Some ephemeral thoughts on tolerance and peace


Some ephemeral thoughts on tolerance and peace


A civilized world should keep a balance between freedom and constraint, should direct raw energies, would establish norms of conduct in help, mutual service, courtesy, quality of thought and action. And above all it would preserve the notion of variety. It is unthinkable that any western society could survive on the application of one creed, one religion, one theory, one social pattern, one ideal alone. Nevertheless money, for example, imposed itself in our “free” democratic and capitalistic societies, constituting almost the exclusive and indispensable ideal, itself menacing the notion of variety which is the cement of a durable society. One forgets too easily that money does not even represent anything but is only the means of exchange of things.

So what has become of our beautiful free society? A substantial proportion of our populations is sick, unfulfilled, frustrated and motivated solely by their immediate requirements. Is universal suffrage not already basically flawed as an instrument of fairness and overall good judgment if it is more inclined to be a register of gripes and prejudice?

However, the pursuit of growth in economic profit has eclipsed concern for neighbours, for ecological balance, and for the less materially rewarded or the less successful. This obsession which demands that everything should yield a monetary return ignores the value of education because that neither buys or sells anything. Nevertheless without education one cannot achieve any richness

In parallel with this growing power of money, the exercise of authority, whether administrative, bureaucratic, educational or military, is often not conducted with the light, discreet, humble touch it deserves. Not only the abuse of privilege but also the abuse of intolerant prejudice remains largely uncorrected. We are not determined enough to reform our tolerances. We find ourselves tolerating much which is, in fact, intolerable and, perversely, vent our justified and impotent intolerance on the weaker members of society, including ourselves. We are often led to do this by leaders, adept at deflecting the dangerous energies of intolerance onto others than themselves.

People should be made aware of these social dangers, trained to spot and distinguish propaganda and falsehood from truth. The leader worthy of his name does not promise solutions, the less so at the expense of anyone; he does not point a finger at an enemy or a “guilty” people to be annihilated. The demagogue is historically seductive—particularly to the mob…

Let us study the intolerable and the limits of tolerance before we allow ourselves to moralise, to criticize and to accuse. The intolerant have a big role to play in the world; they always have had. Let it be constructive, not self-deluding; let it be strong and determined but not murderous.

I salute the divinely rebellious. But even the divinely rebellious must be tempered by caution and wisdom, by philosophy and often illustrated by symbol and parable only. Often it may even have to hide and work in the shadows whilst dictators are celebrated by marching men who restore their balance by drunken revelry and thus remain tolerable for their Masters.

For man is essentially a dreamer, possessed of memory and imagination, above all a creator and, by the same token, a destroyer, best and most efficient as creating human beings and destroying them. His two polar or polarizing ecstasies. In this way he can imagine himself divine, exercising the usurped power which is the right to create and annihilate. He is conceived very much in the image of those many Gods he himself created and patterned himself upon.

Fortunately, man has a few inescapable compulsions between these extreme states of being. These are: survival, food, shelter, family and friends. Of these obligations are born trust, friendship, well-being, security, the arts, leisure and his dreams.

Societies have become ever larger—until now, perforce, they must include the enemy or the incompatible. In these “advanced” societies we are no longer at the source of our necessities. We are ever more distanced from the food grown, the shelter provided, which the dwellers no longer make with their own hands. Instead we have to find that abstract stand-in—money—to buy these necessities. Hence jobs, an image of self-respect with the earning of money but also the evils of imagining that everything can be bought and sold, even love and friendship.

Thus, we live in a somewhat passive condition, apparently unable to correct our own wrongs.

Man is a transient phenomenon possessed of infinity and eternity, an ephemeral apparition, harnessed to the forever and the endless, forever trying to transform a moment into eternity, a feeling into infinity, and an end into the endless. It is no wonder he is forever frustrated unless he can also sublimate his yearning into deeds, accomplishments, crafts, arts, dedication, and the search for a completeness and perfection through philosophy, art, music, poetry, drama and dance. Such are, perhaps, the ways by which each man may tame the folly concealed within himself.