Gandhi preached and practiced Tolerance – the strength of a person to withstand a particular unfavorable situation or circumstance. Gandhiji was no fool. He knew how much he was asking from his followers when he talked of tolerance. The concept of tolerance which was the seed of Satyagraha and later on the backbone of the movement.
Tolerance is not easy. The kind of sacrifice that it demands is more than most people can give. When you think of all those people who gave up their lives and more practicing the principle of tolerance, you cannot help wonder what made them tick? The reason I decided to write on this is not because I want to sound patriotic nor am I trying in vain to remind people of the sacrifices made in the past. I am thinking practical. I am talking present. I am talking our daily lives.
How can the principle of tolerance help us be a better person? Is tolerance that answer to a happy life? I start to think on these terms when I have nothing to do…which is most part of the day. After much thinking I have come to realize that tolerance is not a as ideal as they claim it to be.
This is what I feel. Tolerance is just a means to avoid a volatile situation. All it does is avoid the situation now and deal with it later. Tolerance is as it suggests tolerating something or someone. You may or may not feel that the person or thing is right or correct. But you tolerate for various reasons. For example the most volatile situations of all times – Hindus and Muslims.
Lets put this in perspective. Hindus and Muslims for years since independence have been separated by weirdest of differences fueled successfully by the generations of a politicians. India being a secular yet Hindu-dominated country per say, Muslims have always been considered a minority. Governments claim to be secular but the people need not be. Here comes the principle of tolerance. Honestly speaking, each today community, especially in the most sensitive and volatile of regions, just tolerate each other.
Since they tolerate each other, when a volatile situation arises, chances are, this tolerance threshold will break. This has amply proved true in many incidents in the past. Tolerance is very perspective. Each individual has a threshold to tolerance. I might tolerate something to a limit and when it goes past the threshold of my ability to tolerate then I will react. I will react in the way I believe I am right.
Tolerance keeps us in a state of constant agitation. The freedom-fighters who believed in Satyagraha could continue to go on since they practiced tolerance. They practiced tolerance yet they never tolerated the British rule. They did not tolerate the regime. They tolerated the violence on them. They could go on since the concept of tolerance kept their fire burning. You see, tolerance is not a solution but a means. Tolerance keeps the matter under the rug for the time.
I feel the ideal situation is Acceptance. The concept of Acceptance is what is a hundred times more difficult. Many will disagree with me that acceptance is an act of cowardice. I beg to differ. If peace is an act of cowardice then so be it. The very fact that one feels that acceptance is act of cowardice strengthens my argument that tolerance is just a means to showcase strength.
Acceptance requires more courage and character than tolerance. Acceptance makes us a better person. For instance, if two enemies accept the fact that they cannot reconcile their differences, they can be better enemies to each other. Rather be indifferent to each other once they accept the things that separate them. When we talk about friends we talk about accepting the other person with his or her faults. Its acceptance again. Its not tolerating but acceptance.
If Hindus and Muslims can accept each other as humans with different beliefs then things will be more simpler. There are so many Hindus who do not believe in going to temples and many who believe in one god and not the other. But Hindus accept them all as Hindus. Same must be the case with any other religion. So on a holistic front, acceptance is the key to peace. If we can accept the differences, it makes us more than just being tolerant.
Even on a personal front, instead of being tolerant of a situation, if I accept the situation for what it is, then I can deal with it better. If I am being tolerant, I would be just putting the issue off for some other day, when I might not be so tolerant. I believe we have been fundamentally wrong in our approach. We should not have been taught to be tolerant. We should practice the art of Acceptance if we are to find more permanent and perpetual solutions.
P.S. This article was written on one of those rare occasions when I was more sober. Hence the lack of satire and sarcasm. But my feelings are as intense as I would express otherwise.