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Monday, September 25, 2023

The unbearable consequences of ‘tolerance’ in societies calls for ‘respect’ as the only possible solution


While the world has largely given much consideration to the need for people with different faiths, cultures, traditions, race and creed to live peacefully, without hindrance from within the environment in which they domicile; such consideration is usually propagated, loosely through a politically donned cliché called ”Tolerance”. It is very customary to see countries have ”Tolerance” as one of their main foreign export, notably The Gambia. In the market of human civilization, they would rather come with ”Tolerance” to be traded against some much more precious goods such as respect, love, honor… What this demonstrates is the failure to really place much premium on the most treasured commodities to human existence.

There is no shying away from the fact that every human person seeks to forge a life devoid of the bad omen of livelihood. To this extent, the feeble would accept whatever is considered available knowing full well that “when the desired becomes unavailable the available becomes the desired”. Such occasions do not suffice for the truly desired. The human heart keeps longing with so much consternation. This longing, by virtue of that which obtains and widely accepted as the culture, in this particular community would never be satisfied, but persist desperately, nonetheless. While this is the norm, I would rather from the onset state without fear of contradiction that: No society ever knows sustained and flourishing peace if the same is tied on “Tolerance”. For far too long, since the advent of human civilization so many long-held beliefs such as “Tolerance” were propagated with so much enthusiasm such that thinkers of this progressive society failed to employed equal amount of enthusiasm to questions of respect, love honor. This leaves the premium place on virtues unchecked, and their acceptance witnessed an exponential rise because everyone has kowtow. I will therefore prove through this article that much is desired and required for a peaceful, thriving, and progressive society than just mere “Tolerance”.  

Ordinarily, ”Tolerance” in the context of human existence would mean: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing or conflicting with one’s own. It is in effect the act of allowing something. This simplistic definition lends credence to its acceptance as an underpinning ethos of most communities. Invariably, going by components that would portray the life of a tolerant person vis-a-vis society, it becomes untenable for one to exude stamina, fortitude, endurance in the face of hardship without getting weary at some point in time. ”Tolerance” is such a burden on human life. It requires one to put up with so much undesired load in order to satisfy requirements of a tolerant person. It is such a laborious task on every person, community, nation and the world, by extension. ”Tolerance” for me is something that should ordinarily not have existed. Dabakh Malick, a young Gambian man, on his Facebook wall posted a picture expressing the amiable religious environment peculiar to the Senegambia region, but this time round expressed by the benevolent actions of Christians in this region; one by a Gambian by the name John Tamba living in a community whose village mosque has no pipe borne water and had offered to provide support. He made it a point of duty to mobilize funds to help the people utilizing this mosque to perform their religious obligations effortlessly. The other scenario was captured in Senegal where Christians organized what is known as ‘Ndogou’ in Wolof or ‘Iftar’ in Arabic to help ease the burden on the Muslim community of that part of the region during Ramadan. Many inscriptions punctuated these scenarios. One such inscription that became so telling and apparent to me was the literal meaning of ”Tolerance”. Dabakh Malick said “The literal meaning of ”Tolerance” is “to bear”. While that definition is the exact, apt and realistic meaning of the word, it requires sustained fortitude that lasts a life time. It is very obvious to every person that what obtains in these scenarios recounted above capturing this distinguished show of humanity does not certainly depict ”’Tolerance”’. What this shows is ‘Respect’ for the Islamic faith and its adherents. This position is well informed by the fact that ‘to bear’ is only mentioned in times of distress or discomfort. One would usually encourage the other to ‘bear’ by way of final resort. Edward Morgan Forster, an English fiction writer, essayist and librettist had this to say about ”Tolerance” – “”Tolerance” is a very dull virtue. It is boring. Unlike love, it has always had a very bad press. It is negative. It merely means putting up with people, being able to stand things”. That is how uncharitable ”Tolerance” is in usage and in effect. Human existence is such that diversities in all walks of life are the display of God’s glorious mastery in His creation. It depicts how diverse our Creator is. It is the Creator’s ingenuity to have us different in faiths, cultures, traditions, race, abilities, interests… But it is His sole pleasure to have us dwell together and engineer formidable communities, thriving in peaceful co-existence, celebrating one another on fronts we excel, while lifting us on our fallibility, for the common good of the human person, such that with our many diversities, we would have proven His foresight.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in his days, as he made it his duty as the scourging divide premised on race was not tolerable going forward, to educate the white man on many things including the need for all people of various diversities to sojourn together without recourse to subjugation of any sort, he would pioneer the famous civil rights movement. In one of his many thought-provoking speeches, most of which are etched in the human heart by way of sheer brilliance and eloquence with which he gave them, but more so, the conviction that occasioned their delivery, he would say to those present with him at the “March on Washington” in 1963; “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood… I have a dream that my four little chi1dren will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that …one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers”. What Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr underscored in this emotion-charged speech was not a call for ”Tolerance”. The white community of the American society could have run out of ”Tolerance” in the reservoir of human virtue, awaken to the fact that it requires sustained and deliberate efforts for the tolerant to keep tolerating, such that they began asking for more than they could be given. This speech contained as core virtues, freedom and justice. But it noteworthy to appreciate the fact that ‘Respect’ is the antecedent to freedom and justice. In other words, a society where ‘Respect’ becomes a luxury that society will not enjoy the beautiful and indispensable glory akin to peace. To this day unfortunately, these lofty dreams of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr are not yet fully a reality. The American society is yet to extend the full-blown fresh breeze of equality, freedom, and justice because it has not been able to appreciate there is an innate commandment for the ‘Respect’ of the human person. The white American still see the black American through the same prism with which his white ancestors saw him centuries ago – the slave. It is this lack of ‘Respect’ in which a black man is held in such contemptuous manner that eroded the humanity in the white man and Arab to what led to the advent of the slave trade first by the Arab, and then the white man.

Consistently, the world over the years has witnessed plethora of civil wars. In Africa, we were visited by what was known as the Rwanda Genocide of 1994, the Angola civil war in the latter part of the 20th Century. The world in the same vein had witnessed civil wars in what was formerly known as Yugoslavia. Similarly, countries such as Myanmar, Colombia, Philippines, Indonesia – Papua New Guinea, Israel – Palestine etc had experienced civil wars in the past and even some in the present. As we talk, Rohingya Muslims residing in Rakhine State, Myanmar are threatened with extinction. Sojourners of Planet Earth failed miserably to recognize that each person has innate and inalienable rights to be part of communities comprised of diverse people. In Rwandan, due to the callous Belgium colonial misrule that sponsored what became a killing spree that claimed about a million of Rwandese’s lives – predominantly the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Belgium left a legacy of animosity in that country when they decided to favor Tutsi over Hutu during her colonial expedition. What was encountered in 1994 was the hatching of long-laid bad egg of “Tolerance” where the majority Hutu became enervated of the influence of the minority Tutsi by way of Belgium’s complacency. The plane bombing of President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane in which was found Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira exacerbated the long – held execrate toward the Tutsis. Of all the civil wars premised on ethnic and or religious lines, and any other natural diversity, the common denominator is lack of “Respect” for the other person. The Buddhist majority of Myanmar can no longer “Tolerate” the minority Rohingya Muslims thus they started profiling them through the use of heedless names as a way of classification. Indonesia holds the black Papuans domiciled in West Java as non-equals. The ‘Tok Pisin” people in that part of the world has long asked for “Respect” but unfortunately their asking, cries, and blood spilled to the ground is not enough to water the seeds of “Respect” they deserve as fellow sojourners of mother Earth. One more classical example of ethnic cleansing, but with deep-rooted religious sentiment is the Armenian Genocide of 1914-1923. In this horrific mass murder of mainly Christian Armenian residents of Eastern Anatolia, The Young Turks who constituted themselves into Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) under the leadership of Mehmet Talaat, commonly known as Talaat Pasha carried out the mass murder. Talaat Pasha and those under his command presided over the murder of about a million Armenians. The sole aim of this murderous jamboree is the extermination of the Armenians to engender a homogeneous Turkic-speaking community. Muslims of the Ottoman Empire became piqued of Armenian’s economic and political triumph – a stark contrast to orthodox Ottoman social stratum that had Muslims superior to non-Muslims and to a growing sense on the part of Young Turk leaders and ordinary Muslims that Armenians were an alien and dangerous element within their society. It is therefore safe to posit, repentantly that many religious wars were as a result of non-accepting nature of one side of the divide whose summation is the absent of ‘Respect’ in the equation. 

Inclusively, if ever societies seek long lasting avenues through which eternal peace can be achieved, there is no better way than having a stern retrospective examination of self, an honest conversation in which human beings who would say in words of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. “If the negro is to be free, he must move down to the inner resource of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-positive manhood, his own emancipation proclamation.” Indeed, in this occasion the human is solicited by Rev Dr King Jr and not just the negro. I recognize with much disdain the need for societies to sit and look one another in the eyes and say “STOP TOLERATING” instead “START RESPECTING” because “Tolerance” has never and will never foster the kind of peace that the world deserves. People ought to stop accepting whatever terminology is popularized by those who control the narrative. The Gambia has boasted for so long to be the “Smiling Coast of Africa”. Those smiles were orchestrated by “Tolerance”, it has now occurred to all of us that for a sustained “Smiling Coast of Africa” we need to trade a better commodity in the stock market of human civilization. This better commodity is called “RESPECT” for our diversity. Continent-wise, ‘Nkrumaism’ has taken center-stage on many fora centered on Africa. Calls for the unification of Africa is becoming much more audible. One such sign is the Africa Free Trade Area agreement. This agreement would birth the united Africa. Africa can never be united if the ghost of “Tolerance” is not exorcised. A united and peaceful Africa would require deliberate efforts in upholding and strengthening cultural, ethnic, religious, traditional diversities among member states and their people. That is simply by respecting each and every one for who he/she is. Even as the world is grappling with scoring high standing in the measurement of economic affluence through Gross Domestic Product, in a similar manner the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the now famous and widely accepted index called “Gross National Happiness”, which he argued is more important than the Gross Domestic Product. In same the breadth I argue, the world should now consider a more urgent index called “Gross National Respect”. This is because there is no happiness when respect is not fully extended to all and sundry. On the global stage, this new index must morph to “Gross Global Respect”.

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