Paul Thomas Mann, a Nobel Laureate, philanthropist and social critic, once said, “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”
Tolerance, defined as the ability or willingness to tolerate or put up with the existence of opinions and behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with, is often believed to be a virtue in all cases. Unfortunately, that very belief is a fallacy.
Before going any further, let’s examine two cases reflecting where tolerance can and cannot be accepted:
Case 1: A person belonging to the LGBT community may face criticism from people who don’t believe in same-sex relationships, however, as long as the person’s rights are not violated, s/he must tolerate views that conflict his/ her own.
Case 2: A person belonging to the LGBT community faces physical/ mental abuse by people opposed to his/ her sexual orientation. Here, the person’s rights are violated and thus the person must not be tolerant of his/her abuser’s actions.
Unfortunately, due to the extremist actions of various intolerant groups around the world, we do not raise our concerns and voice. But there is a difference between harmless and harmful intolerance. When it comes to issues like religion and gender equality, tolerance is considered to be the path to peace. But what about issues like murder, bullying, rape and child abuse? Is tolerance the answer to all the situations that threaten or violate a person’s rights? The answer is ‘NO’.
Let’s take into account the actions of famous freedom fighters and activists across the globe. Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus, which made her one of the most respected activists of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. Martin Luther King Jr fought for racial justice and civil rights for black Americans. Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai refused to tolerate the Taliban and defended her right to education. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, refused to tolerate the British rule. People should follow in their footsteps and be intolerant towards any exploitation of rights.
“I agree with the statement that tolerance is not the solution to all the problems,” says Harshul Surana, a Std 12 student of Delhi Public School, Pune. He believes that people need to take action when faced with injustice and oppression. He adds that being intolerant does not mean that the action one considers has to be violent. “You can be intolerant in a peaceful way too,” he adds. He believes that people often correlate intolerance with violence, but we should take the example of Gandhi.
While Tanvi Krishnakumar, another student of Delhi Public School, Pune, says that as long as an action doesn’t violate another person’s rights, it can be tolerated. “However, if we’re talking about things like hate crimes, then tolerance is something we cannot have at all,” Krishnakumar says, adding that “Tolerance of the violation of human rights just because it doesn’t affect or concern you is tantamount to saying that I have my privileges so I don’t care about what happens to others. But that’s wrong,” she says.
Let’s pledge not to be tolerant of any action that violates our rights.
(The writer is a Std 12 student and an aspiring lawyer)