Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I is for Intolerance

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
And foolish notion:

(Robert Burns: 1759-1796)

I wonder if Robbie Burns had 'intolerance' in mind when he wrote those lines? Was he thinking of the pumped up self congratulatory state of mind that allows people to think they are more important than others? That their history and culture, their religion, their sexual orientation, their race,  language,  literature and art is more important and worthy than anyone else's? Or worse still, the solipsistic attitude that cannot see anyone else's reality at all. Ignorance is bliss until someone points out to you what you've overlooked.

Maya Angelou, in an interview, once spoke of how she welcomed guests to her home and garden, but how she would not tolerate intolerance. Any conversation leaning towards sexism or racism immediately resulted in the person being asked to leave. Such negative thoughts and vibes tainted her home, she said. Infiltrated the structure, the walls, the fabrics, the furniture. She could not abide them in her home and so they were banished. I wish I could be as brave.

I think 'political correctness' is a term that has been hi-jacked by the intolerance brigade. Okay, there are some ridiculous examples and these, with the help of the media,  have trivialized the basic concept so that people bristle at the expression itself. But in general the term denotes no more than 'tolerance and respect'.

Walk a mile in someone else's shoes, I say. History reads differently when written from a different point of view.



  1. Thank you for this Christine. Wonderful insights!

  2. Good word. Something to think about.