One can think of a number of shortcomings that humans have that lead to societal or interpersonal issues; jealousy, hatred, envy; without having to expend too much energy on drawing up a list. One shortcoming though, seems to have a much wider effect on societies, particularly in this day and age.
We stand at an interesting time in human history, never before have we been so meshed together, never have we had so many cultures clash on a daily basis in so many corners of the world. Without cohesion and coexistence, we cannot progress as a people. As the world becomes more interconnected, whether through global media, the internet, or the increased span and ease of travel; one thing becomes evident: the ability to accept other ideas becomes paramount to create a well integrated global society.
The key determinant in such a situation is tolerance. Tolerance is what we must aim for when faced with opposite opinions or situations. By definition, tolerance is the capacity to endure continued subjection to something. There’s an important point to make here, tolerance isn’t believing what the opposing view is, it’s simply acknowledging and accepting it.
The problem with a lack of tolerance is it creates an inescapable situation, where the intolerant point of view assumes it is true, that it is the only truth, and all other views are automatically false. What needs to be taken into context, on a cultural and more so on a human level, is that different backgrounds create different viewpoints. Values, beliefs and opinions are born out of the environment that they originated in. Having one opinion on one side doesn’t make it better than any other opposing opinion, but rather just a different version born out of different circumstances.
One situation recently gives hope to the fact that we, as a civilization, are developing well in this regard. The topic might be mundane, but the essence of it is true. This happened when the first anniversary of the Christmas Tree debacle came by a couple of months ago, and the debate began on whether Christians celebrating the festivities should be congratulated and wished well by those not celebrating it. I am not picking either side, nor do I think the topic of the debate was very relevant to the point I’m trying to get through; the debate centered around one idea: why can’t we put aside our one-dimensional views and wish someone of another faith, of another opinion, well?
It was this debate that brought around the idea that tolerance, and the acceptance of other views is what ultimately leads us to coexistence. On a personal level, I was proud to see that these topics have come up in our society, that the presence of a plethora of cultures has not alienated us as citizens, but rather gave us the opportunity to expand our minds and to accept other viewpoints more readily.
If we look at modern societies, and the range of views that exist within them, it would be safe to assume that tolerance and the acceptance of opposing views is a sign of civilization. Modern societies not only exist on a multitude of opinions, but actually depend and thrive on them. It is the existence of a variance of opinions that leads to collective decision-making that addresses the concerns of all those involved. And much like a modern society does that in certain locales, a global society must also ensure that the spirit of tolerance is carried forward on a larger scale.