Caroline Phillips

CEO/President, Entrepreneur & muscian


This conversation is closed.

What can we do, as citizens to promote tolerance in our daily lives ?

You're in a meeting. Someone tells a joke ... it's about a jew, a black guy, that pushy feminist, that gay guy... What do you do ?

You're waiting in line and you see someone ethnic/different being badly treated by a bank teller/government worker/cashier.

You're at a party where Dave, your friend's husband is gay-bashing again.

At school, you hear a kid use a racial epithet when yelling at another kid.

What kind of attitude do you adopt ?
If you do say something... what do you say ?
How can and does your behavior affect others ?

If you have stood up for the underdog and for tolerance, how did it affect your relationship with friends, clients, business partners or significant others ?

Tolerance ... definition :
"The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others."

Closing Statement from Caroline Phillips

Thank you all for your wonderful contributions to this conversation about Tolerance with a capital "T".

I've learned quite a bit from you and I think it's a wonderful testimony to the magic of TED that so many nationalities participated in this conversation. I feel a lot like Mary Saville : I too tend to get too emotional and engaged about intolerant things I'm hearing so I can produce the opposite effect and be too agressive and intolerant. I'll aspire to be more like Robert Jaffe when adressing intolerant people, to react swiftly but not humiliate.

Susan B. writes "Standing up for the underdog, does not make life happy for you. You are looked at as not being a team player, going against the norm and going against the grain."

My concluding thoughts : Unfortunately I don't live in a "TED world", so standing up for the underdog will often be a perilous endavour, but I'm willing to take the chance.

Hugs to all.

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          May 6 2011: Ola Jaime,
          Your point that tolerance is nothing but it is respect that we should be aiming for is so profound! Thanks for that insight and clarification.
          'Our era is a nonsense era' where we move too fast and love too little. How do you propose that we wake up? Do we slow down and remember to love life more? Do we travel or do we stay home and see with renewed eyes? Do we learn to respect our own lives more so that we can respect the lives of others more fully?I would be very interested to hear your insights.
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    May 18 2011: I've found that an abrupt, immediate, verbal reaction, when combined with a friendly and gentle tone of voice, maximizes the possibilities of serious thought about a prejudice issue on the part of both the person making a prejudiced comment or acting in a prejudiced way, and others in the audience group. For example, I have been in meetings where one of the participants, perhaps during a lull or even during the business part of the meeting, cracks a nasty joke or makes a prejudiced comment. If, immediately, while the comment or joke is being presented, I interrupt, push back my chair and stand up while quietly and gently pointing out the problem and then immediately leave the room, this will have a greater effect than if I get angry or respond emotionally. People will consider seriously what I have said, and there is a good chance that the prejudiced speaker will reconsider his or her words and attitudes. When you do such a thing, your friendly and gentle words of reproach, combined with the physical force of your pushing back your chair and jumping up, disorients those present, because they expect, from your abrupt physical actions, an angry statement from you and not a friendly, gentle one. The dissonance of your actions and words gets serious attention instead of an emotional reaction. I've also applied this at parties or gatherings, and in public in stores, malls and parks. It really does work. However, this is the kind of thing that one must think about beforehand and decide to do in such situations. And one must have a certain presence of mind to be able to react as quickly as is necessary. Once you've decided to do it, however, it's quite easy to put into practice.
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    May 1 2011: I give myself the permission to talk about "Liberty". With few words that anyone can utter and say out loud, be it in a "meeting", in a public place, in school, in a restaurant or wherever you want.
    I am going to use the French Revolution to reply on your interesting question in order to answer by defining the individual and collective rights.
    " IV. Political liberty consists in the power of doing whatever does not injure another. The
    exercise of the natural rights of every man, has no other limits than those which are
    necessary to secure to every other man the free exercise of the same rights; and these
    limits are determinable only by the law. " ~ The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789, National Assembly of France

    Or give it a try and say: "My freedom ends where someone else's begins." (I tried to translate it from this: "Ma liberté s'arrête là où commence celle des autres.".
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      May 1 2011: Mario, Hello, This is an interesting addition to the discussion. We have often heard the maxim that "my freedom ends where someone else' begins' but because we are not just a physical body and our ears extend our consciousness out past ourselves, our eyes see at some distance and our other senses extend our being into the space between people problems arise. How does one limit their own freedoms or expect someone else to limit what they percieve to be their own freedoms? Is it a matter of educating a person into self control? For example, in France right now wearing of the burka or niqab has been deemed illegal. How do we find the wisdom of Solomon between deciding that every person has a right to wear whatever they please and express their religious belief with the other issues of the common good?
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        May 1 2011: Hello Debra, I completely agree about what you said, it's obvious! It is all about "education" and being polite enough to respect others. Because, when you disrespect someone, you indirectly disrespect yourself, your education, your reputation and your image. Too bad, what happened in France was not between the population's hand. I've been living with french people, I have french friends, I went to France and you can hardly find racist people or intolerant people. This is a simple example that I think will probably give you an idea of how it works in France: you have a big percentage of Moroccans, Tunisians, and Algerians living in French, which actually proves that most of them are muslims. And if the right of wearing a "hijab" in France was not strict, meaning, not only between the government's hand, I am nearly sure that this new "rule" would have never been elected or chosen.
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          May 1 2011: Hi Again Mario! Thanks for engaging me in dialogue.
          Let's take the example of music. Some people love hard rock and would love to hear someone else's music while others find it almost painful to hear. Others love classical and their opposites hate it in the extreme. We are fortunate enough to live in an age of ear buds but if someone wants to play it loudly in their own home they often feel entitled to do so without regard to anyone else. This a mild example. Recently at a university frosh week people here were having sex in public! Yikes! Having been raised in an era of modesty (even if I do not believe myself to be a prude) makes that a bit bizzare for me.
          Where do my rights end and another's begin? I think I should care if sharia law comes into my own country. I have fought tough battles for women to have rights and I do not want to bow my knee to ideas or faiths that will undermine my human rights.
          While I would stand up for the same rights for any person of religion- I struggle to define the line between defending their rights and keeping the full measure of my own.
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          May 2 2011: Hello,

          I'd like to "jump in" here for a minute :

          Mario, I don't know where you live in France but I can promise you that in the 25 years that I have lived here (in Paris and in the provinces), I regularly run into people who are openly racist : the most prevalent is anti-semitism, but it also extends to Africans, people from the former French colonies ... and the social circles where I have most encountered this kind of intolerant behaviour is in the business sector :(.

          Debra, to add to your comment : I think that it's difficult for a man to understand how a woman feels about the sharia. I've travelled quite a bit and in some countries I've had to wear a headscarf, simply because I am, well, swarthy and I tend to blend in so without the headscarf I was absolutely taunted, a couple of times men tried to grab my arm, by posterior, my well, chest ... Women fought hard for their rights which came LATE in France :

          A passport for a woman (without her husband) : 1937
          Women' right to have her own bank account : 1943
          Women's vote : 1944
          and ... in France, the husband's name is on his wife's passport while on the husband's passport, the wife's name doesn't appear !
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          May 2 2011: Yes, Caroline! Thanks for jumping in- its what makes this forum so very great!
          I agree and have often tried to remind people that women have had rights through most of the world for just about 100 years. That is a very short time when we consider all of history. We saw how quickly they could lose all of their human rights in Afganistan.

          A female Canadian diplomat of my acquaintance was stationed in a prominent position in the embassy in Saudi Arabia. She was there with her husband and even though she had the red passport of a fully independent Canadian diplomat she could not drive, could not leave her home without a note from her husband - (a year younger and a year less senior in their profession) - she could not go out unaccompanied, had to wear the burka. So- I am, as a human being. fully commited to seeing all people treated with dignity and respect. I routinely stand up for people and taught my children to do the same. The real crux of the dilemma for me is when I am faced with two 'rights' that are in direct opposition to one another- someone's right to their religious beliefs and mine or another's human rights. I have to believe that human rights trump the right to what we think but I would be open to hearing any other views.
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          May 2 2011: Hi Debra undersatnd fully what you are saying about Saudi because I had been there for 2 interestingly challenging years. It's not only to the ladies they are discriminating though your acquintance had a heavenly identity of Canada (to Saudies I meant) .
          One can see / experience multiple faces of racism there. Though I am not heirarchial or status oriented showing power of position just as an example I was holding a position there which any Saudi can be envious of (regardless of their competency), any other nationality would love to have that position. I was treated extremely shitty in a intersting way in different time mostly due to my country of origin despite I have muslim name (Saudi percieved to be heaven on earth for Muslim & though I never wanted to be treated specially due to my name) some other time how come I having that position coming with that shitty country origin. I just wanted to be treated as a human being. So it's not only woman specific to be treated badly in that country.
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          May 3 2011: Jaime, thank you - I did not know that problems are between things but I should have perhaps known about conflict. (Can't there be conflicting information- which is a thing?)I really wish to learn from you because I think the point you are making must be important but I do not understand the context or the reason for the clarification from philology. I reread what I have written and I do not see where I used problems or conflict. Please come back at your earliest convenience and share a bit more.
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          May 3 2011: I am sincere in my desire to learn. I sense that you have much to teach me.( I recently got into a debate with a man who was using terms recklessly and I do not want to do the same.) Please share more!!
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      May 3 2011: merci y merci Y merci
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    Apr 28 2011: Intolerance doesn't only hurt the intended victim it mars us all and so we have a collective obligation to get involved when incidents occur in our presence. Our response must not only be aimed toward the insensitive aggressor but at the apparent victim as well, our assurance to them that the injustice they feel is a shared one and we have their back.

    Having said that however I am cognizant of the biases within our societies around Tolerance and the sensitivities we exhibit toward certain groups or individuals and an indifference toward other groups.

    One only has to look at media coverage in the political arena to see what I am referring to. Coverage seems to be skewed toward one side while indifference and intolerance of the other sides positions and view points are acceptable. perhaps by many here as well who would other wise abhor intolerant behavior.

    So as citizens do we challenge intolerance wherever it surfaces or will we be selective and accept it when used to silence our opponents?
  • Apr 25 2011: Of course the first thing to do in order to promote tolerance is to look at the things we are intolerant to and to challenge ourselves before we set about confronting others for what we perceive as their intolerance. We all discriminate every moment of our lives. What we feel should be tolerated at 21 may become intolerable at 41. We may tolerate behaviour from within our own families that we would not tolerate from people outside the family circle. It has to begin with a close look at ourselves.
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      Apr 26 2011: yes..exactly but its so hard to really see ourselves clearly, don't you think?
      • May 15 2011: Yup. I see how poorly many around me can see themselves. I see no reason why I should be significantly different, so I can only conclude that I am as blind to myself. A depressing conclusion, but one I dare not ignore. As Kathyrn Schultz points out, being wrong feel just like being right feels …
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  • Apr 25 2011: I'm white, six foot, blue eyes and very short hair. In the UK people will assume they are 'safe' with me to vent their intolerant views. It happens quite frequently. What isn't immediately apparent to others is that I have a mixed race daughter. I find in general that if I don't challenge intolerance I am not doing justice by my daughter and the other half of her heritage in the way that a father should. Having said that people often appear intolerant through ignorance and that needs a thoughtful appproach. I had close family members refuse to have anything to do with me when they knew a mixed race child was on the way. Interestingly they thought I had done something intolerable by producing a mixed race child. My daughter's mother was spat and sworn at in London by a middle age black woman who remonstrated with her for having a mixed race child by a white man. My daughter's mother explained to me that while the Caribbean community she grew up is reasonably tolerant of mixed relationships many African communities are not, that the woman who spat and swore was from an African community.
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    May 22 2011: I think that it would help a lot if people even on the TED site would consider the consequences of their 'clever' barbs and attacks. They say that you never know what your unkind word will do to another person. It could just be the drip that puts their life underwater for good.
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      May 22 2011: Debra, your thoughts hit home.

      It boils down to a single word: Words!

      What you say about the ability of words to sink a person’s desire to live fully is true. There are many cases of it happening in cyberspace; one recent case of cyber bullying led to just such an end for a college student in New Jersey.

      I also think a person’s ability to say they’re sorry is a reflection of their capacity to be emotionally competent, empathetic, and compassionate.

      I dug up some quotes on the power of words:

      “A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword.”
      -Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy

      “A word is dead
      When it is said,
      Some say.
      I say it just
      Begins to live
      That day.”
      -Emily Dickinson

      “If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to bind, imprison and destroy.”
      ~-Ralph Ellison

      “Every word was once a poem.”
      -Ralph Waldo Emerson

      To tie this into the focus of this conversation, so much of what is intolerance is manifested in how we speak to each other. In my house, respect is a non-negotiable thing!
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    May 22 2011: Some thoughts on promoting tolerance: A few in this discussion have said that it's not tolerance we should be instilling in our children, but empathy and compassion because they lead to acceptance/inclusion. I think that is right on the mark! Taking it further, adults must make a commitment to take advantage of every opportunity to teach children to understand that love is a large part of every solution to every problem. "Love is the answer", to quote John Lennon.
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      May 22 2011: exactly, and to maybe at to that, to instill both self-esteem and compassion/empathy at the same time, that they interact. With self-esteem I mean feeling and understanding your inner passion and talents.

      I'm really wondering how to to this both, as I can imagine instilling compassion even with small kids, as Jamie does great on daily basis, though to keep the passion of a 3-4 year old alive in numbing school methods is a hard thing to figure out.
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    May 21 2011: This is a hard question, and it strikes me personally. I tend to get very emotional when I perceive someone as being prejudiced or insensitive and want to jump all over the issue to show him/her, fast, that he or she is wrong. I've had to learn to stay out of some arguments because they are self-perpetuating and the proponents don't really want to listen - this most often happens with people I only loosely know. I've had to learn with my friends that I have to choose the right time and manner to speak. I there is someone I am more than a casual acquaintance with, I feel I have a responsibility to speak up in a gentle manner when it will not shame him or her. People tend to listen more when they don't feel threatened.
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    May 16 2011: I believe that humor -targeted at the ignorance underlying prejudice- is usually a smooth yet highly effective form of answer, an instant role reversal that brings a mirror to the -suddenly silly- aggressor ;)
  • May 15 2011: Intolerance is a problem that exists through countless forms. It can become difficult in your professional and personal life because if our superiors are intolerant we may suffer consequences in shaming them for it. That being said there are ways to be proactive.
    On a personal level I have made the effort to refrain from any negative references to race, gender, sexuality, and handicaps. The most recent word I am making the effort to refrain from is "retarded." It is one that most people do not even consider to be all that intolerant though it can be incredibly hurtful.

    I think the problem is that we tend to waive our finger at intolerance. We are trying to prevent intolerance when really it could be more effective teaching tolerance. From such a young age we are taught not to discriminate before we may even comprehend that there is something to discriminate against. Maybe if we understood from an early age that we all have different ethnic origins, different religion, sexuality, etc. we could teach our youth that being different is "normal" as opposed to shunning what is not perceived as "normal."
  • May 14 2011: - We can treat religion like our genitles and not ram it down our kids' throat; letting them make their own decisions
    - We can ensure our children go to secular educational insitutions that have a 'no tolerance' stance on bullying / predjudice
    - We can judge people on merit and personailty not on their look / denomination / personal preferences et cetera
    - We can shun and disassociate ourselves with those who espouse insular attitudes; casting them out as the pariahs they're rightfully should be
    - We can educate others on multiculturalism and encourage them to travel and experience how other people live / commune
    - We can reject intolerance and endeavor to quash anything that promotes it, while at the same time ensuring we do not let it use our own accepting nature against us to promote their attitude of hate
    - We can purvey the idea that inacceptance is 'not cool' to our youth so that in the vital formative years they gain the foundation for tolerance.
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    May 14 2011: Tolerance is something that requires some degree of reciprocity to work.

    I can tolerate a lot of things that are sufficiently worth tolerating, and I probably have zero care about a lot of other things that might appear to others as tolerance.

    That said, there are a lot of things that cannot be tolerated at all.
    Violence, corruption, theft, deceit, harm, inciting others to do intolerable things,...

    That said:
    One needs to have a certain tolerance of behavior of others. Especially those types that don't harm others (with intent).
    So race, certain types of sexual preference, many beliefs and cultural behavior fall under this category.

    To promote tolerance can be done by
    - education (enlightenment and open-mindedness tend to have a positive effect on what one tolerates)
    - living by example
    - joining tolerance promoting organisations (like charter for compassion) and supporting them
    - social responsibility
    - changing incentives, punishments through law
    - social punishment and exclusion of intolerable individuals (doesn't work for intolerant comunities)

    Though I would tolerate a racist joke once in a while (especially if the person is not a racist), I would not tolerate racism.
    On the other hand, I don't tolerate some cultural practices like woman circumcision, exorcism, stoning, death penalty, war-economies,...

    I would even go so far as to defend NOT being tolerant towards such things... as they are harmful.
  • May 4 2011: That one needs to dare to be different. Its the need to remain in our safe zones that enables, the intolerance of others. There are many who behave in such a matter due to ignorance and conditioning, and that will never change without another evoking that change.
    I have never found people rude in such circumstances when they are pulled up. More shocked. I have often found that a great deal of respect comes back simply for being the one to speak up, and for having done something that the others have agreed with but dared not say.
    But it will never work if it becomes an argument, it needs to be communicated in a neutral and factual matter, often requiring the use of empathic communication, so that the comment is taken positively without becoming emotional and confrontational. One wants to create change and that can only be done with a positive action.
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    May 3 2011: To answer your question I would say by setting the right example and education. The details below your question are all related to witnessing an in tolerant situation. The answer becomes more complex because you are describing situations and maybe we need more context. The reaction can be different dependent upon situation so it is difficult to be prescriptive. In general I would determine my reaction based upon its effectiveness at 1) stopping the current intolerance 2) not compromising the self-esteem of the person who is being abused 3) getting the abuser to recognize their error and apologize 4) preventing this situation from happening again. No reaction is not acceptable, over reaction can be destructive. Find the right balance based upon the individuals and situation.
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    Apr 30 2011: Tolerance is when one learns to accept that no two people can have the same view towards life, things, people or situations. It is a degree higher than patience because we are not merely awaiting our turn, or our time or turning a deaf ear or blind eye to situations.
    Tolerance is accepting anothers view, abiding by the law live and let live. We have to teach ourselves, empower ourself to understand that no two people can be clones in thought or behaviour. Experiances, Circumstances, situations, upbringing, values, education, culture all these aspects play a great and vital part in shaping each indvidual personality and developement.
    If one has the courage of conviction i fully support standing for the underdog in any situation as long as one doesnt cower away midway leaving the person even more vulnerable and ridiculed than before. If you are not convinced about the cause you can never fight for it with strength. You have to believe that you are doing the right thing. It is the right of freedom that is bestowed upon us and with that comes the responsibility of making the right choice.
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      Apr 30 2011: Hello Bhagyashree! I really liked the way you took the concepts one step forward to concrete action and the warning that we have to be very careful to follow through when we intervene. Leaving people more vulnerable is counterproductive for everyone.
      I read a study the other day that indicated that in fMRI studies bullies demonstrate that they get pleasure from causing harm and that it is actually hardwired into certain centers of their brains. It will not be an easy fix.
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        May 2 2011: Bullies sense fear just like animals do. Fear in the body odour, fera in the eyes, in the tremble of your hands, a quickened pace.
        I am not talking about dealing with murderers here or the ordeal of getting mugged but the bullying that one faces in school, college or workplace. Confidence is a detterent as is indifference. This is not to be confused with audacity or challenging a situation.
        Have you seen a stream of ants walking towards their goal...put in a detterent they either cross over it or go around it...their speed remaining constant. You can put 2 or 3 or even 10 objects in their path.....their stance does not chnage. In todays society and world we have to teach our childern to be like that to survive if they not built to give a physical stay away appearance.
        This does work most of the time...simply because the enjoyment of the reaction is missed by the bully.
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          May 2 2011: Just to clarify: the study that I cited was with adolescent bullies with a control group of teen nonbullies.
        • May 14 2011: As a teacher I was expected to not tolerate bullying. I did what I could but kid A sitting right in front of me can give kid B a 1/10 second glance across the room and kid B has been bullied. They both know it and I am oblivious. (Now this presumes a prior bullying relationship between the two - unlikely bullying could be started with such a glance).

          Alas, I have few insights into bullying, as, with one possible exception, I never bullied (as best I know), nor, with 2.5 exceptions, I was never bullied.

          The 0.5 was almost sad. Bridge in the middle of the H.S. campus & seniors occasionally extorted lunch money form frosh (35¢ back then). The guy wo stopped me was built like a brick s-house with half the IQ. He stops me. I says, 'Look, Stan, that little weasel is sneaking right behind you!' Stan turns his 300lbs to look & off I run, Maybe I bullied him. Got to know Stan a little bit later on. Doubt his IQ made 70, but he seemed to be a good heart - I figure he may have been put pu to the extortion thing - had his heart been into it, I might not have faired so well …

          The pseudo bullying, I do not understand but am ashamed of to this day. There was a gal, say 'Melodie' - this was oh, grade 4-5, I'd guess. Well, Melodie was bad news. I treated her like she had leprosy, like she was below the bottom of the caste system - and as I recall, so did others. In grade 7 math I was once seated next to her (to deal with a talking problem) I was horrified, I had to sit next to Melodie!! Desparate times, desperate measures. I talked with, gulp, Melodie. Nonstop. 2 days. Before I was moved, to my ultimate relief! Let me now tell you about Melodie. She was bright, cute (but she had a very fine dark mustache - yuk!), clever, and friendly, in spite of our treatment of her. Why in the hell did I treat her like that!?!? Was I nuts? As I say, not exactly bullying, but reprehensible none the less. I'm sure she got the last laugh & has done VERY well in life.
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          May 14 2011: Thanks for your honest story John.

          Maybe you are illustrating an important insight into bullying and intolerance. Some of the most vicious 'gay' bashers I have ever known eventually came out of the closet and had to face what their own inner denial and what their inner torment had enabled them to do. I kjnow it is easy to blame it on homophobia but there is more than a grain of truth in the overall concept.If we are still trying to establish or defend our own selves to ourselves perhaps a mirror or an association with the person we fear most being like triggers a mindless sort of rage and rejection??
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      May 1 2011: So often the mere act of allying with someone can make a tremendous difference. When someone stands next to a person or advocates for them, some sort of good wlll can be transferred from the person with perceived status to the one without. Yes, Birdia, it not only counts but it may be one of the highest forms of acceptance.
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    Apr 28 2011: Having guts to be intolerant all the time candidly against all kind of separatist / racist act at individual , society, country & global level is the way to promote tolerance to differences or diversity.

    To my knowledge most of the time I tried to stand up. Yes many times it created bitterness in relationship but I didn't care at that heat of the moment. Because I feel always one has got second, third , fourth........... hundred, thousand chances if not infinite to mend that broken relationship at some other suitable time. But if one does not stand up at that moment of truth when s/he facing a racist behavior chances of promoting acceptance to diversity is gone even if not for good , but for quite some time.
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    Apr 25 2011: What an important question, Caroline!

    I like an attitude of "assertive empathy." My reaction depends on the situation and people involved, as well as my own tolerance at the moment. If I'm feeling depleted by the persons persistent affect, behaviors or larger cultural ubiquity of the intolerance, I'll tend to be sharper in my response.

    A more effective outcome comes those times I seek insight by inquiring and dialoguing in ways that relate without offending. Favorite phrases I like to ask are: "And who is that you love who is ____? Or (....) "has been ostracized because they were _____?" Or "Which of your neighbors/colleagues, etc. is, despite your differences, is someone you respect or have benefited from?"

    If the person struggles to answer and I know them, I'll point out some person or experience we share in common that fits.

    I've asked everyone from politicians to children questions along these lines. Most are initially defensive and this requires I hold back my impulse to disprove them. But many stop and think. And some even go so far as develop examples that counter their disparaging comment or view. I've witnessed a few use their discovery in future conversations.

    The best outcome occurs when they, not I, "correct" their views. And it's not uncommon in these dialogues that my views are further developed, if not corrected, too. In any case, I am invariably "rewarded" by the unfolding insights by the reminder to consider my own intolerance -- particularly towards those who are quick to judge.

    As a bonus this all gives me some hope that when I need tolerance, I might get some too!

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    Apr 25 2011: I think its as simple as nonparticipation. You never laugh at the jokes. You never use the language. Sometimes silence speaks volumes. Sometimes you have to leave the room when it starts. In a business environment you ALWAYS speak up or the company could be in danger of litigation. If asked you explain to the person, to the friends. You explain to kids why some grown ups are broken. Once you do it a few times- it gets easier.
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      Apr 25 2011: Hi Debra....................Thatwould be my first choice In daily life. Beyond that I will vote for every just and against every unjust proposal or law. There are some things that just cannot be ignored !
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        Apr 25 2011: Absolutely right, Helen. I guess I was thinking one on one.
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    May 24 2011: It just occurred to me as I read through this conversation that what tolerance means to me is that, although I might hold different beliefs, different political views, different values, etc. from others, it is not my goal to "change" others to believe as I do, but to understand WHY they feel the way they do and connect with them to become a better human being.

    So, I think a good working model of what we mean by "tolerance" would be the relationship that must develop in a good marriage.

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      May 24 2011: Yes, marriage is an important place for developing all the skills we need to meet the world with. If we cannot extend kindness, understanding and acceptance to the person who is said to be 'one flesh' with us we will find it very difficult to do in the wider world. Unfortunately we are not very good at marriage with the divorce rates over 50% last time I looked.
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        May 24 2011: Marriages that do work out, however, are almost certainly because the two have mutual respect for each other, allow each other room to grow, support each other when it counts, etc. In other words, they have learned tolerance of each other's unique view of the world.
  • May 23 2011: Acknowledging the feelings and the fundamental needs behind the words and actions of myself, and of others, is my best strategy to find tolerance and compassion in myself. Its a communication strategy that can be learned. There are schools and groups exploring this around the world.
    And it can be shared by the simple action of me paying attention to these feelings and needs as they occur around me which are sometimes disguised in judgments and restrictions. It creates options for me to see beyond domination and subordination parameters and the imposed polarities of competing 'authorities'.
    As a strategy, it keeps me engaged with my heart as well as my head.
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    May 23 2011: On another thread which asked for questions children ask, a woman reported that her daughter asked a Muslim woman 'What's that on your head?' I submit that the child showed real respect and not just 'tolerance'. The child had no reason to think that the topic was too hot to handle because she had not made any judgement on the 'thing in that lady's hair", she just knew it was different from what other ladies did and she wanted to understand it.

    I think that in venues like TED we have a golden opportunity to ask the politically incorrect question kiindly and clearly and stop seeing 'the other' as some sort of ticking time bomb. If someone with a view far different than mine starts a thread- I'm in! I want to know what they see that I don't see. I want to understand them better not with platitudes but by respectfully posing questions to a person who may be half way around the world, a person I might never meet but who holds answers that I might never get first hand.

    It changes me. It changes us. I have made friends with a young Muslim man with a heart of gold and with a woman who spent her life in the American army. They were glad to have someone ask straight up rather than ignore them or pat them on the head and say 'there there!" I feel enlightened, more human and more optimistic about the world- all because they asked and I asked and we listened. It was not that scary either even if some of the observers were having figurative heart attacks!
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    May 22 2011: I think a great teaching tool is educational theatre - using scenarios to dramatically portray real situations. They are entertaining, educational, thought-provoking, well-suited for exchange of ideas, etc. Works for all ages, too.

    I would love to be a part of a team of educators who developed "Educational Theatre" to teach tolerance, respect, compassion, empathy.
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        May 22 2011: Wow! That's fantastic work you're involved in!! It confirms for me that change is happening, that there are people like you and groups like yours that have taken action.

        It would be great to know of others who are working in similar ways with children to teach such things as tolerance, respect, empathy, compassion, etc. in a dramatic, active way, with real life scenarios and good adult facilitation
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    May 21 2011: Hi I think the best path to tolerance is go and live in a different country to my own.

    You can be intolerant all you like but at the end of the day you end up getting ignored or shouted at !

    In Thailand if you lose you cool and get angry with someone like staff, they assume that 'If you cannot manage yourself, how could you manage me'? and any respect that you did have has now flown out the window.

    Go travelling to a foreign country where you don't speak their language, that is a good tolerance building exercise.
  • May 18 2011: If something bursts an intolerance reaction in my system, I observe myself because there's a huge opportunity to learn more about me : the event and my reaction shows something inside I don't accept on me. All beings around are mirrors of myself. Observing inside and accepting brings tolerance. Then I see: I could be that, in another set of circumstances.
  • May 15 2011: Standing up for the underdog, does not make life happy for you. You are looked at as not being a team player, going against the norm and going against the grain. That is me. Which is why, I am [according to friends] always "in trouble" at work. If something is wrong... it is wrong. Standing up for what is right, can be a "death sentence" at work. Then YOU are retaliated against. What do you do then? Live on your knees or die on your feet?
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    May 14 2011: learn how to respect each other and their opinion...
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    May 14 2011: We have a saying like that `Soz gumusse, sukut altindir.` in Turkish. to keep silence in such a joke is better than to make some addition to it. Maybe they enjoy to make fun of a black guy/gay/jewish/muslim/French,etc. But I think telling bad things and change the atmosphere in there is not needy. If they were ones who know the meanings of what they kidding about(as you), they'll never do such way of talks.

    So, there's no need to hurt people(no matter if they are close people or stranger). I do this.

    If you don't want to keep silence? Use the brain which your creator putted it on the top point of your body,

    Did you see any other Turkish people around who talk in my style of thought? So, make some creative steps and people start following your behaviour. Like the way I do now...

    And never forget my motto: `Your tolerance to other people's worths, draws down your country's borders.`

    Talip Ozdemir
  • May 14 2011: First, you have to decide what you would ideally like to do - this is probably worth some thought in advance as there situations come up in real time and the luxury of a thorough on the spot is not an option. Here's what initially comes to mind for me:
    First, do I notice anyone within earshot that s on the receiving end of the joke/slur, etc. If so, in solidarity with them, a firm statement of disapproval seems necessary - but with a minimum of self-righteousness 8^). Now, there is an obvious problem here - I can spot the South Asian more easily than the Jew, admittedly.

    I guess I can paraphrase a Canadian politician (W. M. King) and say' Chastisement if necessary, but not necessarily chastisement.' While Chastisement is great for venting one's own spleen, it is more likely to entrench rather than modify behavior - especially in public.

    So, Plan B is to try to alter the behavior of the 'perp'. What I would like to do is to leave them with something to think about without having embarrassed them. Eg, sometimes I can (truthfully) say, "I was lucky in that my first knowing contact with a gay was a boss I had back at UBC. He was a great guy, lots of fun and we got a hell of a lot of work done - the best boss I've ever had. His sexual orientation, while well known, was of no concern to me since I had no interest in having sex with him. With that introduction, I've had no issue with gays."

    With racist issues, again if one can appeal to one's own positive experiences with the race in question. And, the more we get out here and interact with others, the more we will have to draw on!
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    May 14 2011: Be the change you want to see in the world. Set examples by your actions. If you want to see tolerance, be tolerant. If you want to see compassion, be compassionate. If you want to see discipline and focus, be disciplined and focused. Work on self and it spreads like ripples on a lake. If you want to see laughter, make people laugh. Think of all the positive things you want to see in the world, and be them.
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    May 14 2011: A race relations officer that I once knew told me that he had gone through some training designed to heighten awareness of police officer's own prejudices and to help them empathize with people of difference. They went through an exercise in which they had to 'become' refugees and walk through the adjustments, displacement, alienation and loss that many people endure to come to another country. I observed that the experience was so impactful for him that he started to actually stand against his fellow police officer's opinions (which he had previously shared) and he became a real influencer among the rank and file for greater social justice.
  • May 13 2011: What about tolerance to the racist people, when somebody is making joke about jew or blacks or whites ( racism isnt only the domain of the white population), then you must be tolerant to them too according to the definition, so you didnt change nothing they are still racist and if you fight agains them you are intolerant to them. And tolerance isnt very natural thing to human. Im from EU, and here the politics promote tolerance, but it didnt bring nothing good, the national socialism is on rise again, And the religion toleration, Muslims and Christians doesnt work because you can say i tolerate and respect muslims , but if you are true christian you belive that the bible is the only truth and everything else is heresy so here tolerance is hypocrisy. And if you say that you tolerate something or somebody its the same as you say you dont like them or it,but you will ignore it until this gorup or ideas will not change you way of life, but someday they will and then what. And i believe that tolerance leads to apathy.
    So for me tolerance=hypocrisy
    Sorry for my english
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    May 13 2011: When you realize that you are a divine soul, nothing anyone says to you will matter. We need to control our anger, lust, hatred, envy and biggest of all, our ego. Any fight or confrontation happens because people cannot give up their ego. When you start educating your children to become soul conscious rather than body conscious, eventually you will elevate their thinking, their confidence and their outlook towards everyone.
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      May 14 2011: You know Jaime, Your point is so deep that it could be dismissed as a surface observation.

      What I perceive you to be saying is that if we engage life with every sense and engage it personally at a truly vibrant level - we have less time for controversies, criticism and unpleasant reflections on others. A full life leaves little room for the petty distractions that arise out of small differences.
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    May 11 2011: It depends on the nature of you relationship with the person making the comments, to make it bluntly, politely, playfully or aggressively. The best way is to politely tell the person that this joke was distasteful or remark was not nice because it generalized a group of people, which is wrong. Keeping quiet is not an option.

    Most of the people make these kinds of comments without understanding that they are doing something wrong. If we corrected them with sincerity and without being angry, they listen 99% of the time. There is always a 1% that you can decide to stay away.
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    May 8 2011: Give people self respect and with it their power:
    Power is the capacity to do. One who acts out of habit, desire or ambition has no power but is being dictated to by his own mind.

    Give perspective:
    Objectivity begins with putting oneself into perspective. In one’s family one may have some importance, but in one’s neighborhood one has less, in one’s community still less, in one’s state still less, in one’s nation still less, in the whole world still less, and so on. Ultimately one is just a perspective. Grasping this is what the wise call humility.

    Lastly show them your compassion and understanding of their situation. Teach by example.
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    May 6 2011: In the case of children who show disrespect or insensitivity towards issues, people, etc., I feel it my obligation to take the moment to teach - a teachable moment to coin an overused phrase.
    How I react to a incident where someone - especially someone who is not yet an adult - has demonstrated a lack of respect or understanding is crucial to how I help to make the world a more respectful place to live and grow.
    How do I react? With honesty, concern, compassion and a willingness to spend the time to choose my words carefully so that I give that person every chance to change their paradigm.
    But I try to react the same way regardless of whether it is a child, an adolescent, a teen or an adult.
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      May 13 2011: Yep, I also believe that compassion is the key ... most of us are products of our education and family and it's difficult for some to "break the mold" and live outside the confortable bubble of belief.
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        May 13 2011: Caroline,

        While I think education and family are important factors for pro-social development, I think society itself is perhaps even more so.

        There is a contagion factor involved in many of our social behaviors, be they compassionate or not-so-much. (A recent piece I wrote on these themes:

        Though I agree it can, yes, be difficult to break out of familial and academic molds, it can be equally as hard for families and schools to break out of social/environmental molds and demands. It is very important, in my mind, to remember the macro culture within which our micro views are nurtured -- for good or bad.

        So Qs I think ought to be considered are: does the culture model and reward relational integrity or does it favor or harbor a sense of "Us v. Them" or an "I vs. We" attitude or insecurity that foments competitive ill-will?

        Indeed, the reflections elicited by your question are a wonderful example of how a much wider community can impact very personal thinking -- in this case: through compassion-engaging and co-constructive conversation.

        • May 14 2011: "So Qs I think ought to be considered are: does the culture model and reward relational integrity or does it favor or harbor a sense of "Us v. Them" or an "I vs. We" attitude or insecurity that foments competitive ill-will? "

          This is why I, as an outsider, am dismayed at the extreme polarization I see in US politics - I, rightly or wrongly, often get the sense of a visceral hatred of the other side. One can argue that it is just rhetoric, but it has been repeatedly observed in this discussion - model what you wish to see in your society.

          And yes, I am also concerned by the polarization I see here at home in our politics, and the degree of personal, negative advertising in our recent elections.
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        May 16 2011: John,

        A focus of my work has me looking at issues of political polarization. I agree with you it is extreme and dismaying, particularly in the US. As you point out, hate communications go beyond rhetoric to impulsive reactivity. Increasingly so, it seems.

        Nonetheless, cultural differences around rhetoric are notable. From discussions I have with people from developing democracies, it seems to me cultural polarization in Western societies has much to do with what might be called a "high-tell" attitude, perhaps promoted even by freedom of speech liberties.

        Where personal freedoms are less evident, so are dissenting voices. And thus, is seems, less “need” for bully-rhetoric. The threat is either implied by forces of power or discourse is absent due to lack of venues (like democratic processes or public media).

        In any case, it seems the US, at least, has taken the concept of voice beyond using ones rhetoric for civil progress to using rhetoric to satiate individual desires or impulses--whether to deflect blame, achieve personal gain, garner public attention or just to vent blindly. The concept of any PR is good PR seems to prevail for many. More troubling, beneath this there seems to be a loss of personal responsibility for what one does or says.

        I think the political cure could be a cultural uprising against rage-rhetoric. ie: citizens collectively calling out leaders who model polarizing tactics. Frustration may be what it takes for people to demand co-productive leadership.

        In my mind, citizens are a critical part of this Us/We attitude . And must actively change society by intentionally naming and, as you say, modeling civil discourse, too.

        I encountered a similar challenge in another TED Conversation. Though politics wasn't the main theme, interesting culture change emerged when discourse devolved. The fix took some doing, but tthe lessons were useful:

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          May 18 2011: I agree with you, Ms. Walstrom. Political polarization in the U.S., of a kind probably unseen since the nineteenth century, is the most problematic issue we have to deal with today. Far more so, in my opinion, than any of the economic or foreign policy crises which, according to some, are quite serious indeed. I've read your and other people's proposed remedies without being convinced. All such remedies seem to me to rely on a willingness to change on the part of those who are the moving forces behind such polarization. Quite a number of the principal villains in this regard have a very large personal stake in maintaining or even worsening the present problematic situation. It permits the exteriorisation of group hate and anger (very pleasant and even exciting to some) and promotes the political and financial success of others. Conspiracy thinking, which to my mind forms a substantial part of the problem, is probably ineradicable from a psychological point of view. I would love to hear suggestions of solutions that deal realistically with the vested interest many appear to have in polarization.
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        May 19 2011: Mr. Jaffe,

        I agree with you that those whose interests (or impulses) are served via polarization are unlikely to willingly change their ways.

        However, I'm not sure these times are any less brutal than others we've come through. People involved in the Civil Rights movement speak to quite bloody political battles. I suggest there are lessons we can learn from the movements that resulted in societal sea changes then. Many of these led to distributive justice and legislative cures for rhetoric-inspired discrimination.

        The answer to conspiratorial thinking and (McCarthyism is an example from those times) political brutishness is something like large scale light-shiing. The balance can only be achieved with equally passionate counter messengers. In the case of the Civil Rights movement, these were blacks, women and other marginalized groups organized around parallel and interconnected causes.

        In a sense, the solution is a "numbers" games. To outlast the considerable energies the defense of money and power can harness, compounded counter-energies must be catalyzed with many (if not more) players involved persistently calling out intolerance and inequities.

        To be clear, though the Civil Rights movement provides a model, a modern tolerance movement can't seek only policy fixes. With some exceptions, we have much in place already. Clearly, (and you get to this in another comment) threat of exposure, rules or regulations aren't enough.

        Todays solutions, then. must answer the core of your comment: How can civility pay off for those driven by power and money? One possible answer: when it is provocative enough to capture media and culture attention. Which requires taking action via all venues possible. The point is to redirect polarizing rhetoric with many more and different, examples of the opposite that speak to the self-interests of all. Polarizers will always exist, but they do tend to lose steam when "filibustered" by collective rhetoric.

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    May 6 2011: People need to take a step back, pause, and realize the world is changing and we need to grow out of the racial/religious/gender stereotypes. We have an African American president, whether you voted for him or not, realize that others are beginning to accept these changes why can't you?

    If someone is being rude or just a prick about someone race/religion etc then I will say it to their face they are being ridiculous. How else can you get it through to their heads? A good form of education is embarrassment. If a little kid is spanked in public for doing something wrong they will be upset and most likely never do it again. So, I use this tactic on adults as well. If they need to be put in their place I say so. I live my life thinking what it would be like to be in the other's shoes and that really opens up your mind to think how could I judge an entire race/religion and so on off of this ONE person? It's immature and can very easily be stopped if more people would be willing to speak out against these disgusting jokes.
    • May 14 2011: I guess that I must be a difficult old codger, but I don't respond well to humiliation and come to think of it, I have not met many (any?) that do. Oh, I've met a good number that feel it should work well on others - the paucity is in the number who have told me that "it works well on ME" We are, of course NOT talking in the realm of kinky stuff. I mean people who change their Weltanshauung as a result of a good upbraiding. To be perfectly honest with you, I have a vague recollection of it happening once to me in 58 years. But as a rule, no I ignore em.
      SO, we may have to agree to disagree on this one. I can handle that.

      I will agree that the approach may change peoples behavior in my presence - but I aspire to slyly change their behavior in my absence. Alas, by definition, I will never know if I succeed, but I wouldn't make claims of great success. I figure the trick is to leave them with something to think positively about - easier said than done.
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      May 18 2011: I'm with Mr. Toews. I think embarassment, far from leading to change, just leads to resentment of those people in favor of change and of the proposed changes themselves. To embarass someone is to hurt them. That may "feel" good for the person doing the embarassing, but its effect is negative. For example, on one website on which I post regularly, I once used the word "midget." Well, apparently, for those in the know, the word "midget" is now incorrect. I hadn't known this. I was corrected, in a public and nasty manner, by another poster, who never even considered whether I might not have known of this new development. My reaction was resentment, and an emotional conviction that I would continue using the word "midget" regardless of whether anyone was offended by it. So the person correcting me not only did not achieve her aim in correcting me, she created a situation assuring that I would continue my "crimes" in the future. I cannot help but think that this kind of interaction takes place millions of times a year in our society. Those who sincerely and seriously desire change must learn how to encourage such change without an all-too-frequent boomerang effect.
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    May 5 2011: All these things you have mentioned are violations of Human Rights. Laws that govern every single human on this earth. Every person has these rights as though every person is created equal. It comes down to a matter of principle and how strongly you believe in these principles. If you are one that is quick to anger and has strong principles, I'd imagine you'd be a UFC Fighter or a street brawler by now. So now you can look into how people are raised, developed and how they perceive principles while treating others a certain way. It's all in the skull and how people react to certain circumstances.
    As for myself, I am a man of principle and have a quick and sharp tongue which I can use ruthlessly if provoked. I tend to make smartass comments to people subtly and such if needed to, but if something hits a nerve, I adapt a "don't give a SH**" attitude and carry on as I please. These moments usually occur when I feel that I am being without a doubt disrespected. This includes but is not limited to racism, belittling, or putting myself/friends/family in danger. This is not saying that I am proud of this, as I am trying to correct this now.
  • May 4 2011: and for the person who is facing this :
    just ask yourself a question "why these people are making comment on my race/religion or caste .
    may be because deep down inside of them they are insecure that their race/religion or caste is inferior than mine.
    but i don't think so to me all human beings are equal and what truth is . "
    you will feel yourself lifted upward by yourself, and those sleazy comments won't have any effect on you.
  • May 4 2011: just ask the person to imagine yourself at his place,
    or tell that does your race/religion/caste taught you to behave like this to a fellow human being.
    don't you think that you are disgracing your own parents/race/religion by behaving like this.
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    May 4 2011: A youtube video on Bullying

    EDit- I should have clarified that this was in response to kids' projects. This is a video done by kids on that topic.
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    May 3 2011: Back to you guys.
    First Caroline: I've been to France once, but spent a nice 15 days there and I've hardly noticed any kind of racism there.
    Second, about Saudi Arabia, I think what you guys quoted and named was quite old enough. I was born I Saudi Arabia and I've been living there for more then 16 years (I'm still there though). I am sorry, but I won't be able to believe what I read. It's like "impossible". Women cannot drive, this is it. Not more nor less, yet she can go out without her husband, without any note, without anything!
    A small reply to Salim now, about racism in the Kingdom, I have to agree about what you said. It happens a lot. People there are very "spoiled", you cannot control them, you're not Saudi.
    They (not all of them, but let me say most of them) treat Indians, Pakistanis, Indonesians (and much more to go!) in a very bad way, meaning, as is they were their slaves or so.
    (I wanted to ask a question about "mailing" in, how does it work? I sent someone a mail few days ago, I don't know where to check my inbox, my sent or so on, thanks for your help.)
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    May 3 2011: What can we do, as citizens to promote tolerance in our daily lives?

    To pray.
    To pray by ourselves, with family, with friends.
    To pray at home, at church, at work, whenever is possible.

    Not sure about this? Do you think it is nothing more than superstition?

    Just watch part 6 from "What the bleep do we know!" at this website.

    Afraid to check it?
    • May 8 2011: what documentary is the quantum physics of BS..
  • May 2 2011: Make psychology a core subject of high school students world over.

    What better way of teaching tolerance than through the understanding of our own humanity? When you learn how the human mind functions and how similar we are underneath despite any external differences, and how environment shapes us, and how we have plenty of cognitive blindspots as human beings... then the culture of society becomes transformed.

    It's not just one or two people that know the facts, not just a half dozen willing to speak out. When most know the facts, when most understand why things are the way they are from a human perspective, then as a society we're more able to tolerate differences and seek human workable resolutions towards them.
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    May 1 2011: I think the matter starts with one self, and the audience is quite absorbing of one's behavior... in other words, tolerate everything/everyone around you, and you will be promoting tolerance all around, especially in public, where humans are weak by default and tend to imitate rather than innovate.
  • May 1 2011: My comment here may be somewhat controversial but I believe, in a discussion like this, it needs to be put out there.

    I am a firm believer in the cliche of 'Live and Let Live.' It's simple, it's to the point. I understand that there are times that people must intervene, and I have done so in numerous occasions. But my question becomes, who are we to tell people how to live and what to think? Do you not find it somewhat hypocritical to tell people that they need to be tolerant while simultaneously being intolerant of that person's belief structure?

    There is a real push for everyone to be this way, and while I, myself, admit to having prejudice at times, I find myself to be quite tolerant most of the time. As a teacher you need to be. However, I find an ethical argument when it comes to telling people what to think and how to think?

    If you think about it, nobody enjoys being called names or being treated differently because of a look or a belief, but I feel that's how you, as a person, make judgments. If you were walking down the street at night and two figures come up to you, one dressed in black with long, dirty hair and you can barely see his face, while the other is well groomed and well lit, wearing a nice suit, wouldn't society judge and accept help from the man in the suit compared to the man in the dark? We all have it in us to make these types of judgments. It's natural, whether people like it or not, it's natural.

    I believe that the deeper issue that most people are trying to bring out in people is the idea that the world currently lacks empathy. It's a world that doesn't have to face their opponent while spewing racial slurs, or hateful comments. They can do it online. Perhaps if I weren't an anonymous face online I wouldn't be stating my opinion either. But if you think about it, wouldn't empathy for others take care of this problem? The majority of people do have a conscience.

    However, that idea just brings us back to the original dilemma.
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      May 2 2011: I completely understand your point of view, even though I don't share it, which is what makes for an interesting debate ! I come from a family where we regularly debated at the dinner table and took social risks by speaking out against racist comments and behaviour. It's never easy and sometimes I have to "Live and Let Live". Recently a client starting going off on a tangent about how a certain ethnic group was taking over France ... I ignored it once, twice and then said "I'm sorry, but I'm really uncomfortable with this conversation, I need you to keep your opinions to yourself on this subject"... and he did, and we went on with the meeting. However, he could have reacted badly, walked out and not paid me.
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    Apr 30 2011: I like this topic!

    I think I have almost always "stood up for the underdog" if I thought I could actually make a difference. The problem though with these types of thinkers (I.E. Dave and his gay bashing crap) is, a lot of times, they are in a state of denial about their own beliefs. For instance, you will hear someone say a racist comment and you try to point out why that is wrong only to have them completely deny they had a racist thought (Example - "BUT I GOT BLACK FRIENDS, I'M NOT RACIST" or "I don't care if they are gay as long as I don't see it and they don't hit on me!").

    At work, I have no qualms about putting people back in their place when they let these ideas surface, even if it damages my relationship with them. I tend to carry that over to any aspect of life. I'll admit if some stranger behind me in line was spouting things like this off, I might just try to ignore it. With places like parties, school, or work though, I believe it is our duty as respectful human beings to shun people like this publicly and make them think about what they are saying.
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      May 2 2011: exactly. we take 'physical survival' for granted so we use all our thinking on luxury/mental stuff. If we teach kids to talk just as much about survival (food, water, housing), tolerance of thought differences has a way stronger foundation.
  • Apr 30 2011: Everyone is in some way prejudice, including me. We need to look inward and admit that it is there and they may change as we mature. If you accept that we all have room to grow and learn, then we realize sometime we are the teacher and sometimes the student.
    I have been on both sides of the topic, maybe we need to learn to laugh at ourselves once in a while.
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    Apr 30 2011: For me the issue goes beyond “tolerance”. Tolerance sounds like a somewhat forced or grudging effort to overcome negative feelings. The question is how do you invite people into a relationship that you will both enjoy and from which there will be mutual benefit?
    The message I would like to get acsossis the following:
    You relationships are a mirror of your own participation in the relationship. How people show up or not in your presence is a mirror of how you invite them in to participate or keep them peripheral in your world.
    People show up fully in relationships when they feel invited, welcomed, valued and wanted. People disappear or become a nuisance when they feel shut out, rejected, looked down upon or unwelcome.
    The behaviour of a person who feels excluded and disenfranchised inevitably makes them become someone you don’t wish to engage with. Your behaviour and their response to you become mutually supporting and the assumptions that you made about them appear to be confirmed in this self-fulfilling prophecy. In such an atmosphere people feel comfortable to make demands, claim space and resources in the relationship. When people feel respected it becomes safe for them to be vulnerable and frankly reveal their differences and even idiosyncrasies.
    When people experience your interest in them they become interesting. When they feel liked and valued, they feel comfortable to be authentic. Respectful curiosity invites the other person to engage with you and express their true impressions, thoughts, needs and feelings. Security relaxes people into playfulness, creativity and gives them the safety to risk-taking initiative. Admiration invites them to show their brilliance.
    If you make people feel embraced, valued and appreciated they will show their loyalty. When you sincerely invest in people they show you their potential.
    The bigger question is how you can teach adults and childern to create enviroments where people hosted in ways that bing out the best in them?
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      Apr 30 2011: Leonard- It is clear to me that you have worked to gain a good understanding of these issues. I hope you do not mind but I will be cutting and pasting your remarks in another thread called How and Why have your strongest feelings changed Part 2.
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        May 4 2011: Thanks Debra-I take it as a compliment! I am writing a lot on these issues and hope to have a book ready soon. I have a lot of articles in similar vein posted on my website.
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      May 9 2011: Thank you Leonard for your input ! However, I don't agree on your definition of tolerance ... my definition of tolerance exactly fits the definition you find in a dictionary ...

      "The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others."
      • May 14 2011: For better and for worse, words carry both a denotation AND connotations. What the word denotes is your (correct) definition. I once saw the 'connotations' described as the barnacles the word acquires on the seas of usage (or some such). If I say that I 'tolerate' country music or opera, what do you take my mindset to be? Many attempts to legislate 'tolerance' lead not to your definition of 'tolerance', but to at best, 'tolerate-ing' as suggested by several above. I'd argue both definitions have their place in context.
        And, given our propensity to acquiesce to the legislation of our thoughts, legislated tolerance can do more harm than good - witness some of the entries above.

        As to Leonards actual points, I'll give my 2¢ worth there.
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        May 16 2011: To clarify Caroline-I was suggesting a new way of looking at the issue that goes beyond the concept of tolerance. I was not challenging the definition of the word. In fact your dictionary definition illustrates my point about the concept implying somewhat of an arms length relationship. I am suggesting an alternative way of relating to difference.
    • May 14 2011: While I agree with you in principle, in practice, it seems to me that it is a position of a … privileged few. I may yet alter these two words.

      Again, I share your views, but, thru no virtue of my own, I won the lottery. I mean the BIG Lottery - not just mere millions which statistically, I'd putz away in a few years. I was born in an upper middle class home (in Canada in my case) to loving tolerant parents, fairly well educated, and doing OK financially. I canoe a lot and often paddle past yachts worth more than my family home but none the less, world wide, I'm still probably in the top 5 percentile. (allow me to digress and include having English as my mother tongue - such an obstreperous language; thank you).

      The point is that, I feel that I have been afforded the luxury of of a background that make doing the things you listed relatively easy. I have an informal hobby of learning phrases in which ever language I find opportunity to do so. One standard target is waiters, etc. in ethnic restaurants. And, usually, I experience precisely what you refer to. My interest in their language almost always brings out the best in them. In fact, my family is sometimes embarrassed as I'm greeted in Korean or Farsi unlike most caucasians entering the premises. My admiration brings out their brilliance, as you said! I even had the confidence/temerity to greet my MD in Urdu. He was amused but responsive and shook my hand when I left - and has every time since (yes, I realize - but that's another lottery I won, I'm very resistant to most germs.).

      So, this works for some of us, but had I been born into a 'First Nations' (aboriginal) family and struggled as a second class citizen in my own land, might have had loving parents, but maybe abusive, maybe a big ugly birthmark on my cheek - alas not my butt cheek. Or maybe I was born half First Nations and accepted by neither community … 2 km from my house this is reality. They find it hard to reach out …
  • Apr 30 2011: I think this is a great question.

    In all honesty, it takes courage to stand up and be counted when we see something that's wrong - fear of consequences, whether it be open conflict or the judgement and rejection from others.

    In the comments made so far there has been talk of tolerance, and it is hard to object to that. If we are not to be tolerant of others, what hope is there for our own views?

    For me, the line is whether we are talking about people expressing sincerely held views, with conviction and a good heart - or whether it appears as though the intent is tod denigrate or otherwise hurt others. Where, on balance, it seems to me that the intent is good natured, I feel tolerance is key. Where there appears to be malice and a lack of consideration for the feelings or rights of others, it means that I need to consider how to respond.

    This can, of course, become an intellectual discussion about perception, the right to free speech etc, but we are a society and surely we need to somehow get along with a degree of give and take that enables us to agree on what is and is not acceptable. We do this already, in so far as that is how we determine the laws of the land.
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    Apr 29 2011: We could start with: Know the limits of being tolerant. It has its uses but the key is to know the limits. At what point being tolerant damages you or the interests you represent? Does it slow down your performance in the matters you are invested in?

    I think we can talk of promoting tolerance when there is a space for tolerance.

    Let's say you find out that your colleague at work (or neighbour or even bystander) occasionally beats up her husband at home. Do you stay passive and only engage on the issue to the extend of your current interactions with her (like don't mention it) or do you take proactive approach and do something more (like report her to the authorities).

    When it comes to preferences of the likes of food,colour, books, etc. we seem to exhibit good tolerance towards the others. Perhaps if we extend this size of tolerance to many other domains (issues) that do not affect us directly as individuals then we will live globally (as average) in a much more tolerant world. But then again do you have to be tolerant to foreigners until you lose your job to one of them and just then become less tolerant?

    The less we want(desire) more space for tolerance we open, therefore more tolerant we become. If we reverse this it would mean if more power and influence is what we want less space for tolerance there is on the issues related to power (what we want), therefore less tolerant we become.

    Perhaps if everybody keeps an eye on everybody else and reports them to some Tolerance Affairs Office then perhaps we could have more tolerant society.But then again if most people believe they are going to be reported they would come up with ways to circumvent that.In that respect lessons could be learned from criminals that are active and not in prison. Effectively they have found a way to express themselves without being reported.

    We can learn to appear more tolerant but we would never be, because "tolerant" could mean "invariant" and that is what we are usually not.
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    Apr 29 2011: To promote tolerance: Integrate.
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    Apr 28 2011: Standards of behavior change as the composition of the group changes, so the solution to each specific event will likely change as well. The politics of responding to what is considered bad behavior can be very tricky at times.

    One standard of behavior I favor is to encourage behavior as if the person one respected and admired most in the world was observing the behavior.
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    Apr 28 2011: Imagine that you are being recorded and that your response will be watched by the most valued and highly respected members of your personal and social circle. Deicide on how you would like their analysis and commentary about your responses to go. What would you like them to say about you, to think about you, learn about you and remember you by?

    Consider how your response will affect your relationship with your own spirit-will you remain loyal and win or betray and lose the honour of your own spirit?

    Even if you play it safe and keep yourself clear of scorn from the outside, how will you live with the censure of your own inner voice?

    What makes these situations difficult is that you are not sure which audience you need to play to and who’s sensibilities and inters you need to privilege in order to keep yourself safe or advantaged. Your values show in what you are prepared to sacrifice.

    De-humanising practices are anti social. Why should you be constrained in your responses by social convention?
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    Apr 28 2011: What kind of projects could be created for kids to promote tolerance ? (At school, after school, with friends) ...
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      Apr 28 2011: I have written many articles on de-humanising, depreciating and exclusionary practices. I and am in the process of turning these articles (many of which are on my website) into practice programs using actors, recorded and animated therapeutic stories into teaching materials. These materials are being adapted to all age groups so that adults and children can be exposed to the same programs in schools or communities. I am also in the process of writing a book on an appreciative approach to healing in the personal, relationship and social realms. This book will be full of tools and ideas about how to re-humanise the world in each or your spheres of influence.
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        May 3 2011: sooo important..especially here on my littl e island which like many rural parts of the wolrd is cut off..despite the vast possibilities of the easy to get in grown and live on a diet of "memes"
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      Apr 30 2011: Kids are at a stage where patience is a rare commodity. patience is promoted when team work is delegated. I am an actor and i have seen that the film industry does work with the highest level of tolerance right from fact that the film making business has people from all racial backgrounds working, eating spending time together. For a single scence to attain perfection people from all depts have to be in perect sink and harmony. I would therefore like to put forward acting worshops that we have developed that instill teamwork. It attests the fact that winning is possible only with perfect co ordination of the entire team.
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      May 2 2011: Start with the issues in primary schools between different cultures. They can be 'enlightend' if children are taught everybody is '50%' the same. We need to eat, sleep, (work and play). This is something you need to organize together locally. This creates a very general connection between all children in the classroom, a physical survival base for tolerance, on which accepting mental survival differences could be build.

      So in the future, no matter how much they disagree on something 'mental' they always have the on going discussions between them on how to improve collective survival.

      As for grownups, we take survival for granted, leaving 100% space in our mind to think about immaterial stuff. Quite dangerous... In case of economic crisis, oil/food shortage we will not have the experience with eachother to deal with it locally. And all we know about eachother are mental differences, so there must be the solution in solving fear/hunger.
      • May 14 2011: Probably higher than 50% - One could even start a discussion around what the % should be (& settle on a range, not one 'correct truth'). Then I suggest the question: 'What would 100% be like?' My own personal answer is 'BORING'. Hopefully this would be a well accepted answer - but I don't know!

        Proceeding on the assumption of general agreement to 'Boring', hopefully one could progress to valuing that % of diversity.

        Depending on the 'clientele', one might also pursue the 100% alike/0% diversity hypothesis from a different perspective. Progress, comes to mind. Where would new ideas come from? Most people have been involved in brainstorming - without diversity, it would be a pointless exercise!

        I'm sure that there are other discussions that show why 0% diversity is a bad thing - but these two spring readily to mind.

        It wouldn't hurt to take a look at 100% diversity and see that it would not be desirable either. We need to have some things in common and we do!

        And what does life present to us? Why, enough commonalities that we can work together and enough diversity to make that work interesting and productive!

        Schools should recognize in some way, Christmas (not 'winter break' - it avoid diversity), 'Chinese' New Years, Diwali, Ramadan & the Eids, Water Festival, Persian New Year, Passover, Hanukkah, etc.

        Having said all that, 'venue' might well affect the discussion. I was raised in a town that was (& still is) fairly monocultural. I now live in (very near) Vancouver, BC which is thrillingly multicultural (in my opinion).
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          May 16 2011: Yes, schoolclasses should have a calendar with all the holidays of different backgrounds in the classroom. I grew up in a village, 0% diversity. Potestants and Catholics is as far as diversity got..

          'God/Allah' fearing parents tell children to defend their religious culture. A clash on playgrounds.

          Holidays could be a good method to see 'all' cultures have celebration needs, with about the same goals. They are just named different and are on different dates.
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        May 18 2011: As for sameness, it's an awful lot more than fifty percent.
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      May 3 2011: Education is the path! We need to start to educate our kids at an early stage at school. Beginning with primary grades. I believe that is very important to include projects that promote the multiculturalism. Including a curriculum that study the history of the different immigrants that have come to this country will be a good start. In this way we will be able to understand our differences, accepting others, by learning about their cultures.
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        May 22 2011: Yes, a thousand times yes! Not only incorporate it into our educational system (which is in dire need of overhaul to begin with!) but incorporate it AND assign it a high priority. It starts with the hard work of defining and articulating it and infusing it in the curriculum, then training prospective teachers how to include it in their teaching approach, then developing a way to hold teachers accountable for making it a part of their classroom.
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        May 4 2011: Man, I love now knowing that school is 'creative leisure'! That's what it has always been to me. Jaime, I have already raised my 5 and I did apply that stuff in my home with good results.
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        May 4 2011: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!Thanks Jaime!
        "The use of language must be considered a very precise instrument for our communications. Its not a free tool but is a skill thas has to be improved. The meaning of your words is clear, but could be sharper." I invite you to critique my words any time to help me be sharper.
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        May 21 2011: Hi Jaime,

        I agree with you that education at home is key. However, MOST kids grow up with parents with a biais about something racial or political. I wonder if the people on FOX News grew up in a tolerant and open household ?
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          May 24 2011: That's a great point Caroline. What I cannot absorb is why they still have viewers. Watching one O'Reily attack and ridicule session was enough for me.
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      May 13 2011: I do an exercise called "Me to We." In essence, students are paired with the most different other in their classroom (I do it with adults as well). They capture one another's story and create a "Shared Values Plan"

      They quickly engage mutual empathy when they see how similar they are through sharing interests, characteristics and values. A window in which both unique differences and unseen similarities comes into view. Suddenly they see how the kid they might never have dared or thought to connect with is interesting and has something to offer they had never before noticed. It is a co-reflective, co-creative process -- they see the power of their own and the others story.

      Apologies for linking yet another essay -- but it captures a favorite example about Me to We:

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          May 22 2011: Jaime,

          I've pondered your response, somewhat unsure of what to make of it. But as I reread it, it occurs to me that your interpretation of achieving Me to We through dance is quite resonate at numerous levels.

          The first, something I had lost track of was the thought of incorporating partnered dance into research to get in touch with a deeper, more visceral experience of "Me to We." The balance of physical presence and what might be considered something like inter-infusion with respectful tensions and boundaries is a key to this relational dance, I think.

          I'm unsure of how this would lie out logistically, but note how you unknowingly captured if not in a sense affirmed and enriched a concept I conceived a couple of months ago and shared with another in private conversation.

          The second relates to a community initiative I'm involved with that is considering street dances (in an American suburb) to engage healthy intergenerational activity. The physical, emotional and social benefits--particularly at a time and place where busy, media mediated lives and stress lead to ever more isolation between diverse neighbors could be transformative.

          Third is the thought that all this builds very much on is this sense of concentricity that your words so richly suggest. The layered effect of shared movement to music,the harmony, timing, touch, rhythm, sights, sounds has a compounding effect, both in the moment and beyond. There is a sense of co-creation, of open-ness and interdependency at so many levels in shared dance that can construct shared trust that words alone can't always.

          Within and beyond these all, as you point out is the powerful effect of co-consciousness of our abilities to be and quite literally embody happiness together. And, to as such endorphin satisfying experiences so often do, feel compelled to 'come back for more' of such delightful Me to We.

          Which, I must say, with belated gratitude for your reply: has me wanting to go out and dance!

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        May 18 2011: Excellent ideas, Ms. Walstrom!
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      May 14 2011: To bring tolerance, especialy to kids. We need to be tolerant ourselves, for they are learning through what they see.

      Kids wouldn't behave violently if they wouldn't witness this behavior from somebody else. They only mimic grown ups behavior.

      So you can't expect to successfully educate all kids into being tolerant as long as there are intolerant adults. All this would create nothing but a generation of perfect victims to become. It would not be helpful for them in the current society, change the society and the people will follow the model, make love and compassion to generate funds.

      Thats the real solution.
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      May 14 2011: Make them part of the ruling group, then take that away and make them part of an oppress group. This is the only way you can understand how to apply tolerance. Because if all your life you live in the privilege group you will never will be able to really be tolerant. Also if you are part of an oppress group you will likely become an oppressor yourself.
      • May 14 2011: I don't know about the first two sentences - the exercise is not practical.

        " if all your life you live in the privilege group you will never will be able to really be tolerant.

        I would change to:

        ' if all your life you live in the privilege group you will find it very difficult to be tolerant as there is so much you take for granted, without questioning it.'
        I think there is hope and that some empathy can be achieved with effort.

        "Also if you are part of an oppress group you will likely become an oppressor yourself."
        Alas, this is so true - and I appreciate the hope you allow here with the word 'likely' - not certainty!
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          May 24 2011: I think you are right in that the above post could have been worded less absolutely (the "likely" is key, I agree) and gone further in its reasoning.
          But really I wanted to point out that the exercise is practical, in that is has been done! Not without controversy of course. See this:

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      May 24 2011: I'm working on spreading my local TEDx conference on social media, and in that process I've been learning about some cool ideas related to this. I'll mention a few here here:

      One of the workshops will be run by a guy who travels to schools to teach kids songwriting and then helps them write songs about issues that affect their whole school communities, such as bullying and peer pressure. The kids who write the songs evidently live by their words and try to instill their ideas in others, and not just through their songs.

      The other will be run by the co-founder of River of Words, who empowers students with artistic skills and uses the natural and cultural world around them to inspire them to self-expression. In the process they find more self-confidence as well as understanding of others and a connection with the world around them.

      Finally, my favourite example of building tolerance->compassion in children I read about some time ago in this article:
      Check that out! It's about bringing an infant into the classroom over the course of the year and having the children bond with it, learn about caring for it, and watching this tiny being develop. (As it turns out, the person behind this, Mary Gordon, is speaking at TEDxGGED, which I didn't realize until just a minute ago! Very exciting.)

      I look forward to learning more about these things at the conference itself, which (shameless plug) you can check out at , and I hope these ideas inspire your own.
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    Apr 28 2011: First I'll embrace the victim and encourage them to forgive with a emphatic understanding that the attacker is most likely a victim of some sort themselves.

    Secondly, I will pray that the perpetrator can heal the interior issue that allows them to be prejudiced.

    If you are going to be authentic, stand by your values and disregard what others may think about your admirable traits.
    Any relationship that can deteriorate based on right actions is not one to be cherished.
  • Apr 26 2011: Thanks Andrea. I use acceptance, then tolerance.
    You know, I don't believe in God and a Divine Plan, so I first ask a person if they do and if "yes" I ask why do they believe in a Divine Plan and then think they are so godly as to mess with what is going on? It isn't just a moral dilemma as to whether they should help or not, nor is it the hindsight that some express after they interfered and found out they were right! If there is a Plan, their conscious judgment cannot be anything but wrong, even if they were right, on our level What exactly is "assertive empathy"? Sharing and understanding for both participants, or how many are involved in what looks to be disagreeable? You know, it's important to learn how not to care. Most would react to that statement as being preposterous. But, for at least the last 70-80 years, the main definition (#1), listed in all kinds of English dictionaries, from 1935 up to 2005, that I used for checking this, defined "care" as, a troubled state of mind. Interesting, as most would not think preposterous to get rid of or not have, a troubled state of mind. All in all, that is a tough question. My first reaction is to help, followed right away by a certain sense of the danger to my own being. At times, I have stepped in, and at other times I have not. And if I am honest, I don't feel good about the latter, but is that not still unhealthy pride and ego on my part? Where I live there are many beggars. Where I used to live there were more so I had lots of experience in sensing, reflecting, watching and feeling very clearly, when my heart closed, or rather, when I closed my heart, so that I could pass by without giving, from the inner debate I had about how I cannot give anymore for that day, or to another beggar today. And, it really helps to have a friend or acquaintance who overtly hates beggars, etc. and one can use that to look good, see the need, and carry out a good deed, overcoming the fear from being so important. I think acceptance
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    Apr 26 2011: Growing up in Maine I thought I was the great white liberal because I sought out people of all classes, races and religions, spoke out against racism..quietly but firmly..etc. etc. Took me a long time to realize how subtle and ingrained racism insulated our lives are..even if we think we are global citizens because we have a lot of stamps in our passports . It's very hard work and at least half of the problem is inside each of us..
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    Apr 26 2011: i would say justbeing tolerant is a good way to do it, sometimes people may ask why you feel a certain way towards something if its not something people are so tolerant about, and usually spers good conversation, and then just hope that person thinks twice and does the same
  • Apr 25 2011: Less than 5 minutes ago: The non-tolerance is very hurtful. I think if you are around certain persons who judge, ridicule, whatever, different people and groups, they need to hear how you feel. Sometimes it just takes you saying that you do not like the way that they are talking for them to stop. In businesses, you can keep quiet, but I personally take risks and speak up for other people and their well being. Always use a pleasant tone. Others will be more willing to listen to you if you do. The absence of tolerance is rude, and very human, but if we stick together, it could be stopped.

    When sticking up for people that are too scared to do so themselves, I haven't gained too much trouble. Sure there are people who are mean and nasty to you for being nice, but those people aren't understanding and don't pose as being important in my life. Friends accept it and thank me for it; clients, I haven't had a problem with; I guess who I would call my significant other (boyfriend) thanks me and supports me in promoting the tolerance.

    People who are nasty and are lacking understanding need to be told they are. Say it nicely. It has affected me. I would've liked it if others had stuck up for me or something, so why can't you?
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      Apr 26 2011: I am not so sure it is about people being nasty as it is there is no light coming in..they live in closed cultures where they hear no other voices..their racist jokes and slurs are just cultural norm to them..( Do you kno wthe McGarrigle's song Southern Boys? true..So what you are doing when you speak up is letting them know there is a world beyond their culture where these values are not highly regarded..and as you say..if it is delivered in a no judgmental..way from a place of calm and equanimity in any of will have great force.