Intolerance: When presented by others what to do?

In any relationship there is always going to be a point of incomprehension and discussion, but also intolerance in regards to certain actions or thoughts and feelings expressed by the other person (whether family, friend, significant other, etc). A perfect example is the health care bill that was passed just recently. A part of the American population are happy, another not so much and a third probably feel in between. What is exaggerated is the extreme negative reaction, which can be compared to being intolerant towards what is different and not like one wants. There are comments on social networks comparing Obama to Mao and Stalin and the various political figures that want to sue the Government for passing this bill. It’s quite a big demonstration of intolerance. In The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm, there’s a passage that explains the fundamental difference between the Western and Easter thought. This is something relevant to intolerance because Fromm highlights the exact reason why there is such a great deal of it in the West. The passage explains how in the East paradoxical logic is the main train of thought. They don’t emphasise thoughts (ideas or opinions), but the act (actions). The West mainly follows Aristotelian thought, wanting to find or expecting truth to be in the right thought and not in our actions. Actions are also important, but what and how we think is the right or wrong truth according to this school of thought and it is how the majority of people in the West think. It’s very obvious with the health care bill that passed and the extreme criticism. It is obvious when on the news countries try to impose on each other how to think and what to do and when that doesn’t work the possible conflicts that arise. These are all multifaceted topics that should be discussed thoroughly, but the biggest point right now is that when belief that a thought is right and the only truth, we build a path towards intolerance and close mindedness towards differences.
How many times have there been arguments because a child wanted to comb their hair a certain way, but they weren’t holding the brush right? How many times at lunch have there been discussions about who’s right or wrong according to the political party they support? How many times have we heard criticism based on religious beliefs? These are only some of the many issues that arise on a day-to-day basis with someone we have a relationship with. Some relationships end, others manage to work through their differences, and other times one person gets influenced or suffers certain internal consequences. The ones who usually suffer the consequences are children because their parents try to ingrain in them their ways of doing things, their desires in life and their ideas of what is best. Children feel their parent’s disappointment when they do something in a different way than what the parent or parents think is right. To be a parent is the hardest thing in the world, but the tendency is to forget that one’s child is an individual of their own and that they are guides, but not the child. Other situations where intolerance is an issue are in social surroundings, like when out with friends or colleagues or one’s significant other. Here the discussions that arise vary between parenting, politics, religion, travel, culture, etc. The most recent discussion that comes to mind is where a person was claiming to be better than Christians because Christians eat lamb, sheep and kid (a young goat) for Easter. The claim continued to state that by being a Buddhist they were better than the meat-eating Christians. Anyone who is a Buddhist knows that Buddhism does not promote judgment of others or oneself. It promotes tolerance and acceptance of others. The person who made that comment was a person from the West who, if we refer back to the passage mentioned above from Fromm’s book, embraces the Aristotelian ideology and therefore believes their thought is truth. In these types of situations one can either be like the intolerant person in question and start a huge argument or let it go by keeping their mind open and knowing that this is just that person’s opinion and nothing more. Is it right or wrong to let someone believe they are better than someone else? Would it even make a difference if one tried to talk to that person? There’s no one right answer or action, but if everyone tried to explain themselves and refrain from putting themselves above others the world, especially in the West, would be filled with less turmoil, fighting, and all the other negative reactions that come from being judged or criticized by those intolerant to other’s differences.


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