Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tolerance, Intolerance

In the world in which I live, tolerance is a concept embraced by many of the privileged who work with lesser-privileged people, by people who work in settings where people of differing cultures interact, and by people who work for justice and social change. Tolerance is a good place to begin acting on new awareness that a person isn't alone in the world. Acting from a place of tolerance broadens the horizon of personal possibilities and creates alliances that couldn't have been envisioned without it. Tolerance is a good place to begin.

As awareness and experience expand, tolerance begins to limit deepened relationships, in particular those with whom there are fewer shared life experiences. If, however, life experience does not include oppression, marginalization, invisibility, enforced silence, and forms of self-hatred, then how can such life experiences be sought and understood by those who have not had them? Similarly, how can those who are not privileged seek and hear those who have privilege? Why should either group want to hear the other?

Because we are all living together in a world of decreasing resources. If we don't understand each others' life experiences, then how can problems we face together be solved together? Solving problems -- understanding problems -- can be neither the sole domain of those with power and resources nor those without them.

Consider how pharmaceutical companies, government policy-makers, and people with AIDS finally learned how to listen to each other. The problems they each face still exist, but they are better able to help each other now that they can understand each other.

Consider how medical practitioners, parents, researchers, scientists have begun to change problems associated with naturally-occurring arsenic in Bangladesh's water supply.

I believe that by reflecting critically on my experience, I can change my awareness of who can help me with the problems I face. I don't have to be alone in my discomfort, despair, and deprivation. I recognize that I have sufficient privilege to reflect critically. I have time, money, education, and intelligence enough to do so. And, I have the motivation to do so.

I do not tolerate several things that interfere with the quality of my life. That is, my world is filled with foods that include substances my body does not deal well with. I am not allergic. However, I dislike the physical results of consuming corn, soy, wheat flour, and bovine dairy products.

Similarly, I dislike spending money for food that has traveled many miles to reach me. I need fresh food in my life, but where I want to live, I can't always have it fresh. I don't trust corporations producing some of my food to have my health in mind; I recognize that a corporation's obligation is to make money, not necessarily food that is good for me to eat.

In a world dependent on decreasingly available oil, I would like to use as little of it as possible. Because I like to eat three times a day, my food choices become one way to do that. I would like to eat less overall, eat food that is grown nearby, and preserve more. I would like to increase my support for neighbors who have expertise in food production that I don't. Vegetables. Meat. Grain. Fruit. How can I support them? How can I supplement what they aren't able to provide me? I'll need to ask them and listen carefully.

Community-supported agriculture
Slow Food International

More about my thinking, eating, tolerance, and intolerance another day.

How do you express your beliefs?

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