Some weeks ago Ian Boyne penned an article in the Sunday Gleaner with this title. At the time I strongly felt that it was full of so much BS I could use it to fertilize a large farm. I am having to revise this opinion.
Everyone thinks they’re right. It’s a fundamental of human perception. If you went around thinking you were wrong all the time, you’d hardly be a functioning member of society. You have to believe in what you’re thinking and saying in order to act on any of it. And everyone always believes that their side is the right one, while everyone else is simply wrong.
Thinking like this doesn’t make for friendly discussions. In order for us to hear each other out, we have to put aside our conviction that the smarmy know-it-all deserves to be kicked in the shins. We’re all grown-ups, right?
But this applies to everyone, not just the people I think are wrong. It means it applies to me too. And my intolerance of homophobia is exactly what Boyne was talking about. I am still fighting myself on this. The heart of the issue is not who’s right or wrong or screams louder, it’s that people need to learn to listen to each other. You don’t have to change your mind, or change their mind. You don’t have to love them. Just listen with an open mind and actually give thought to what they’re saying. They are just as passionate as us. All that separates us is the notion in our heads that they are on the wrong side of the fence.
If we can get past that – our instinctive desire to argue into submission – then people wouldn’t feel the need to defend their every belief. Maybe we’d even get along. I’m not saying I’d invite a bigot to stay for drinks, but at the very least I should be able to ask him to pass the salt without sneering.
I’ve always believed that tolerance was right, that intolerant people were just plain wrong and they had to be re-educated. I still believe that, but I’ve got to be able to deal with intolerance without feeling like damaging some property. I have got to remove my Monocle of Wrongness and consider that this person is just a person with different ideas. Just like a homosexual. Or a Christian. That’s what being tolerant is.
Tolerance is also a lot trickier than I thought it was.