Tolerance

Is ‘Live and let live’ different to ‘Anything goes’ – thinking that through will help us see what our value of tolerance actually means. And to understand how we think of tolerating different views and approaches we need to think through what ‘different’ really means as well.

The former Chief Rabbi writes a book ‘The Dignity of Difference’ and in it he argues that understanding and being aware of difference can make it special rather than threatening.  When it comes to it some differences don’t really matter anyway – think what would matter to you in a moment of crisis and it is unlikely to be which football team someone supports. Those that do matter should be explored and very often tolerated.

This word has at least two meanings. One is ‘put up with’; ‘I can’t tolerate that noise…’ The other is the engineering use of the word tolerance – a band of possible measurements which can work equally as well. The FBV of tolerance is this second meaning. We are not called on to put up with things, to suffer in silence. We are called upon to recognise similar equally reasonable views and work with them or alongside them. This is ‘Live and let live’. But it is not ‘Anything goes’, since in engineering if you are outside the limits of tolerance it simply won’t work. There are obviously many examples of things that cannot be tolerated, but the most evident is that we must not tolerate intolerance.

Thinking ‘Live and let Live’ rather than suffering ‘Anything goes’ will help us see how being tolerant does not lead to the diminution of a distinctive culture but helps it grow through appreciating difference.