choose to be.

    1. Hi Mabel,

      Thanks for sharing your experience…nothing has changed my friend, they are still called ‘maids’ and ‘servants’ and treated in the same manner and I have been seeing this since my childhood. That is how we give rise to discriminatory behavior. Our treatment and words convey a mute message to the next generation that such a behavior is an accepted norm!

      I agree with you that this is an extremely sensitive topic. I had to be very cautious about the use of words. Usually my treatment of any topic is very strong but I have handled this very mildly. Thank you for your kind words of appreciation 🙂

  8. I couldn’t have said it better, Balroop, and I have nothing to add. Excellent post. I totally agree that intolerance is a form of violence, and it makes me sad to see children corrupted by the narrow mindedness and closed hearts of adults who should know better.

    1. Thanks Diana, I could have said more but I have kept it very mild, intolerance being a very sensitive subject. What is disturbing is that it has been creeping deeper and becoming a threat to harmonious development of generation next.

  9. What a terrific post, Balroop! The American political process is rampant with intolerance. No longer are we just Americans, nor are we simply Democrats or Republicans. Intolerance (on both sides of the aisle) has us calling each other “The Left” and “The Right.” You hit the nail on the head when you said this is learned behavior. It’s time to unlearn it!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Joe. Though I have kept politics out of my article and concentrated on the roots of intolerance, I can understand how well the political leaders exploit the sentiments of people to gain political mileage.

      I appreciate your visit and a gentle reminder that you are on the list of my blogger friends.

  10. Another excellent delivery dear Balroop … you are always so accurate and wise with your statements…
    I couldn´t avoid linking your thoughts with what has recently happened in France and Syria…
    And I am now thinking in that eloquent quote by Voltaire…
    I dissaprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it…
    Thank you… Sending love and best wishes. Aquileana 🍀

    1. Thanks Aquileana. Please read my latest post, a poem, which is written in solidarity with the innocent victims of Paris…praying for them, with the love of Angel of Peace.
      Thanks for the wishes. Stay blessed and have a nice week.

  11. Balroop, my parents were both professionals and they raised my brothers and me to become aware of those around us who had less “things.”. My Dad had been a poor child who worked from age 11 by sweeping out a restaurant We packed up our toys when Summer break came, my Mom had signed up to be an independent Head Start teacer. My 2 brothers were paired up with a boy, while I also was needed to “model” good English for those 4 and 5 year old children who needed to learn their alphabet, colors and shspes. We also enjoyed s book read to us daily. We played games, sang songs and used our own toys to play “house,” we did this role modeling for two summers off from school.
    In the musical, “South Pacific” there is a song called, “You have to be carefully taught.” It is about children learning from their parents how to dislike or be unkind to others. Bless you for your candor and your facing a hard challenge in the subject matter,, Balroop.

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