How to make India more tolerant

Poor Narendra Modi seems to have lost his mojo of exploiting the PR machinery to his advantage. His appeal looks dented with the Bihar elections results. He seems to have promised too much too soon by underestimating the depth to which India has been screwed by Congress politics of appeasement. And now the jobless congress supporters have done their bit to inflame the passions about the whole issue of intolerance. Modi with his silence on this issue is seen as supportive of the religious hotheads in his party, and seen as intolerant towards minority, which he probably is. In all of this, the so-called intellectuals are totally out of touch with the reality of india assuming that they can figure out the truth of India through the social media chatter, or a Times-Now show, or the discussions over a singlemalt at their socialite parties.

IntoleranceMaybe you belong to one of the above camps with a passionate view to support your perspective. You may see the shallowness of my claims from your perspective and can pull out facts to support your pre-established position. Soon the facts will mean less and my motivations/ leanings will become the main issue. Consciously or unconsciously, most people will soon fall into the trap of the ad homium fallacy – attacking the person, rather than the argument, judging the person rather than listening to the merits of the argument. And this is the starting point of intolerance. We all believe that arguments are made to be won, and not for exploring the truth. Facts are just the convenient accessories to the truths we have already made for ourselves.

We have always had intolerance in India – Narendra Modi is just crystallising this debate with the silence on his outspoken hothead colleagues. At its core, tolerance implies accepting a view point that you disagree with. And I am not talking about some motherhood issues all agree on like cleanliness, or safety, or law, or women empowerment etc. I am talking about others believing and doing things that offend your sensibilities and beliefs, but you still let them be. Taken to its extreme, this is the difficulty of being tolerant – you have to agree at the outset that you can be wrong, and be willing to change your core belief, in light of a better argument and even adopt it. Like there can be no holy cows, there can be not just one god/ allah, and there cant be just one sexual orientation, and there cant be one dominant gender.

Tolerance implies that the other person may not care about our sensitivities, and may even try to prove us wrong, which is something most of us don’t now how to handle. Our response to disagreement is no different than how kids disagree and argue, get personal, and then settle the dispute with a physical fight. Grownups show the same child like behaviour. Spiritually and emotionally we are probably just ten year old kids running around creating havoc in this world with our beliefs.

Our egos are huge, and take a lifetime of work to overcome it. But everything around us, all social rewards, are designed to build this ego up. We are taught to fight, to struggle, and hold our ground, to never let go of our stand, to win over others. With this mindset, the world is perceived as a zero sum game where the winner takes all and losers have no place. To lose even argument with such a mindset is nothing less than an existential crisis in our heads. This graspingness is our daily reality. We live with this acute sense of Self preservation, there is no space for anyone else in this life’s crises of ours. We dont know of another way, no one has taught us this.

We didn’t arrive at this place of intolerance because of lack of arguments to support our beliefs. In fact all sides of the argument have very strong evidence for it. All the intellectuals in the world can’t talk humanity out of their pre-set beliefs. Those who believe in so-called liberal ideas are no different in their rigid beliefs than the fundamentalists. They will hide behind the argument of logical thinking and themselves be a victim of a hundred logical fallacies that corrupt the human mind, they will spout science as the saviour but have no understanding of the essence of  scientific process or of its limitations.

Accepting someone different from us needs a lot of self assurance. It needs us to keep ourselves separate from our beliefs (maybe you are bigger than your beliefs), to be able to see our existence in a much bigger context. It is not an intellectual problem but a problem of opening ourselves emotionally to others. No arguments will get humanity out of the rut it is sinking into. The trend of individualism, self preservation, self-centric behaviour, materialism is increasing and there is no space left inside us for anyone else. The rising intolerance for others is not because of a political party, rather it is the political party that is mirroring what we have become. It is the state of our shrivelled up hearts.

What is the way out? It is to open our minds and hearts. But this evolution of hearts is a long and a painful process. For this we need to be willing to question every single belief we have, and be willing to drop it in the face of a greater truth. It is to question who we are as a human. We may all have built a self-image that we identify with which itself may be defective – are you just a person who follows a religion, or just someone who belongs to a country or a cast or a political ideology? Is there more to you than these labels? Who are you? Unless we can come to grips with who we are, we will never really understand or empathise with the other. It needs a spiritual evolution and we cant do it ourselves. This needs needs us to be guided by spiritual masters.

We need to become seekers of the higher truth. Then tolerance may just take root.

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