Limits of Tolerance
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to Voltaire, "Tolerance is a law of nature stamped on the heart of all
could be truer than this statement; tolerance is, indeed, a permanent law of
nature. But it is not something which has to be externally imposed, for the
human desire for tolerance is limitless. Just as truth and honesty are virtues,
so is tolerance a virtue. And just as no one ever needs to ask for how long one
should remain truthful and honest, so does one think of tolerance as having an
eternal value. The way of tolerance should be unquestioningly adopted at all
times as possessing superior merit.
A man who
is intolerant is not a human being in the full sense of the expression. To
become enraged at antagonism is surely a sign of weakness. Of course, there are
many who do not want to recognize the principle of tolerance as being eternal,
for, in conditions of adversity, the temptation to retaliate becomes too
strong. The feelings of anger which accompany negative reaction must somehow be
vented, and those who think and act in this way are keen to retain the illusion
that, in hitting back, they are not doing anything unlawful.
thinking is quite wrong. In reality, when a man is enraged at anything which
goes against his will, tolerance as a priority becomes paramount. Many men
strive to become supermen. But the true superman is one who, in really trying
situations, can demonstrate his super-tolerance. Just any act of antagonism
does not give us the license to be intolerant. Rather, such occasions call for
greater tolerance than in normal circumstances. In everyday matter, where there
is none of the stress and strain of opposition, no one has difficulty in being
tolerant. It is only in extraordinary situations, fraught with conflict, that
the truly tolerant man will prove his mettle.
1st, 1995, the United Nations proclaimed 1995 as the "Year of
Tolerance," saying that the ability to be tolerant of the actions, beliefs
and opinions of others is a major factor in promoting world peace. The
statement issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization, (UNESCO) on this occasion, emphasizes that amidst the resurgence
of ethnic conflicts, discrimination against minorities and xenophobia directed
against refugees and asylum-seekers, tolerance is the only way forward. It
pointed out that racism and religious fanaticism in many countries had led to
many forms of discrimination and the intimidation of those who held contrary
views. Violence against and intimidation of authors, journalists and others who
exercise their freedom of expression, were also on the increase along with
political movements which seek to make particular groups responsible for social
ills such as crime and unemployment. Intolerance is one of the greatest
challenges we face on the threshold to the 21st century, said the UNESCO
Statement. Intolerance is both an ethnic and political problem. It is a
rejection of the differences between individuals and between cultures. When
intolerance becomes organized or institutionalized, it destroys democratic
principles and poses a threat to world peace. (The Hindustan Times, January 1,
proclamation of the UN is most apt and timely. The prime need of the world
today is indeed tolerance.
One of the
stark realities of life is that divergence of views does exist between man and
man, and that it impinges at all levels. Be it at the level of a family or a
society, a community or a country, differences are bound to exist everywhere.
Now the question is how best unity can be forged or harmony brought about in
the face of human differences.
people hold that the removal of all differences is the sine quanon for bringing
about unity. But, this view is untenable, for the simple reason that, it is not
practicable. You may not like the thorns which essentially accompany roses, but
it is not possible for you to pluck out all the thorns and destroy them
completely. For, if you pluck out one, another will grow in its place. Even if
you run a bulldozer over all rosebushes, new plants will grow in their place
bearing roses which are ineluctably accompanied by thorns. In the present
scheme of things, roses can be had only by tolerating the existence of thorns.
Similarly, a peaceful society can be created only by creating and fostering the
spirit of tolerance towards diversities. In this world, unity is achievable
only by learning to unite in spite of differences, rather than insisting on
unity without differences. For total eradication of differences is an
impossibility. The secret of attaining peace in life is tolerance of
disturbance of the peace.
nothing wrong in diversity of opinions. In fact, this is a positive quality
which has many advantages. The beauty of the garden of life is actually enhanced
if the flower of unity is accompanied by the thorn of diversity.
advantage flowing from this attitude is that it builds character. If you are
well-mannered towards those whose views are similar to yours, you may be said
to exhibit a fairly good character. But, if you behave properly with those
holding divergent views from you or who criticize you, then you deserve to be
credited with having an excellent character.
same way, a society whose members hold identical views and never have any controversial
discussions, will soon find itself in the doldrums. The intellectual
development of the members of this society will be frozen, because personal
evolution takes place only where the interaction of divergent thinking provides
the requisite mental stimuli.
adoption of a policy of tolerance in the midst of controversy and in the face
of opposition is not a negative step. It is undoubtedly a positive course of
of views plays an important role in the development of the human psyche. It is
only after running the intellectual gauntlet that a developed personality
emerges. If, in a human society, this process ceases to operate, the
development of character will come to a standstill.
this world is perfect. If a man is endowed with some good qualities, he may be
lacking in others. This is one of the reasons for differences cropping up
between people. But, for life as a whole, this disparateness is actually a
great blessing: the good points of one man may compensate for the shortcomings
of another, just as one set of talents in one man may complement a different
set in another. If people could only learn to tolerate others’ differences,
their very forbearance would become a great enabling factor in collective human
1947, when the first government of independent India was formed, two important
leaders were included in it. One was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the other was
Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. Pandit Nehru’s westernized ideas were in great
contrast to the orientalism of Sardar Patel. And this caused frequent
differences of opinion between these two leaders. But this proved to be a boon
for the nation, because with Pandit Nehru’s abilities compensating for the
shortcomings of Sardar Patel, and vice versa, the end result was one of an
efficacious complementarity. The above is a good example of the difference
between the respective natures and opinions of individuals essential for human
development in general.
of tolerance prevents a man from wasting his time and talent on unnecessary
matters. When negatively affected by another’s unpalatable behavior, your
mental equilibrium is upset, whereas when emotionally untouched by such
behavior, your mind will fully retain its equilibrium and, without wasting a
single moment, you will continue to carry out your duties in the normal way.
The policy of tolerance or forbearance enhances your efficacy, while intolerant
behavior reduces it.
is not an act of compulsion. It is a positive principle of life, expressing the
noble side of a man’s character. The existence of tolerant human beings in a
society is just like the blooming of flowers in a garden.