At this time of year I am constantly reminded of my intolerance of other people. When I’m on a train or a plane other peoples’ sniffles can cause a disproportionate level of anger to well up in me. It defies logic, they can’t help being ill (they could blow their nose but maybe they don’t have a tissue) and if I’m honest with myself, their their sniffing doesn’t really affect me.
I’m also acutely aware that this intolerance is only directed towards strangers. If it was a friend or loved one, or even just an acquaintance I wouldn’t mind at all and might even be sympathetic.
This seems to work on many levels.
I’m not American but if I was, I wouldn’t have voted for Donald Trump. I thought I couldn’t possibly sympathise with anyone’s reasons for voting for a man who not only is known for irritating sniffles, but whose values are painted to be so far from my own.
I was proved wrong. While in an Uber in San Diego my driver, a lady in her 50’s with a son of mixed race, explained to me the circumstance that had led to her becoming a driver after decades of skilled work. She told me how she hadn’t been able to find any other job, and how Trump’s promise of bringing industry back into the US for Americans like her meant he was her only option.
I left that Uber with a new perspective, not on Trump, but on a society created by current politics that leaves good people with the feeling that he is their only hope.
We allow ourselves to become isolated from people with different backgrounds, views and values. A position which is made easier when we cocoon ourselves in a world of media which only agrees with our preexisting beliefs.
How much intolerance could be removed from society if different groups just took the time to talk, even briefly? Could governments somehow encourage this as a solution to tensions in society – not in the form of debates, which themselves are adversarial in nature, but by somehow encouraging simple social mixing?
Ensuring that schools and universities accept students from mixed backgrounds is a start. But how can social mixing of working age adults of all backgrounds be encouraged? A topic for a future post….