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Tolerance, minus acceptance

By Ian Nance - posted Tuesday, 5 August 2014


I was reminded of tolerance when I received to a video clip of Queen Beatrix of Holland’s recent attendance at an orchestral concert.  The conductor, who just happened to be Muslim, proceeded to give the Queen a lecture on the "beauty" of Islam, making use of the captive audience to justify his prior inability to gain contact with her to put his personal viewpoint.

After one minute of his mild haranguing, all of the members of the orchestra just picked up their instruments and staged a walkout before even one note had been played.

Some may see this as anti-Muslim sentiment on the orchestra’s part, but it was wholesale rejection of enforced proselytising of any kind of belief, religious or otherwise. It showed how initial tolerance on the part of the orchestra and audience for an alternative point of view could be undermined by compelled listening to the conductor’s speech.  

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That failed attempt illustrated the futility of trying to manoeuvre tolerance to lever acceptance in a non-discretionary setting.The circumstances under which such propositions are presented must be enjoined voluntarily by opponents, not undertaken in an enforced opportunistic fashion.

Tolerance means having a permissive attitude to being presented with opinions and practices that differ from your own; you can tolerate an idea or belief with which you do not agree without feeling compelled to accept any one, or all, of its tenets.  Your own points of view about many situations can show attitudes which can span from slight interest or antipathy at one end of the scale, to obsessive zeal or else furious condemnation at the other.

Difference in faith, religion, or personal belief, has existed as long as mankind has used the innate power of reasoning or logical argument to support and present a stance or opinion. It is precisely the need for this kind of expression that leads us to read, and contribute to, On Line Opinion.

By presenting well-argued ideas in a constructive way, or offering credible advocacy, it is possible to cause those being addressed to change their minds or attitude towards a specific situation.

The promotion of service or product benefits is one of the factors behind advertising, and lucid opinion is the charm and value of debate.

There is the old saying about being able to take a horse to water but not being able to make it drink.

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That adage applies often to attempts to try get people to change deeply-held beliefs about religion, a sensitive trigger point for violence among many adherents who cannot, or will not, see another point of view.  At present we are seeing this happen in a religious context with a widespread decrying of the Islamic belief by those who hold completely alien views.

Muslim-bashing is the current fashionable practice.

Yet it is not all that long ago that Australia was in the grip of other bitter, very bitter, conflict between the Protestant and Catholic branches of Christianity.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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