Why be tolerant?
Tolerance seems to be one of those labels that people are keen to be seen wearing nowadays, if you ask a random sample of coffee shop dwellers if they are tolerant, they will universally agree that they are. However it is worth reminding ourselves what it means, it is showing a willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behaviours that one does not necessarily agree with or even hate. If you ask those same people how they feel about right wing thugs, they will probably quote at you that the only thing they are intolerant of is intolerance, and I have certainly use that line myself, and it so easy to label some else as intolerant.
Though it is not fashionable to do so, it is worth asking what else are you intolerant to, even if you just do it in the privacy of your own head. It is easy to say you are tolerant until you have to get up early and there is a crying baby next door to you, or what really gets to me personally is a dripping tap or ticking clocks and I am not ashamed to admit in such circumstances I engage in a ruthless search and destroy policy, which starts with removing battery and can easily up with the surgical use of a hammer.
Sadly people are not so easy to remove as a problem, legally at any rate, and people have an annoying habit of testing your tolerance more than anything else. They tend to go around having opinions and views that are so different from what you think that you find yourself at a lost as to how they got there from any sensible starting position. Take people with a firm them and us policy on life, the people who believe in shutting an imaginary gate at the borders and stopping any of those sneaky foreigners from coming into the country and eating our cake. I can kinda get the idea that they want to look after your family and care for their community, what I can never understand is how they draw the line. It seems odd how can sixty million people be in your imaginary family but not the rest of the world, I know there is the made up idea of being a British people or American, though that is what it is, made up depending on which bit of dirt you happen to be born on.
Though, I know of no special ingredients in British soil that infects a person to the point they are significantly different to any other person in the world, there could be something in the tea but I think that is mainly good taste. Other than that, I know of no significant difference between anyone pretty much anywhere, I have only met people trying to make their lives a little bit better and worrying about exactly the same stuff that anyone else does, which is everything seems more expensive than it use to be, and that things where better in the old days. After all if you want to draw imaginary lines, surely more is better, why not draw a nice little line around New York, I am reliably informed that no one really likes New Yorkers and that they don't really like anyone else, that way no one would have to bother anyone else and New York would be the richest country in the world per capita, and why stop there. A nice ring of steel around Central Park and its surrounding houses, and you would have the greenest country in the world, though the only cleaner would be an eccentric millionaire.
However I realise that the problem lies within myself, not those I am intolerant of, it is my lack of understanding and empathy that prevents me from seeing the other point of view. That is the value of intolerance, when you truly admit, at least to yourself, what you cannot tolerate, it can give you clues as to the areas where you lack understanding and compassion. Which is what I hear when people say they are tolerant, they lack diversity in the type of people they hang around with, they are victims of confirmation bias, they live in communities that reflect themselves, which is unsurprising when you need a certain income level to live in these “nice” places. We never say, this is a place is nice because there is not any poor people around, instead we say we like the vibrant community, the pleasant coffee shop and artisan bakery that will sell you a Bloomer for fiver. We pretend that we are attracted to these things, when in truth they are attracted to money and money tends to congregate together. They are the signals that allow us to avoid the uncomfortable truth that we want to live with those we feel most similar to.
We end up with reverse ghettos of moneyed and well-to-do people, who are of course completely tolerant, except it's easy to be tolerant when everyone is the same, and it happens at every income level. The same is true for social housing, with their bingo halls and community pubs, they are fall of the same type of people with the same world view, the super rich have their yacht clubs and table service, we are all isolated and yet think we are the norm, when the only real proof we have is the people around us. So if you think you are tolerant, it probably just means that you need to get out more, as tolerance needs to be built, strengthened and tested by those that we are intolerant towards, which turns out to be most people, as most people do not live in your neighbourhood.