The Value of Tolerance

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Now I know this is supposed to be a blog about parenting and my life with the kids, but I came across a video on Facebook and I really just needed to wite about it…
I do feel that it absolutely has a place here, because in my opinion the most important value we can teach our children is Tolerance.
Please excuse me if I go on a few tangents here – but I do feel very strongly about this topic…

This is the video (in two parts) and it is about a project called “blue eyes/ brown eyes” It is really worth watching at least the first part before reading on…:

This is a link to the wikipedia site for some more background information for those who are interested:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Elliott

The exercise was developed to educate the students involved about the effects of being a minority.
In the US this is often used in relation to racism but it can be applied in so many ways, such as workplace diversity training or school projects. And that is where I first came across it.

I am extremely interested in History which is just as well since where I grew up you can’t really escape it…
I was born in Weimar, which is a place of huge historic and cultural Interest.
(and well worth a visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar)

One place that Tourists with an interest in History rarely miss is Buchenwald – a concentration camp established in 1937 and liberated in 1945. The camp is located only 8km from the city centre.
In April 2005, the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of the camp, there was a huge project week organised by all secondary schools in Weimar and surrounding area.

At the time I was in the 11th grade and in the middle of studying for my Abitur (A-Levels). Every Student had to sign up for a project and I signed up for “blue eyes/brown eyes”.
When we arrived at the venue we were divided into two groups – students with blue eyes and students with brown eyes…
Now I was, shall we say, somewhat outspoken as a student so I promptly pointed out that I had green eyes… I was put in the “blue eyes” group for “asking a stupid question with a defiant attitude”…
As in the video the “blue eyes” group was led into a cold empty room without any further explanations or niceties, while the exercise was explained to the “brown eyes” group.
This seemed to go on for a long time. After a while someone came and in and looked at all of us then addressed me and asked me if there were any problems… slightly regretting my previous attitude I just humbly replied “no”. He then asked me to follow him and took me to the other group. The atmosphere here was entirely different…
The rest of the exercise was pretty much the same as in the video above… It was altogether not a pleasant but indeed a very eye opening experience…
The point that they used me to make was how quickly a person can be convinced to go along with a majority to protect themselves from exclusion.
Now, I consider myself a very tolerant person but I kept my mouth shut and did what was expected of me. Prior to this experiment I would have sworn blind that I would always stand up for what I believed in.
But afterward I realised that had I lived in 1930/ 1940 there really is no way of knowing what I, or anyone else in that situation would have done. Would I have protected myself and my family or would I have stood up for what I believed in and risked the worst? Would there even have been a point in taking that risk?
It is so easy to make assumptions, so very easy to go along with the mob, so easy to blend in and conform. But that doesn’t make it right.

What individuals living in that time were faced with every day were life and death decisions and speaking up could and would have had dire consequences – So many of us living today are so very fortunate, in that we can make some very simple choices that can truly mean the world to another person without us having to risk very much more than maybe a disapproving relative or a few bemused looks…
We can choose to accept everyone for who he or she is, regardless of their ethnic origin, sexual preferences, physical abilities or religion.
We can choose to teach our children to treat everyone with respect and kindness…

At this point a very poignant example:

Parents like this are the epitome of ignorance … I can only sigh … I don’t have words that articulate in an appropriate manner the annoyance I feel towards this woman…
I would hazard a guess that her children will not grow up to be the most tolerant of people to say the least …

Intolerance and Discrimination happens everyday, everywhere – in one form or another. Bullying, internet trolls, homophobia, sexism, racism… the list goes on… and on… and on, and it makes me so very, very sad.
Isn’t life far too short to spend it judging others?

My Grandma used to say (in not so many words) we are all born naked and we can’t take anything with us when we die, we can only try to do the best with the opportunities we are given.

In the words of Mr Martin Luther King:
“I have a dream that my”…”little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Until next time…
Ta da =)

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