Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Toleration & Respect: A Confusion & A Misunderstanding

All too ofren the concepts of tolerance and respect are confused. An illustrative example concerns Professors Tariq Modood (one of the chief promoters of Multiculturalism) and Ted Cantle (author of the report into the 2001 ditsturbances in northern towns) who have comprehensive websites about their work, which are well worth a visit. Tariq Modood's site posts a debate between the two-on Multiculturalism against Interculturalism. As often happens no definite conclusion was reached at the end of this debate.

Right at the end of the session, and almost as a throw-away remark, Tariq Modood referred to tolerance as merely putting up with things we object to-which can change when we eventually get fed up. Ted Cantle in effect agreed with him and then said that, for example, he did not tolerate or respect Scientologists and would confront them. These are two leading researchers who are not just academics; over the years they have both had a great deal of input into public policy.

So what is tolerance (although I prefer the term toleration)? It derives from the Latin root tolerare-to endure; as in to endure pain. In a free and open society if we hear or experience something that wounds us, we endure it although we object to it vociferously. When we do that, we perhaps understand a little of how our remarks and actions harm other people. That does not mean that we refrain from expressing our opinions fearlessly. On the contrary, we continue to do so as an absolute requirement of a free and open society.

We can learn at least a little humility from the realisation of mutual endurance of pain-and from this perhaps respect. This, rather than forced respect demanded as an entitlement, which of course is no respect at all, is real respect and is worth having. It can involve respect for an opponent and thus lead to co-existence and peace. This is not mere toleration.

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