Test of Tolerance – Limala Longchar, Visiting Faculty, Department Of English

“Tolerance is wanted in the queues… in the street, in the office, at the factory, and it is wanted above all between classes, races, and nations.” These wise words were stated by E. M. Foster, the 19th Century English novelist. Tolerance is a virtue that many applaud, on the other hand, as the article raises, there also instances when we need to away with our tolerant or indifferent attitude and raise our voices for causes that matter. So, when do we practice tolerance and when do we not?  

Test of Tolerance

“Do not push my limits” is what best describes our feeling when any situation or circumstance exceeds our endurance level. It may seem like a sign of a person’s vulnerability as a human. These five magic words are likely to restrict a person from exposing an unattractive version of the self. But is it really helpful to diffuse the wide range of exploding emotions? Hypothetically, the person may burst, in order to have an outlet, in this case the outlet coming in the form of a bomb with a big ‘BOOM’. When this happens, our tolerance level is taking a break and just chilling.
There are two sides to a story (some even say three). I would like to discuss tolerance in that light, having the binary elements .There are ongoing debates about tolerance- how to apply it, and how to restrict it. Both are needed for the progress of the society. There is a zero-tolerance policy on so many issues in our society which ensure the smooth running of the society, and it should best be kept that way. However, we might just want to practice being more tolerant. We meet so many intolerant people, with an air of self importance, walking down the street, perhaps in your locality, church, bank, etc., making complete fools of themselves. They are being intolerant and pushy because they could not have their way and do not have patience to be civilised.
In such situations, we form a mental picture of how conflict could have been avoided by just being calm, tactful, and most important of them all, by reacting tolerantly. The tag ‘complete fool’ would then easily find its way into the garbage can. The person will get the crowning glory, and join the bandwagon of the tolerants.
The whole scenario is like the right to vote, whereby the person either votes for, or against a candidate. Both the votes are equally important and helpful in shaping public opinion. This is exactly how tolerance works. It has a kind of duality attached to it.
The whole question of a person being tolerant in our Naga context is related to ‘Sorom’ (the English equivalent being ‘shame’). The ‘Sorom factor’ has a very high appeal and makes it very glamorous. “Sorom ase” and “Sorom khai” are some of the most frequently uttered phrases among the Nagas. Is it because our ego is very fragile or just bloated up? We don’t want to point fingers at something which is going wrong. We are blind by choice and perhaps wearing a shade which is so dark that it is blocking our view. Or, are we just selectively blind? We see only what we want to see. Lack of curiosity, questions, and the tag of being branded as ‘oversmart’ are perhaps some of the reasons why we are ignorant on so many issues surrounding us. In the name of being ‘tolerant’ we turn a blind eye to the many evils in our state. Here is one quote which explains the scenario- “The problem is not people being uneducated. The problem is that they are educated just enough to believe what they have been taught and not educated enough to question what they have been taught.”
Tolerance when put in a positive way can do a lot of good. Examining various episodes in history, we see that tolerance would have perhaps saved so many lives. Thousands were displaced, killed, and raped during the India-Pakistan Partition. Trains filled with dead bodies would enter both countries. Had people shown tolerance, precious lives would not have been lost in this gruesome manner.
We Nagas are tolerant when it comes to major issues that need to be addressed. Talk about our roads, our electricity, LPG shortage, or truant government employees. We tend to switch on the mute button and ignore all of these. “Olop adjust kuridiwo”. This attitude helps corruption flourish! On the other hand, we are very intolerant of so many minor issues. For example, we are intolerant of people who seem to have a different opinion from us. 4+5=9, 6+3=9, the answer is the same. But we question or critique the method. The person is crucified on account of differences of opinion and there is the endless ‘war of words’! Where’s democracy?
Parallel thinking, when it comes to tolerance, is crucial. We can’t think ‘good’ thoughts all the time and be tolerant of the evils around us, nor can we keep barking at everyone and be intolerant of everything that goes against our expectation. There should be a balance. ’Sorom’ should not be the reason for us to be painfully tolerant. I think tolerance should be like ‘a breath of fresh air’, whereby we are inhaling the clean oxygen and exhaling toxic elements.
Aristotle has used two words in relation to character, which I would like to apply in this context: ethos and dianoia, the former indicating the moral disposition in character, while the latter means the intellectual element which determines all rational conduct through which the ethos seeks an external expression. Are we willing to let ethos and dianoia work together in perfect order to achieve the desired goal?

Lastly, tolerance has some final words to say –“I function perfectly well! Use me or abuse me, that is in your hand”.

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Anjan K Behera, Tatongkala Pongen, Nungchim Christopher, and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

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