The 21st century has not been impressive in advancing tolerance. Just a few days ago, we saw deaths from a bombing in Egypt, with clear undertones of religious extremism.
The peace-loving people of Sweden were also rocked with a terror attack in its capital of Stockholm, less than two years after another racially motivated attack took place in a school.
It is ironic that it is also in this century, we have seen great leaps in technological advancements and the birth of a new industrial revolution.
Yet, we can only dream that the same technology can be used to address the armed conflicts that has claimed the lives of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent men, women and children in Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many more war-torn countries.
As we read about the horrors from the results of intolerance in the global news, we should be grateful that, although we undoubtedly have our own challenges on the domestic front, most of us have secure roofs over our heads and warm meals on our tables upon request. For most of us, our daily struggles are with the enhancement of our livelihood, and not the struggle to survive.
Tolerance, in any form or function, is not just about acceptance of existence. It bears a deeper meaning, in which we accept differences of a person, ideology or opinion, and giving great respect to its existence in parallel harmony, compatibility and co-existence with our own.
It is not just about allowing a person of different race or religion the space to co-exist, but the acknowledgement and true understanding of those difference so they can be celebrated and integrated with our own lives, cultures and practices.
The key word here is understanding, as well as the observance and practices towards achieving such understanding.
To understand means to observe different perspectives. In many of my previous articles in the columns, I have touched on the risks of short attention spans due to wide coverage of news.
Narratives often find themselves emboldened through mere repetition, yet does not offer a holistic account of the ground. In the struggle to find perspective, we give ourselves the “short version” of the truth – the version that is secure in fact but removed of context.
Great strategies are often derived from diverse perspectives, as they provide clear context for quality decision making.
To move forward, let’s all start listening – without prejudice or pre-conceived notions. Let us allow different ideas to swirl in our minds before forming opinions. Assume that humanity wants progress and to move forward, although we disagree on how that forward movement is implemented.
Weigh them, analyse its costs and benefits to society and the environment, and most of all, learn from each other’s experiences – as experience is not just gained on our own, but from the lessons learned from each other.
Undoubtedly, it is fun to always be right. Then again, being “right” is a matter of popular opinion. There was a time Galileo was the only one who was wrong.
“Tolerance may make us feel like we are losing the battle of authority. It is however a necessary loss in the war that is social progress.”
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.