indiantinker's blog

On tolerance and acceptance in societies

indiantinker's blog

“A homogeneous societal culture is one in which the shared meanings are similar and little variation in beliefs exists; that is, the culture has one dominant way of thinking and acting.” -Cathy A. Enz(1986)

These days there seems to be a case where a lot of earlier homogenous societies are 'taking in' diverse migrants from countries they morally owe. This sudden change of "taking in" people is upsetting several conservatives in these countries. It is quite interesting to see the arguments put forth by the conservatives to hide the real issues and rather blame everything on the people coming in.

"John does not have a job, because Lee took 'his' job". Nobody talks about Lee who left his family in his country, studied for three degrees and took up this job to support his family back home. The fact he got a job says something about his qualifications.

Speaking while I am in this metaphoric boat and as I feel the waves, while the islanders are utterly confused, I have a thing to say. It is more than a thing. It is a theory.

It is about the level of Acceptance and Tolerance that exists in most homogenous societies. It is not a binary thing, but rather a scale. I call it the "Scale of Integration". Complete integration may not create a fun society. It would again create a "homogenous" entity that would hate the incoming. What I seek is an accepting (or rather curious) integration, where people are living close in a balance of power and sharing.

Tolerating Societies : Tolerating societies put a boundary around the incoming group. They let the "state" take care of the newly arrived. The presence of the incoming group is tolerated. They are not included. They are 'kept' in the suburbs. They are looked at as "the others". Even though they may be legal citizens, they never find a way into the system. They face state discrimination when breaking the boundaries that were established for them. Sometimes, even violence. But the people tolerate them. They are made to change their culture and rules, so that can be on 'par' with the

Over time, tolerating societies break the boundaries either by force/riots/revolt or sheer economic needs or the culture just drifts. Hence, tolerating societies becomes a slow transition to a more colourful accepting society.

Accepting Societies: Accepting societies is this interesting zone where curious things happen. The boundaries did not test. Human nature of being kind won. There is still a bit of tension but that tension is not aggressive but an amicable one. The groups live in peace such that passes the "comic appropriateness mark". It is now okay to make fun of each other. Certainly would make Mr. Cleese or Mr.Gervais chatty.

"Uncle John's wife is not from around. I would rather eat at his place than mine."

Most functioning and interesting societies need to transition from being tolerant to accepting ones to develop stable daily life. Of course, the other will always be others. The topic will be exploited by anti-immigrant politics. The good 'ol scapegoats. But at least now his friend John will stand behind this scapegoat and not let him be slaughtered. They will rather reason with the system and create change.

I feel this point is equally valid for diversity that emerges from within, like the new gender revolution. The path forward has to go beyond sheer tolerance to create amicable acceptance.

Happy pride month!