Growing Intolerance In Societies – Who Is Accountable?

Intolerance

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.

Intolerance

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.

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Image courtesy: http://www.sodahead.com

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.