Tolerance is defined by Dictionary.com as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry”. Acceptance is defined as “favorable reception; approval; favor”.
I don’t like the word tolerance. There’s something about it that makes me think “putting up with” or “dealing with.” Saying, “I’m tolerant of Islam,” is like saying, “I put up with Muslims.”
I know that this is probably not what most people mean when they say they’re tolerant of certain people, but that’s what it sounds like. We tolerate the heat in Western Australia. We tolerate things that are irksome, but that we must suffer though because we live on this planet.
Tolerance, with it’s inherent permissive nature, says “I’m allowing this to occur.” Acceptance, with its inclusion of approval, says “I approve of this.” So, what of say – neoliberalism – am I tolerating neo-liberalism, without accepting it? I am living with the ideology while not agreeing with it. That’s the only definition that makes sense to me.
Let’s consider another ‘ideology’ – I would never treat a racist as lower than myself. I would never try to take away their basic rights. However, because their beliefs sometimes require them to force their values and views upon other people, I cannot approve of that. Bigots, on the other hand, don’t tolerate or accept. They refuse to tolerate, and most often refuse to accept others as equal people. This, to me, is where civil society is failing.
Webster’s online also defines acceptance as: “to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable […]” This is the definition I like. To ’embrace’.
Neoliberalism is currently the dominant paradigm, and many tend to treat it as such. However, we want to protect the values of the ‘common good’ that are inherent in our social systems. We watch out for those whose lot in life is not as easy as others. We stand up for the basic rights of those who are being oppressed by particular groups. For example, the ideology of ‘austerity’ needs to be challenged. We don’t accept neoliberalism in terms of approving of it, but we know it’s not going away. We know we must be vigilant.
Not everyone believes as you do, and thinking everyone eventually will is naive. You can be a watchdog, and you can campaign for protection of social safety nets, but you can’t force people to live by your values.