Intolerance is epidemic in the world today. At least 62% of what Donald Trump makes statements on is wrong. I mean wrong. (http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/)
I mean wrong in that there is actually prove. I can say the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup last year, but I would be wrong. Therefore, when Donald Trump shows a video of Mexicans raiding the southern border of the USA and it’s actually footage from Morocco we should know this. Or when he says Bernie Saunders will tax “you people” to 90 percent, he is wrong because Saunders primarily plans to tax the rich, not “you people.” Another 30 percent of what he says is mostly false or only half true. These items are perhaps more debatable, but we are still painting a rather skewed picture. Only 8 percent of what he says is mostly true or true. This sort of misinformation is practiced not only by Trump, but by terrorist groups, such as ISIS, who manipulate the Quran to religiously support their own ambition.
We live in an age where people have more information available to them on their smartphones then the US President did in 1998. However, people can still believe Donald Trump and others who speak lies. This is where the roots of intolerance lay; ignorance. Many people are highly ignorant and simply ignore the information available to them or simply do not have the skills to access and assess it. This is where the failure lies in education. The information available on the internet is vast, but also riddled with falsity.
The primary tool of education in a world so saturated with stimulation and information is to promote and teach critical thinking. This is where we are presently failing. I do not care if my students can remember Romeo and Juliet’s plot or can tell me all the details of a WWII battle. I care that they can read or listen to something and judge the validity of the information and the bias of the source and not simply accept it as fact. I want them to be critical of what I say as well.
This article should be judged. But judged fairly. Discounting my arguments by attacking me personal does not disrupt what I am saying. Calling me any sort of name does not help your cause. It just makes you look foolish. I have bias. Everyone has bias. I am a teacher. I live in Kuwait. I have lived in China. I am Canadian. I am half-German. I was raised in a small town community location on a large, but slow paced island. My parents are divorced. All of these and every moment up to this one in my life taint slightly my world views and consequently how I construct this argument. I have tried to eliminate the bias and therefore, it is your job, as the reader, to see if I have done so successfully. If any arguments I make are overly distorted, it is your job to find the holes in the logic and discount it. Education today must promote critical thinking to limit ignorance in society.
However, many people are past the point of schooling. That does not mean that anyone cannot practice compassion, eliminate ignorance, and create a tolerant world. It can be done simply by trying on a day to day basis to put yourself in the shoes or bare feet of others. The first thing that needs to be accepted in this process is that all human lives are equal. If you value the life of the child in your neighbourhood more than any other, the purpose of the exercise is lost.
The people of the world are in essence the same. Yes there are vastly different cultures. Each one can be critiqued heavily. For example, Western culture with its materialistic and superficial decadence, combined with excessive sexualisation of culture. Any other culture from larger definitions to individual countries have the negative and positive aspects. They are however equal and the people within them want similar life goals.
Firstly, they want to live. They want to eat. It sounds simple, but many people are not guaranteed these things. Therefore, when my initial reaction to the almost false niceness of Thai people was to say that they were not friendly, I was being highly unfair. If the tuk-tuk driver with a wife and three kids at home does not want to waste one minute of his work day giving me free directions, once he realizes I am not buying anything, that is not him being rude, or “not nice,” he said goodbye, but simply practical. There were at least 10 other tourist walking by in that minute, why should he sacrifice much needed money for his family to be friendly to me. In China they still eat dog. Oh my, how terrible, what a primitive society (insert sarcasm sign if it is not obvious). China is a rapidly growing country and the Communist party, for their many faults, has dragged China and life quality rapidly forward. That being said there population is still mostly poor. Many families have a choice. Eat cheap dog meat or eat no meat and perhaps do not eat at all. Yes it has developed into a delicacy eaten by those who can afford to eat other things, but is breeding and eating dogs really that much different then cows, sheep, pigs, horses, chickens, camels, pigeons, turkey, etc.? Be careful not to judge people who often have more base motivations.
Secondly, people around the world want safety for their friends and family. Yes, some people do not marry and/or do not have kids. Most people want to love and be loved and grow up knowing safety is possible. My Chinese boys, my Kuwaiti, my other Arab boys, and my Canadian boys spray/pour on equally copious amounts of Ax to try and allure their hearts desire. I want to get married. Perhaps to an Irish Princess, Maybe German. Who knows? I want to have a kid(s). I want to stay in touch with my family and grow up living in safety and constant communication with friends and family. I want to die having never seen my children in harm’s way. Safe, happy, and full. I want to live vicariously through them. After all, we need one professional in the family. I want my older relatives to live long and full as well. I want to be able to travel and visit places of the world. I want to sit with my friends and discuss this life we have. Everywhere I have been those goals are constant. I always see families and friends. Loving and laughing whether rich or poor. Young or old. In some places this is not possible. Should you condemn a Syrian family to death, because of ignorance and fear? We need to nurture the world spread wealth and love and help people achieve these goals.
In Sri Lanka, the caretakers of my jungle house, were sweet, friendly, and family orientated. They told me about some of their struggles and how much our business means to them. When I left he gave me his Sri Lankan number to call him directly if I come back, to circumvent the absentee landlord. Naturally, a Sri Lankan phone number is not particularly useful in arranging accommodations prior to arrival. I asked about email. He told me that him and his sweet 11 year old daughter, were working on getting email soon. His cell phone, after all, has less functions then my first one in 2005. They just need the business and want nothing more than to be a healthy and fed family. Everyone should be so lucky.
If you can accept this notion that everyone is equal practicing compassion is easy. However, it still requires a next essential step; avoiding beliefs. Regardless of what you believe is coming after, we are all here now and we all might as well enjoy it. If other people’s beliefs differ from your own, if it does not affect you, it does not matter. It is also clear to me that all religions focus of the same core principals. They all promote the golden rule of treat others how you wish to be treated, speaking the truth, doing no harm, forgiveness, etc. A Christian, an Arab, a Jew, a Buddhist all are guided by their spiritual beliefs towards common principals. Yes, there are significantly different implications. However, if they worship in back to back to back to back, Church, Mosque, Synagogue, and temple they can all eat at the same place. It does not affect the other. As long as everyone is free to their beliefs it does not affect you. If a gay couple gets married, it does not change anything for anyone else.
The final step for practicing compassion is to recognize the difference in life experiences. Every person on the planet has their own story. That story has made them who they are. Our experiences constantly change us regardless of whether you do not think about it, or are critically aware. Therefore, it is important to recognize that people have had different experiences and influences then you.
I had a student say “Donald Trump looks like a Jew” (Insert super negative tone). I do not accept these kind of statements, regardless of the risks, and asked “what does that mean?” This resulted in a discussion. As this student was one of my same students who is extremely critical of ISIS and how it misrepresents Muslims to the world. We tied this discussion back to the negative stereotypes and images that are associated with Muslims. It ultimately came down to is you using “Jew” in a negative fashion any worse than anyone else using “Arab”, “Slav”, or “Gypsy” in a negative way? And if it is not you should either stop saying it or stop complaining about negative Arab stereotypes. Suffice to say this student left looking rather dazed. Thinking about it after, I perhaps was rather insensitive. This student was raised in an Arab culture. They were likely raised by parents that use Jew in a derogatory fashion. There are thousands of aspects that have shaped her to say the phrase. Therefore, whether it is an Arab student who does not like to pick up garbage, because the Nanny has always done it, a Chinese student who stubbornly insists that Taiwan is part of China and China should go to war for it, or a Canadian student who complains about how Frist Nations live tax free, they have been shaped by every aspect of their life and it is important to see their view and compassionately address it.
Try. If all two readers, ten, or somewhere in between follow these steps at least a few people might change. When you live day to day try and avoid ignorance. Challenge what you read and hear. Research the information and judge it for yourself. Everyone is blessed with a fascinating brain (some more so than others). By avoiding ignorance you can practice compassion by seeing people fairly and understanding their motivations in the world. Challenge people when they make blanket statements and generalizations. Create tolerance. Only with compassion and tolerance can we make an already peaceful and relatively safe period of human history even more enjoyable. Perhaps all the peoples of the world can live, love, and laugh like I plan to do. After all, as my Nana said after visiting my classroom in Kuwait, “Those teenagers and that classroom could be located anywhere in Canada and probably the world.”