Tolerance – The Basis for Pluralism and Diversity

image of many human faces

“Tolerance – The ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.”

I have posted similarly about this before.

Tolerance sounds nice and easy and important and altogether a desirable behaviour or mindset.
It is not easy, at all.
It is important and desirable.

Tolerance, as the definition in the Oxford Dictionary so nicely makes clear means to endure something one does not  agree with – or dislikes even. As human beings many, I’d say, more than 50% of most of the population of any region in this world, are raised to certain ideals and rules that they are expected to fulfill or conform with, often no matter what.

The sad and scientifically proven fact is that many people often become sick in mind and body just because of that. The patriarchal society in particular, for example, expects men to be always on the alert, always superior, always cool, calm and collected although that is neither human nor really ‘manly’.

In consequence much more men than women suffer from alcoholism, are addicted to smoking – or worse.

Human history alas is also full of results of the lack of tolerance and the reasons for it.

It seems that many human beings are easily scared by phenomena or appearances that  seem strange or unusual. The idea being that strangeness might mean danger – or at least a more or less subtle way to call ones own being into question.

The sometimes dreadful results of that kind of mindset are wars, pogroms and mass massacres of groups or peoples or tribes that seem to threaten the established order or ideals.

This can happen in everyday life too. When many people are convinced a  certain way of life is the only healthy way – and someone else deviates from that.

I make the plea here, once again, as always: Let’s tolerate anything that is inside the range of the Human Rights Declaration – and create more peace on this earth – every day.

War, Power, Power Plays – Power Balance – The Cruelty of Politics

game of chess with fire in background
Image courtesy pixabay.com – Free license

Politics is about tactics too, the official definition in the Oxford dictionary states, as one meaning:
The activities of governments concerning the political relations between states.
Politics can be wise and be based on sound values – or they are cruel and serve a few with no values at all, except their bank account(s).

Others use politics as a means to heal wounds of vanity, retrieved some time during their lifetime. Like, dreadful example, though one of many, really, Adolf Hitler, ‘Reichskanzler’ (Chancellor of the 3rd Reich) during the Nazi dictatorship in Germany.

Famously applied at the Vienna Academy of Arts and rejected he spent the rest of his life redeeming a fragile self-confidence or rather image.

To this day dictators often are about this more than anything else: Many take the wealth in the wake of power as a means to an end – and bathe in any kind of public recognition and the approval of one part (usually the rich and extremely rich) of the respective society.

These patterns are recurring, and usually do so cruelly – as per latest example, in regard to Putin in his way to power – and the Ukraine.

The Ukraine is part of the power plays between nations and actually the former Soviet Union and its remnants – as well as a personality the likes of Putin who took over this vast country of Russia bit by bit in more than two decades.

His own motives may be hidden in biographical privacy yet – but they seem rather apparent when watching recordings of his public and private appearances: Extreme understatement standing out as the apparently simple guy, the almost nice, familiar neighbour who wears his business suit anywhere, even in parades among numerous highly decorated militia…

Yet, when seen driving big motor-cars and enjoying the fact that he is a ‘force to be reckoned with’, the purported modesty and neighbourly demeanour are revealed as so much window dressing.

In the long run educating people to the values that have proven to be vital to any civil, democratic society, namely the Human Rights Declaration, are the only real weapon we have against such populism and cruel repression.

In the short run, being aware of the balance of power and respect it early on might be the safe route around war.

“Anna Karenina” – The Looks – and the Great Divide

19th century drawing of Winter palace St. Petersburg
19th century drawing of the ballroom in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg – License: public domain

Beauty, wealth, a comfortable life and an adorable son: Yet, Anna Karenina still is one of the most tragic figures in literature. In popular movies the unhappy love story is always very much stressed. The actual underlying wonderfully rendered idea of what society and its expectations can do to individuals that stand out, is one of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpieces.

If you never had the opportunity – or never felt much like reading, try one of these two ways:
Just try and read the actual book.
Look around for a fine reading of it as audiobook recording.

Leo Tolstoy makes it a ‘movie theatre in the mind’: Vivid images of the people involved, the locations they visit, the talks and exchanges make it come to life much more vibrant than any movie ever could.

Most important to me is Tolstoy’s realization of an almost cruel truth: The expectations of a patriarchal society that quickly condemns anyone who does not conform to the ideas of what a lady is supposed to be like.

And the bitter truth that holds true to this day: The wife to be nice and quiet and even a little limited, preferably. The other woman, fascinating by charms and esprit who is being desired, craved even but put at a distance that is remote adoration, at best.

Tolstoy with his usual cutting-edge powers of observation also diagnoses the underlying ‘disease’:
Men who expect a plaything, a toy and presume the position of power, even cruelly to do as they please – because the ‘guys’ never mind or even applaud.

In modern times where at least on the surface the equality of the sexes has been achieved in some parts of this world, one would expect this to be a behaviour of the past.

But some more conservative surroundings bring it up again: The ghost of women passed – and past – who suffered from male expectations – and delusions. Or the bitter payback of ‘frustration’.

Culture – Diversity – Business – True Wealth

picture of the earth in space

In anthropology one truth has become completely apparent and proven: Any culture that refuses outside influence and exchange is doomed to die.

That is not only true for peoples, such as the old Chinese one: After they had built a wall around the empire and closed off their realm, they were doomed. There are more examples in history.

It is true for businesses too: If they close off against new and outside ideas and the new perspective another culture can provide, they miss out on the very basic and actually revenue-creating asset a company can have:

The colourful perspective and invigorating effect cultures have so often in life and in business.

This is not just true for the more exotic cultures, depending on the perspective one has: The Far East viewed from this part of the world represents that exotic ‘other’ that is far enough away to be valued again.

It is actually true also, close(r) to home: Your neighbours in terms of a region can teach you something. But you would need some self-confidence to know:
Not being perfect is not a shortcoming. It is just human.

Let it suffice me to quote the prestigious magazine with online content geared towards enterprises, namely Forbes.com:

“How Much Land Does a Man Need?” – Leo Tolstoy, War and Greed

photo of a mountain landscape in Russia
The Russian Steppe – Free License – Courtesy pixabay.com

War is not really about heroes in most cases: It is about people who die, cities that are destroyed and living conditions made unbearable.

War is also about greed.

Leo Tolstoy, one of the great Russians and a giant of literature for so many fine reasons I would not count them all, captured this concept in a compelling story:

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

If you never came across it yet, you may think that even by its title you would know anyway… ‘Try it out.’

The end may be easily predicted – but the whole ‘run’ of it is masterfully done and never misses a step…

Adam Smith in World Politics? – Diplomacy Beyond Popular Images

image of a world map and a compass
Diplomacy needs among other things these very basic skills: The ability to look beyond images, propaganda and popular opinion.

Politics of peace need them too.

The Western world in my eyes is blinded in their view of the world, politics and negotiations by something almost amounting to idealism:

It‘s about money, in any shape or form, we are about it – and everyone else is too.

This is perhaps the most tragic misconception that will endanger peace in all parts of the world again and again:

Indeed certain factions of the Christian religions in the backwater of the rise of civil society around the 13th / 14th centuries claimed, in principle:

Wealth is the sign of God‘s pleasure.

Ever since an ever larger part of the world – especially rooted in the beginnings of the US society with the first actual settlers on the Mayflower representing that idea – are exactly of that frame of mind:
Be wealthy and God is with you.

Most Eastern societies from Africa, over Russia all through Asia in one way or another – in principle that is – value the community and the dignity of the individual even more.

Dignity!

I have spent most of my adult life around all manner of extremely peaceful, knowledgeable and kind people from the Near, Middle and Far East.
I have studied Persian poems and literature and have met other people from around the globe.
I have had the privilege to call books my friends in childhood and adolescence and still do. I studied languages and culture at a prestigious university and earned my M.A. degree there.

The most tragic misunderstanding between the Western world – leaning towards Adam Smith‘s ideas of economy – and the Eastern world – leaning towards trade among dignified, respected and proud tradespeople is that:

Dignity

The European literature of certain times and people as well as later stereotypes about life in the Eastern world – or the ways and means of trade and politics – is practically steeped in this painful repetitive almost ridiculous contempt:
If you know about their ‚purse‘, you know about their interests. Anyone with a contempt for money is stupid.

This is not the real driving force of mankind: Indeed, wealth was always craved, if people had gone hungry or even starved; but dignity and respect in combination with extreme poverty can be thought of in the East – not so in the West.

In the Western world, respect and the consequential dignity of a person – or a nation – are closely related, if not tightly interwoven with their monetary means.

In most parts of the Eastern world this is not the case. Dignity is a fundamental possibility that can be envisioned easily with little or no money.

Among nations dignity is crucial. Treat them with respect, dignity and regard, let them safe face.

And remember this fine part of the Christian bible that actually was originally written in that Eastern culture:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(Matthew, 25:40)


Author’s Note (April 2022):

In view of the latest developments I’d like to enlarge on this, make it clearer yet. The question after motives and real reasons is not always easy to answer. But if we are really interested in successful negotiations we need to do that. Not always is the answer to ‘cui bono’? : ‘money only’ as stated above.
Usually the attributes associated with money, or more money are actually much more important:
Respect, attention and power in certain circles.
Bluntly put: If it was about taking the Ukraine, they would have taken it long ago.

The question “cui bono” needs to be researched and answered in all directions of cause or effect or impact. Basic human motivators.

The Russian Bear – War: ‘Strength’ or Weakness?

drawing of a schematic bear on green background

Russia and Ukraine – hopes have been shattered today. War has been started. I still believe that negotiation is the only long-term solution to keep the peace.

At the same time to understand motives can help. Looking at it from here in the middle of Europe the actual situation President Putin finds himself in is indeed that of a trapped bear in many ways:

  • He started his own journey down the road of dictatorship a long time ago: The first change of laws to enable his repeated candidacy and elections for him as president was the first sign that power indeed corrupts.
  • Internal affairs are at an all time low: More and more opposition has to be met with more and more arrests and violence, even political murder, also going on for some time now. A political leader who feels strong enough would not use such measures, indeed would not need them.
    • ‘Bullies’ always were like that – and will stay that way if we let them be: They feel weak and in consequence they do everything to appear strong – or what they take for strength.
  • The situation as regards NATO from a Russian point of view is less straightforward:
    The balance of power between the ‘superpowers’ always was a rather pointed one – not to say fragile –  since WW II and stayed that way after the Cold War had ended. As long as the  more verbal than actually written agreements on the limits of NATO expansion were observed there was some manner of peace.

Imagine yourself living in your house or flat attending to your own business – and suddenly a tall apparently friendly guy knocks at your door and when you open – you see him standing there with a ‘big ol’ smile’ on his face – carrying a machine gun…
Wouldn’t you become nervous, in spite of appearances?
I get the impression that for some time now Russia may have felt like that person in the flat, seeing all those friendly people – with weapons … right in front of their place…

Make Peace Not War – Korea, Vietnam, Irak – Ukraine?

Vietnam woman swatting beside coal fire
Image courtesy unsplash.com – Free license (Woman in Vietnam)

The recent US American history since WW II is fraught with wars and interventions practically all over the world. I have posted about their last but one president almost too often in some ways; not naming names can be important.

President Joe Biden is a representative of sanity and goodwill in the Oval Office and millions of people there and elsewhere are grateful, altogether.

Mr Putin may have just lost his way temporarily… or is seriously lost to the good cause.
Yet, even he knows what war means, one part being a dreadfully bitter truth about it: In the short run weapon arsenals and storage spaces will be cleared by it – to make room for new ones…

But one thing is true too:

Soldiers, armies, naval forces – they are not nameless masses – they are people!

Each and every one of them is the son to a mother and father, perhaps a brother or nephew, maybe uncle – and father himself some day; these days also often daughters and nieces, aunts and sisters, in many parts of the wold; beloved, cherished – and remembered for their smiles, their laughs, jokes, games and even arguments or fights.

Wars kill people!

Wars ‘create‘ enemies.
The Russian arts and crafts are sometimes just wonderful, think of Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, or in music, Tchaikovsky, to name only a very few.
There are things that are quite special about the US culture:
Although a very young culture yet, they have artists, writers, painters, poets, musicians: Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Emily Wharton, George Gershwin, to also name just a very few; and a huge movie industry; their laws even allow major, high-budget movies be made that criticize their system and culture.

This is my own trailer version of the movie „Good Morning Vietnam“ that makes the bold move to show both sides of the story of a war and telling it from the only real perspective there is: the human one, the story of people, smart, kind, good or bad.

„War and Peace“? – War is the Ultimate Failure of Diplomacy

image of map of Russia, Europe Ukraine marked
Image courtesy OpenStreetMap, France

Ukraine, Russia and the US, Europe in between – it is not really new – it is once again the fight for power and money. Gas, weapons and influence on the continent are among the most prominent features of this conflict.
The global balance of power too is at stake, to some extent. Or so it appears.

But:
War is no option. It is no solution. War is driving a knife into the ‚Gordian‘ knot that others have tied – sometimes it‘s not even really ‚Gordian‘, just made to appear that way.

War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy.

War sometimes is just a means to hide even uglier goings-on.

Sometimes it is used as a means to make more money by selling weapons to both parties.

Sometimes it may even be a means to reinstate apparently lost pride. Which is perhaps the most pitiful of all reasons for war imaginable. In my opinion that reason would be sign of a severely disturbed mind.

History is full of examples for that too: Russian opposition in any shape or form is handled so cruelly and severely, not even murder being excepted in subduing any other than the official opinion; it‘s sad, tragic and dreadful all at the same time. Putin for quite some time now has become another sorry excuse for a man.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born and raised in peaceful and democratic surroundings, living in such a country where I can write what I think without having to be afraid.

That the expansion of NATO is viewed with vary eyes from all – others – concerned is only natural. Having Russian influence in Cuba for decades is one of the other variants of these opposing forces.

I could go on writing and perhaps not end till after another thousands of pages, because the principles involved are very very familiar.

Lets learn! Let‘s learn again and make peace. Not war!

Which means:
Learn and start realizing if not already done so, to understand each of the parties’ involved necessities to ‘safe face’. Which is probably the most crucial aspect of international diplomacy.
After that: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate again, and again, and again. Perhaps that kind of patience can be learned from trade:
No trade, no profit; no agreements – no trade…

War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy – and no doubt about it.

‘Chastity’ Revisited: Passion’s Pain or Joy…?

image of monastery hall in watercolour
Monastery – Free license courtesy Ecosia search engine

The religious aspect of the church trying to control passionate contemporaries putting their urges into action, cannot be overestimated in Christian regions, over the past couple of thousands of years.

A Question of Politics

But it also is basically a question of politics: Apart from food and drink and the need to ‘relieve yourself’ (discreetly put), human bodily passion is the strongest urge and many call it by rights the second most pleasurable among them. So, controlling it by making people afraid, as the Christian church has done for such a long time, means power over their minds. Which means, power over them.

I couldn’t agree more. What I also think is: It happens still far too often that people are irresponsible or downright careless. They ‘play games’ with their own or other people’s hearts just because they can.

Why hearts? Isn’t this about ‘bodily love, passion, lust’?

I’ve posted about this before.

Somehow the subject seems to come up repeatedly and a certain careful approach can easily be misunderstood by the uninitiated.

Review The Evidence

It has been made clear in the past couple of centuries by social sciences as well as medicine that passion in humans (or other organisms) is not singularly a matter of the body – uncontrollable – or, as it was posed for quite some time after the 1960s sexual revolution, just a human need, like having food and drink.

Since, simply put: If you do not drink or eat for a certain amount of time at all, you will die. You do not die from not having sexual intercourse.

Which brings me to my argument here and anywhere else in this blog if you care to check:

Although it has been represented to be two separate things, namely lust and love – they are just two aspects of one and the same thing: Emotions, feelings are closely intertwined with our body and its reactions.

We start breathing hard when the object of our desire is close. Our heart starts beating. We may feel ‘butterflies in our chest’ or just a wonderful warmth all over.

There is ample proof that all this is not to be treated lightly.

That’s all I ever mean or advocate – in so many words, sometimes even less words used:

Take Good Care of the Fire

Take good care of your or other people’s hearts, be responsible. Because for all the time mankind anywhere on this world can remember, arts, music, poetry and literature as well as fairy tales have called human passion and love what it actually is:
A fire, it can be wonderful to have around, warming, fiery, full of light – but it can burn, like a firebrand, and destroy all before it.

So, treat it – and yourself – with kindness and respect – as you would a good friend. And do unto others as you would want them to do unto you…