Friday, March 23, 2007

Respect and Tolerance...

I am all for civility. I love gentle manners. One of the things that attracts me to Thailand is the civility that is built into everyday life through its customs.

Kreng jai aside, I don't like the disingenuous practice of claiming to "respect" all points of view. One of the things I was thinking about yesterday was discernment. How do we decide what's valid, what's not valid, who to trust for guidance, who do we respect?

When I met Ajahn S., one of the first things I realized is how closely his behavior and his stated values match. I have to admit that I kind of "fell in love" with him. Not in the "I want to jump your bones and eff you" kind of love ~ but the kind of love that comes about when we realize that someone is completely trustworthy, when someone has no agenda, when someone has deliberately and consciously chosen a certain way of life and lives it, even when it's difficult. I respect him. That is how I knew I could safely listen to him and follow his advice.

Not all ways of viewing the world are equally worthy of respect. I don't respect the view that sex is a commodity to be bought and sold and has no relation to love. I don't respect the view of folks who think their race is superior to other races and that it grants them the right to oppress, discriminate against and even murder those of another race. I don't respect the view that babies can be sucked out of their mother's wombs and thrown in the garbage because they're inconvenient. I don't respect the view that might makes right and or power or wealth equal moral authority.

I don't believe we have the right to become rude and boorish when we are at odds with someone else's views, either, even if we don't respect the ideas or the person. Greg Koukl wrote an article at and put it this way: "We should be egalitarian towards people but elitist toward ideas." He points out the difference between logic and philosophical backdrop of "tolerance".

A little bit of spice is good, too much is bad. It's so important to be careful what we say we respect and what we tolerate, what we're willing to emulate. When it comes to choosing someone to accept guidance from, that seems even more important.




Hel said...

"We should be egalitarian towards people but elitist toward ideas." - Wonderful

Yours is an opinion I respect.For all the reasons you mentioned. And because you question with compassion.

MsLittlePea said...

Me too.


Laurie said...

I agree with hel and pea, I respect your opinion, Chani.

Lucia said...

Several months ago in Mali, I found myself thinking about universal truths and how to separate them from cultural beliefs. There are certain things that are wrong throughout any culture - murder, slavery, etc.

Your post brought back to me thinking about universal truths and what those universal truths are. Is sex as a commodity a universal truth?

Thailand Gal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thailand Gal said...

Hel, thank you for saying so. I'm still in learning mode so a lot of times I'm awfully darned wrong! :)


MsPea... thanks. :)


Laurie, thanks. I'm really trying to get this down, at least some time before I die. LOL


Lucia, I honestly don't believe so. There are cultures (not just Thai) that believe sex is far more sacred than that.





QT said...

I agree with you about Ajahn - it is easier to trust someone's opinions or theories when you know there is no hidden agenda.

Not all ways of viewing the world are equally worthy of respect, this is true, but we must tolerate many of them in order to maintain some semblance of freedom for our own beliefs that someone may find questionable.

jen said...

spice is flashy. it's draws us in. but it doesn't keep us there, and while spice makes the noodle dish taste better, it starts with the consistency of the starch itself.

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, I linked to an article today with Andrei Codrescu. I think you two are in agreement- here's what he said:

I think "Thou shalt not judge" is one of those wimpy, fearful, courage-free ideas. The potential of a human being is in commenting, translating, judging the world. Not only should you not shy away from judging, you should do so as much as possible—as long, of course, as you're not harming someone else by doing that. You see, it is not necessarily important to walk a mile in another person's shoes to know that that person is out to lunch or that their shoes don't fit. It's possible to know those things without actually having to do that. So I think that an unwillingness to judge only reflects a lack of courage and it's the disease of a politically correct culture that is afraid to offend. I think you should critique as much as you are able to observe, and not shy away from it. In a true democracy, you'll get equally strong opinions coming back at you, and you have to survive the clash. It's your prerogative as a free person to spout off and even make an ass of yourself if you like, but you'll get your corrective if somebody equally free is also speaking. And it's not that we should be intentionally offensive to one another; we should be candid. The genuineness of democratic discourse is in candor. It's not in avoiding offense.LINK

Ginnie said...

Interesting post. I think one has to be careful when using candor, however. I've got to be pretty sure that my side of the street is clean before I start judging the other side. I certainly don't accept or condone what I don't like or agree with...but I do try to understand it.

Alice said...

Bravo. You nailed it. That discernment you speak of is lost in current American politics and in our culture in general.

Julie Pippert said...

Greg Koukl has the right of it, I think.

As do you, with this, "It's so important to be careful what we say we respect and what we tolerate, what we're willing to emulate."

This is, I think, a part of living consciously.

I had to think about when I say "I respect all points of view."

It's situational.

I don't say it (or really mean it, if I ever have, which I can neither confirm nor deny what with swiss cheese memory and all LOL) *in general* about *everything.*

For example, religion. I respect that people have different beliefs. I respect most of those beliefs. I don't respect or tolerate using any of those beliefs to trample on or harm others or the planet.

For example, in conversation. I will be respectful of opinions that differ from mine. Someone doesn't have to be like me for me to respect it.

When I don't respect or tolerate is when it brings harm. But I will try hard to retain a politeness about it. Usually.

Oh and drawing from above..."thou shalt not judge..."

I think the principle actually under fire there is the misquoted Bible verse. "Thou shalt not judge" sounds great, but that's not really what is written, nor is it what is meant.

Read the whole thing:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” - Matthew 7:1-5

That's deep, and actually goes far to support the rest of what is quoted in thomaslb's comment.
So I don't think we need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

It's also a VERY tricky wicket..because judge means "to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises." That careful weighing is often the missed pieces---and is the important bit---just as most of the rest of the quote is often missed.

The even trickier wicket is finding just action to take based on your judgment.

And of course, there is the negative judgment---which is what the real Bible verse means: being hypocritical.

What I am is a product of the last 40 years of American culture, which is mostly post-peacenik.

I do have still a lot to learn about that wisdom point I mentioned above. I think I make a lot of mistakes.

But not as an intentional copout.

I do want to emulate tolerance and respect in the hopes that I can make that happen. I do want to approach interactions from that place, and use good. I also do not want to sit back until they come for me, so to speak.

Suzy said...

Chani, I wanted to comment on one sentence in this post:

"I don't respect the view that babies can be sucked out of their mother's wombs and thrown in the garbage because they're inconvenient."

I wonder if you'd be willing to visit my blog and read what I posted about abortion in January (maybe the 22nd?) The way you phrase it here, no I don't agree with that view either, but I believe that most abortions are not taken that cheaply or lightly. Perhaps you'll think less of me when you read that I have had 2 abortions, but I guess that is a risk I'll take. Or maybe we can have a dialogue about it ...

Anyway, this has been on my mind.