You can’t fight intolerance with more intolerance.

Okay, enough is enough. As Waleed Aly said last night, it’s time to stop the cycle of outrage.

People are so fast to get ‘offended’ and tear down anything they don’t agree with or don’t understand, thanks, in part to the internet age where we can sledge from behind the safety of our computer screens, and also thanks to the modern ‘media’ who pounce on anything click bait in their desperation to avoid reporting on any actual news.

I’m not saying that recent comments reported in the media are right or I agree with them, but the simple fact is, fighting intolerance with more intolerance is never, ever going to work.

If someone says something we don’t agree with, the majority now spare no time in name-calling and tearing ‘lessers’ down from our moral pedestals. We call them stupid, or ignorant, or racist, or liars, or uneducated. I have also been guilty of this. We all have been, because this is the most basic of human behaviour. We react from a place of anger and call people names without really thinking about what it is we’re trying to achieve – a constructive dialogue. A dialogue in which opinions and ideas can actually be exchanged, explored, and maybe even –gasp- changed.

The world needs a hell of a lot more dialogue and a fuckload less judging.

To facilitate a fluid exchange of ideas, free speech is a must. No matter how distasteful what some people are saying might be, you cannot stop people from having ideas and opinions. You cannot simply shut down the conversation. The second we do that, we are no longer a free society. The second we stop people from being able to express their ideas, we cease to be a democracy and we become a dictatorship. We send people and their maligned beliefs and opinions underground, where nothing ever changes. We cannot control what people do; we can only control our reactions to it.

When you decide to be offended (and it is a choice to be offended) and call people names because you don’t agree with whatever they are saying, you are, in that moment, ending the dialogue. There is no way a constructive conversation can start from a place of name-calling and derision. All that is achieved is a further entrenching into separate belief systems.

Haven’t we outgrown this basic reaction by now? Haven’t we figured out that personal attacks get us nowhere as a species?

When we feel attacked, whether that be through terrorism, or gun violence, or immigration, vaccination, religion, name calling or whatever it is that pushes your buttons, we all sink into the most basic of our emotions, fear. This primitive fight or flight fear response causes people to lash out. It’s very simple human behaviour. Isn’t it time to change this? Basic human reactions can be changed through understanding and communication. It’s actually pretty easy to rise above the low and engage on a more logical, tolerant and loving level, if effort is made to do so.

The fact is, if someone says something ill considered or inappropriate, and you react by calling them names and derision, then you are guilty of the same behaviour as they are. It’s the same intolerance in a different party dress.

The only way to fight intolerance, is with tolerance. The only way to fight hate is with love. The only way to fight violence is with peace. Think about it.

“You needn’t be calling for the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, to act destructively. While it feels good to choose destruction, right now I think we need to try construction. I’m not saying you should be silent in the face of bigotry. But when you do engage with someone you disagree with, I’m talking about assuming the best in people, showing others radical generosity in the face of their hostility. Which is the much harder choice because it demands much more restraint, patience, and strength.” -Waleed Aly.

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