Values & Beliefs: Why Tolerance is NOT Acceptable

Can somebody be given the power to choose who/what is tolerable and who/what isn’t?

If you think ‘yes’, then you need to read this post and see if you are missing some information about Tolerance.

 If your answer is ‘no’, then we probably have a lot in common regarding how tolerance is perceived and used in society.  I haven’t heard a call for Tolerance in some time, so maybe it is gone out of fashion and out of acceptability by the masses.

The way is in my experiences and learnings are explained on how I see Tolerance and why it is not acceptable.

There are some who hail Tolerance as an optional path towards unity and human happiness.  The fact that someone would still use this thought pattern has his head so far up his own butt (yes, I specifically refer to ‘his’) that he deserves the misery he inflicts upon himself.  Yet, some people think it is okay.  How this can be accepted is quite confusing, and it has me question my interpretation of Tolerance as it is viewed by societies at large.  It begs me to ask:

What the Heck is Tolerance?


Through my life experiences (even though I am a white guy in a white racist society), I have been on the receiving end of Tolerance.  If you can relate to the experience, then you know it is something that is felt more than said.  Of course, when it is said, it is usually done in a joking way or an aside comment.  Here’s an example of one of my recent experiences in college:

I was tutoring a student with visual impairment.  We went to the college library to book a room.  The ‘system’ of the college took precedence over common sense; so when my student showed her student card to the staff, because there wasn’t a green dot on the back of the card (signifying a disability – get that, huh?), she could not book the room.  Though I don’t look or act disabled, my student was obvious in her sightedness.

Neither I nor my student (both with the Disability Office) ever heard about this oppressive ‘green dot’ policy.  We had to be assertive and somewhat insisting on the rights of students and the accompanying accommodations.  Until we were able to get the attention of the Management were we able to gain access to the room.  The closing comment by the staff was something like “well, we will let it go this time.”

It was a moment of realizing that it was possible that staff member was Tolerating differently-abled, or “diff-abled” students.  And maybe, this was her way of trying to overcome her own sense of powerlessness – by inflicting it upon another through displaying both her Intolerance and Tolerance.

The most interesting thing happened later on.  I went through the complaint procedure and ended up getting a meeting with Management (and there another issue needed to be discussed).  It was professional and cordial and the necessary explanations and excuses were made to justify their actions.

When we left the meeting, we were walking casually and off-the-record, and he came around to saying to me (I am paraphrasing), “You know how young students are?  They are irresponsible and don’t listen.”  It was said so casual, like a “nudge-nudge wink-wink, know-what-I-mean, eh?”  (Thanks, Monty Python.)

So, after I wrapped my mind around that remark, I realized that comment could be understood to mean (to me, anyways, because he did acknowledge my mature status as a student):

1 – that ALL young students are the same,

2 – YOUNG students are irresponsible,

3 – they are being Tolerated,

4 – I should feel the same way he does given our ages,

5 – I should Tolerate the students too, and

6 – I should now understand the REAL reasoning behind their oppressive actions.

Back to my wonderings.

Is the Tolerating (and dominant) person/party
implying there is something wrong
with the differences over whom they feel superior?

In my search for answers to this and other questions, I also wondered why we have to use “othering” (or the symbol of their group) and put them down in order to achieve some kind of superior/powerful position.

This is the story in my head (from the ‘Meaning Making Machine’) about the way I see Tolerance:  It is an act by someone who ruthlessly allows somebody or something to “be” in spite of that person’s own perceived objections.

In other words,
the person doing the tolerating
is telling or implying to the person being tolerated
that s/he does not meet their standard.


It is not hard to see the possibility of Tolerance as an issue of power?  I sometimes get the feeling that when Tolerance is spoken or acted upon, it is no longer tolerance – it becomes arrogance.  Tolerance is divisive, exclusive, and laced with hidden prejudice.

I sometimes see Tolerance as a political tool.  Why the destructive nature of Tolerance is used this way (reasons/excuses) causes me to question the ignorance of people who accept it.  All Tolerance does is delay the journey towards understanding of others and ourselves.  It does not foster understanding, and it is not respectful.  It is just a grab for power over another.

The way Tolerance is expressed is so flexible,
that it can be anything between subtle sub-text in a conversation and
overt actions of obvious discrimination.

Everybody inherently knows this.  We know it is lip-service.  We know Tolerance doesn’t work and we all know someone still ends up feeling disempowered.  Yet, there is a lot of us who pretend to be humble when using Tolerance.

To accept Tolerance as an affective tool or way of being towards fostering a harmonious society is to both stunt the growth of this quest and do MORE harm towards our fellow human beings.




5 comments on “Values & Beliefs: Why Tolerance is NOT Acceptable

  1. Hi. This is the way I understand tolerance.

    You disagree with another person, even vehemently, and you sincerely believe the other person is wrong, but you still respect him or her as person and do unto him as you would want done unto you.

    Another way to understand it is that we should pretty much agree with everyone and never tell anyone that you think they’re wrong.

    I think the first view is better. To “tolerate” someone you first have to disagree with them. So the first view means you tolerate every person. The second view is that you tolerate every idea or viewpoint. So though I think some ideas and viewpoints are intolerable,bi still we should tolerate the individual.

    What do you think?

    • just Kevin here says:

      Hi Adiel,

      I can see your point making the distinction between tolerating what you believe and don’t. But you fall in the same trap where we most often tumble – making the distinction between the person and the idea.

      Agreeing or disagreeing with an idea is perfectly acceptable (to me). I share my ideas and thoughts and the other person does the same. The difference being is that if we don’t agree, then we can disagree to disagree and acknowledge the impasse that has prevented us from agreeing on the idea.

      The trap we all fall into is when we associate the idea with the person. Just because the person believes his/her position, it doesn’t define the person. That is just their thought – it is not them. There is nothing to hide or hold against the person because s/he is not in agreement.

      Their thoughts do not define them any more than my thoughts define me.

      Therefore, tolerance doesn’t even come into the picture. There is nothing to tolerate because the disagreement is defined and closed and the person is respected as s/he was before the discusstion.

      What can be interolerabe is what the person DOES. The person may say and think things with which I disagree, but once they cross the line into ACTION, that is what is interolerable.

      I hope this makes my thoughts more clear. Have a great day.


      • Interesting. I think I agree with you. So if a person attacks someone (verbally or physically) because the person disagrees with him or her, the attacker is the one being intolerant and doing something intolerable. Correct?

        In American culture today it seems like we’ve got that twisted so that the person with the unpopular opinion is deemed as intolerant and intolerable.

        • just Kevin here says:

          I would agree with you on that Adiel.

          Culturally, I don’t think it is an American phenomenon exclusively. As humans, we are socially conditioned to take that stance because that is what we’ve been taught (whether knowingly or not). All cultures are like that unfortunately. We are also conditioned because of fear, lack of personal empowerment, and “stinkin-thinkin” by those who teach us about life.

          Consider which is easier, to invest the time and effort to know another person and try and understand their point, or just dismiss them as evil, strange, or mentally unstable? Which method/way of thinking is safer, empowering, and/or powerful (and quick)?

          My viewpoint on this issue wasn’t something I learned from someone else. It was self-taught because I had suspicions about the whole issue of tolerance. From various points of evidence, I realized that a lot of people say one thing (being understanding and loving) and turn around and do another (put up with, pretend to like, make false assumptions) that didn’t match. Because of this, I developed my own theory about tolerance (even before I found my philosophical leanings.

          I can live with my belief and still feel empowered in the world.


  2. joannei says:

    This was good, because as iam alittle older 🙂 I seem to tolerate alittle more then I did, I often wonder is it because I been there done that or my lip service is out of order lol .. Im going to use that lip service one on my kids ,hahaha. Kevin, also thank you for liking my blog, enjoy your day !!

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