International Day for (Zero) Tolerance!

Being tolerant doesn't mean we should accept anything…

Opinion, by Montse Rafel – The International Day of Tolerance was celebrated last Sunday amid almost total indifference. What breaking news did this fine day bring us? A common share of horror stories around the world, on top of which we learnt that  these new barbarians from the Islamic State (ISIS) had slaughtered nineteen people. So much for tolerance.

The dictionary tells us that tolerance, in its moral acceptation, refers to our capacity to respect what we would not have accepted spontaneously, what stands against our most profound beliefs. Therefore, tolerance is applied to a higher moral ideal. For example, humanism or liberty. This is reflected in the well-known quote: ¨I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it¨. Tolerance is the other face of freedom and justice:  in order to practice my rights as a free human being, I have to be tolerant to other people's behaviors and ideas.

Nowadays, the concept of tolerance refers much less to this duality. It is currently defined as an openness to other people, a respect for the differences. Being tolerant implies being able to appreciate and respect the cultural diversities of our world, of our forms of expression, of our individual and social specificities and of the fundamental qualities that make us human. Tolerance is also the recognition of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Within this framework, tolerance is one of the best outcomes of education.

However, being tolerant doesn’t mean we should accept anything. Some people use false arguments that we should accept the most horrible things just because they belong to a specific culture or religion whose “values” are different. Tolerance doesn’t mean indifference or permissiveness. In order to be fully exercised, tolerance must also combat what is intolerable.

While we celebrate the International Day for Tolerance, we don't want to preach love and respect for all people, but to take a strong stance against, and a fundamental rejection of, some of the most intolerable acts committed against mankind. This days should have been that of Zero Tolerance:

  • For all of those who cover themselves with the robe of religion or traditions to encourage such practices as belittling women, or to absolve to those who kill, rape and enslave other people in the name of an ideology;
  • For all of these who summon the same traditions and the respect for cultures, to deny women the right to decide for themselves, to drive their own vehicles or to travel unaccompanied by a male parent;
  • For this crime to human development and dignity which is preventing girls from going to school;
  • For the thirty-two countries which, in violation of UN resolutions and international laws, continue to impose the death penalty not only for drug producers and dealers but for drug users as well;
  • For all these countries where homosexuality remains a crime punishable by death and for all those countries, including socially advanced ones, that consider homosexuals as second-class citizens who do not enjoy the same rights as other people.

Tolerance is a virtue which involves being attentive to intolerance and to what’s intolerable