Nearly two decades ago I was traveling through Europe, primarily Switzerland, and I got a very good lesson in Tolerance. I understood tolerance to be a behavior of acceptance as it was commonly used at the University I was attending, but the Swiss understood it differently.
Muslim immigration, primarily illegal, was a problem in Switzerland in 1993. Most were refugees from the war torn Yugoslavia and Turkey it seems. While the bigger department stores were less obvious about their disapproval of the unwanted guests, smaller family owned vendors such as cafes, butchers, bread shops, etc would all PROMINENTLY DISPLAY “No Turks, No Yugos” in their storefront windows.
This was an odd sight for a 23 year old American Southerner who had been conditioned his whole life to ‘Tolerate’ other races and cultures. Not sure about everywhere else in the nation, but in the Deep South we were constantly educated about racial and religious equality and acceptance. I had no issue with it, it seemed obvious.
So I asked a new acquaintance about this obvious discrimination and intolerance. What I heard was an eye opener. “You Americans are not as smart as you think you are” is the way the response began. I immediately prepared to entrench myself into my understanding and position, she being younger and obviously less experienced. But being 23 and quite attractive, she threw me off guard with her intoxicating Swiss accent so I relaxed and allowed her to continue. My superior understanding and experience of a few years would have to wait.
Ursula, or rather Usi, explained that Tolerance does not mean Acceptance. It means that you are irritating me and because I am civilized I am giving you the opportunity to cease your behavior before I too ignore civility. She went on to explain how Tolerance was measured by how long civility could be maintained, by the one Tolerating of course. The one being Tolerated, she reminded me, is not being Civil.
A High Tolerance meant civility could be maintained for a longer period than when having a Low Tolerance. Different behaviors were tolerated more or less depending upon the person and how long they had been tolerating something or someone. Now I’m paraphrasing here, I assure you there is no way to truly recreate this lesson in life. Just imagine 20 odd years of Tolerance Training being erased in almost an instant by a youthful foreigner.
(I’ve always been attracted to smart women so I was powerless against her accent, beauty, and strangely logical explanation. Her inexperience, youth, and superior understanding were now only a minor irritation :) But it did not end here.
Usi went on to tell me the story about the Camel and the Tent. You see a Camel stuck its nose under the edge of a tent and the owner told the Camel in so many words “No thanks, you need to find other lodging” to which the Camel responded “Surely you can Tolerate just my nose under the edge of the tent? I am a refugee and it is so cold out there and so nice and warm in here.” And so the tent owner felt bad and obliged.
She then went through the rest of the story quickly as if she wanted to get to the point right away. So the Camel pushes his neck into the tent, the owner now irritated objects, the camel reminds him how cold it is, how a little Tolerance is warranted, and the owner concedes. Then the Camel’s legs, objection, another plea for Tolerance, and again capitulation.
And finally the Camel gets his whole body inside and pushes the once owner out. The former owner of the tent tries to get his nose under the tent and the Camel hits him proclaiming “No Trespassing!” The moral of the story, Wisdom can come from unexpected places and DO NOT entertain Uninvited ‘guests’.
Tolerance is a one way street. Tolerance is not an invitation for more of the same behavior. Endless Tolerance is the path to Homelessness.
Do the Latin Americans and Socialists come to mind?
Steve A Morris