Tolerance or Acceptance?

Tolerance or Acceptance?

With Brexit looming over the horizon, I’ve been thinking a lot about what lead us to this. And I think maybe Wales has the answer to the questions that raises.

Brexit was a movement of feeling. Not fact. That’s just how things are in politics. I don’t think this is a new thing, but it’s certainly been exaggerated in our times. But where does this feeling come from?

Certainly some of it is nostalgia, but I don’t think that’s really the root cause. Thinking about it, the way we’ve raised our children, as a country, has been massively diverse. In many ways this is a good thing as it leads to many diverse points of view. But when it comes to how other people live their lives there are those that either, don’t know enough about how other cultures and sub-cultures live to teach their kids about it, or they don’t care. The extent of teaching in this area has been, for the most part, “just tolerate them” and “this is a tolerant society”.

I hate that word. “Tolerate”. You already know the connotations. That “we don’t actually like you, but we tolerate your presence”. That, I think, is exactly what’s gotten us into this mess.

When I was in school, the only times we learned about other cultures was in RE (Religious Education) lessons. And even then, that only extended until Year 9, because as soon as GCSEs started, while RE was mandatory, it wasn’t given much time anymore. The lesson became almost exclusively about Christianity. What I’m saying is that we need to scrap RE and put something more diverse in it’s place. Maybe CE (Cultural Education), because while religion is often the basis for a culture, it isn’t the be all and end all of it. There are many things outside of a religion, like geography or history, that shape a group of people.

Wales is currently thinking about giving RE a good overhaul, making it more like Religion & Ethics lessons, so that the views of all people can be explored. Hopefully, If we instil in people more knowledge of the cultures these people come from, we can stop being afraid of them. Because the only leg this xenophobia has to stand on is ignorance. Because ignorance leads to fear (for most people). It’s not a visceral, primal fear, like one would get standing in front of a predator, but more of a resistance to change. Most people seem have a low-key fear of the unknown, and what’s more unknown than the future? But to that I’d say: You can make a pretty good guess, but you have to know about the humans you’re talking about.

By changing how we speak about other cultures, trying to explain them to our kids instead of this “just be tolerant” lark, we can switch from tolerance to true acceptance. Because ultimately, the people of other cultures are no different to us and hopefully, discussions on the reasons for the differences that do exist will lead to the understanding that they would exist in our culture if we’d have the same pressures and circumstances. Everything else is just in-jokes.

– Raingram


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