Intolerance can be defined as the “unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.” Intolerance rears its ugly head everywhere, from nationalism to sexual orientation to political debates. Intolerance is often the cause behind sexist comments and religious aggression. In some cases, large-scale intolerance leads to war.
Mention that you support Donald Trump for president and some people will immediately shun you. Post on your online dating profile that you’re a Republican and a percentage of potential partners won’t even consider meeting you. Intolerance is a huge problem in today’s society and appears to be a central cause of the following problems:
• Child abuse
• Domestic violence
• Religious arguments
Educational bias is perhaps the single biggest cause of intolerance. When children are taught to hate others from an early age, they have little chance of changing that attitude as adults.
Biased textbooks are the root of prejudice. There are institutions and guidelines in place to prevent whitewashing, but with ineffective monitoring and enforcing, the practice continues in many parts of the world. The term “whitewashing” refers to the practice of selectively removing or reconstructing facts in order to present the story differently. A common example is the twisting of war history to make a certain country look like “the good guy.” Whitewashing can also refer to complete censorship, such as when Christians bar the teaching of evolution because it contradicts the Bible.
The Middle East is particularly infamous for its widespread educational bias. For example, most schools in Saudi Arabia teach Holocaust denial. In other words, the Nazis did not commit mass killings of Jews.
Religious education has the highest potential for bias and is most prevalent in countries dominated by a single religion. For example, Palestine teaches its students that Israel has no right to exist and that its very founding was an atrocity. Palestine’s terrorism against Israel is taught as part of a noble battle in which Palestine is fighting for religious reasons.
Other cultural and psychological factors that lead to intolerance include government action and the media.
A series of Russian laws, recently abolished, targeted the LGBT community by banning rainbow flags and forcing all LGBT groups to register themselves as “foreign agents.” Homophobia is still common in Russia, where groups like Occupy Gerontilyaj have been caught beating up gay teens.
The Russian media is anything but tolerant and portrays gay and lesbian individuals as aggressive and likely to have venereal disease. Russia’s treatment of the LGBT community has even been compared to the treatment of Jews by Nazis shortly before the Holocaust.
Real World Examples
“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” – Bertrand Russell
The 2014 Winter Olympics were almost cancelled due to prejudice and those trying to fight it. A group of world leaders tried to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics after Vladimir Putin passed anti-gay legislation in 2013. Under the new law, even kissing your partner could be considered illegal.
Principle #6 of the Olympic Charter states: “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” Even so, many worried that the seven lesbian athletes scheduled to perform would be in danger under Russian law. The 2014 Winter Olympics went as planned, but not before the mayor of Sochi declared that LGBT individuals were welcome in his city “as long as they do not impose their habits on others.”
Despite the fact that facts fight intolerance, prejudice has even affected the scientific community. The Telegraph published an article in 2014 featuring a climate change researcher whose discoveries challenged those of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Professor Lennart Bengtsson’s paper offered new predictions regarding the speed of global warming. It was dismissed as “less than helpful.” Bengtsson believes that scientists are getting confused, letting green activism affect their rightful role as the impartial observer.
“The problem we have now in the scientific community is that some scientists are mixing up their scientific role with that of climate activist,” he said. The professor’s paper challenged UN predictions that a doubling of greenhouse gases would cause Earth’s temperature to rise by 4.5 degrees Celsius.
The scientific journal Environmental Research Letters refused to publish the paper. Bengtsson was furious and believed wholeheartedly that his essay was rejected because it seems to advance the argument of climate change skeptics.
The Effort to Eradicate Intolerance Starts with You
People often fear what they do not understand. And as the famous Star Wars character Yoda puts it: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Education is the antithesis of intolerance. To eradicate intolerance, children must be taught the truth – not the skewed view of reality that many countries preach. Facts and a true understanding of the “other” will lead to peace, unity, and compromise.
Becoming aware of your own prejudices is the first step in reducing intolerance and should be a personal goal for everyone. Similar to addiction, the first step is admitting the problem. Acknowledge that yes, you have learned information about others that is false or prejudiced. It’s important that you confront this realization without blame or guilt. Share your desire to change with others and make a commitment.
Pay attention to cases in which you use “self-talk” when discussing other races and religions. Challenge these statements through research. You’ll be surprised how many prejudices you can disprove simply by taking a closer look at a certain group, race, or religion.
Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” The best way to understand a group of people is to spend time with them. As you get to know and become more comfortable with individuals belonging to a group about which you previously held misconceptions, consider asking them how they view your demographic.