Monthly Archives: August 2012

Say no to Racism

Last week was the commemoration of the 1992 Rostock racism riot. It was the worst mob attack against foreigners in postwar Germany. Several hundred right-wing extremist were involved, and about 3000 neighborhood onlookers stood by, supporting them. Supporting them! The violent, racist extremist! What have happened in the decade after this horrible day? Is Europe nowadays a safer place for foreigners? I wish I could say discrimination is gone, but I fear we move more into the old habit of us versus them. Isn’t it time to look each other in the eyes and see we both want to same? Live a happy, fulfilling life?

I believe in equality of all human beings, regardless of nationality, skin-color or religion. I do not care if you are black, white, brown, yellow, Christian, Muslim, Greek, Belgium, Afghan, or American. I do not see myself as only a Dutch person in a foreign country, I see myself as an individual that tries to make to most out of his life. And I work hard to make it happen. But I am lucky. I am man, white, not religious and Dutch. I speak three languages fluently and am open and friendly. Some of my traits were given, some were taught, some I had to teach myself. But I do not think myself better than a woman, black, Muslim and Turkish that only speaks one language. I cannot judge her for I do not know which opportunities were given to her. I think her life is probably harder than mine. I am given plenty of opportunities to work, learn and develop; I doubt she is given the same.

Instead of blaming foreigners for the crisis the country (e.g. European Union) is in, look at what options are given to them. An easy blame-game would be to pass the ball to the husband, the immigrant worker who is not integrating and is sticking to his own traditions and beliefs. But that is too easy. In order to integrate one has to feel welcome, and integration, just as tolerance, is a too-way street.

All to often you hear the “integration problem” discussed by politicians, or maybe even with your neighbor. But what is this problem really? That people from a different culture keep their own traditions? Or that they still have a different skin-color? I do not think that living in a rainy country for a long period will make your skin-color turn white, so stop expecting that! People should stop thinking in boxes, and realize that working together is a win-win situation for the whole world. Provide opportunities for people to make a positive impact on the world, invest in the development of all people. Stop discriminating other people because they look different or have different traditions.

My belief is that tolerance and respect for other people is the stepping stone for the future. You do not have to share my belief; my belief does not require you to. I do not assume to hold the absolute truth, but I do belief that you don’t either.

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Filed under Europe, Foreigner

Reasons to be Tolerant of Gay people

There is still a lot of debate about the rights and duties of gay and lesbian people. I have started a short list with points why we should be tolerant of gay/lesbian people. The list is not complete, I would like you to contribute to make the list as long as possible. Of course my statements cannot apply to all gay people, just as statements about hetero people can never apply to all “straight people”. I do not mean to offend anybody; I am trying to create a tolerant community where everything can be discussed. As long as the comments are written with respect for other people, feel free to join the discussion.Gay Parade

I believe gay (that obviously includes lesbians, bisexuals and trans-genders) people should be tolerated because…

 

1. They are valuable members of our society.

Everyone can think of someone that they believe is providing value for their community and that happen to be gay. The music industry has plenty of famous, talented gay people. Also in politics one sees high positioned gay people. The German minister of Foreign Affairs (Guido Westerwelle) for example, or the Dutch minister of Finance (Jan Kees de Jager). And there are millions of gay people working hard in all industries, just like you and me trying to make a decent living and to live a happy fulfilling life.

 

2. They are fighting to be accepted and tolerated without forcing their own beliefs on other people.

Gay people are not trying to convince you to be gay. They do not feel offended that you do not feel the same way as they do. They are open and tolerant towards others beliefs. They are fighting to get equal rights as gay couples, being able to marry and adopt children. Why should anybody have a problem with that? Give them the same rights; they already have the same duties as everyone else!

 

3. They got style and guts.

Gay people are very influential in the fashion world. One could say they just have a keener eye for fashion but I think it is also because they have guts. They are not afraid to come up with new trends and think outside the box. Fashion would be quite boring if everyone would only design conformist outfits.

 

4. I have started with the first three reasons, it is up to you to make number four!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Asia, Europe, USA

Olympics 2012: Games of Tolerance?

The summer Olympics 2012 in London has been going on for over a week now. Exhilarating sports performances by the worlds best sportsmen and –women. It is the first Olympics where every participating country has sent women to compete for Olympic gold. At the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 no women competed, as “inclusion of women would be impractical uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect”. The Olympics have come a long way since 1896, but at what price? Are the Olympic Games about the best athletes competing in different disciplines or is it a cunning political tool to promote human rights? Let us take a look at the last week and what was tolerated and what not.Olympic flag

Religion

The most reported tolerance issue is the participation of women from all attending nations. For the first time, Brunei, Qatar and, most notably, Saudi Arabia have sent female athletes to the Olympics. This is a great achievement for the Olympic Committee and sends the right signal that women are encouraged to participate in sports. But this also created some difficulties. The International Judo Federation demanded that the Saudi Arabian judo fighter Shaherkani competed without headscarf for safety reasons. The Saudis threatened to withdraw Shaherkani and the federation changed their mind. One can only wonder how the federation came up with the “safety reasons” argument in the first place, and how easily this safety regulation was absolved for the sake of female participation. Furthermore, in less than a minute and a half it became clear that Shaherkani’s lack of Olympic-caliber skills diluted the purpose of the Olympics Games, namely the competition of the best athletes in the world. For most disciplines athletes are required to reach a certain benchmark in order to compete on the highest global level. One can only hope that her short-lived appearance in the Olympics creates a surge of female participation in sports in strict Islamic countries. Unfortunately, much of Saudi Arabia failed to watch Shaherkani’s accomplishments on tv because her fight took place during prayer time in the country. Was this also a requirement of the Saudis to allow her participation? As long as the people do not see what happened, it did not really happen. This way the participation of females in sports can be swept under the rug and life in Saudi Arabia can continue like before, with no females openly practicing sports. I sincerely hope that women will be treated as equals in these countries soon, there is still a very long way to go though. And what does this now mean for other religious attributes at the Olympic Games? Olympics 2016, a Sikh swimmer with a turban? Even though the participation of women of all nations is a great accomplishment, how far do we want to tolerate the demands of religion in order to have women from women-opressing countries compete? Are we not sending wrong signals here? Once again the boundaries of tolerance will be different between culture and even individuals. I have nothing against headscarves, but I do against the oppression of women. Where lies the boundary and what is wisdom in such a difficult cultural question?

Expulsions

German rower Nadja Drygalla left the Olympics after reports that her boyfriend is a member of the extremist political party NPD. The party is described as racist, anti-Semitic and inspired by the Nazis. It is represented in two state assemblies in East Germany. In other words: a legal, albeit questionable, political party in Germany. In a recent interview she distances herself from their extreme right political viewpoints. It was her own decision to leave the Olympic village after media “found out about the relationship”. She did not want to burden her team with the media frenzy that followed. The media found out that her boyfriend, who used to row for Germany in the youth team, was involved with political activities of the NPD and were looking for a scandal. “Neo-Nazi girlfriend participates for Germany at the Olympics” is a headline fitting perfectly on a tabloid front page. National Socialism and Anti-Semitic views are way beyond my line of tolerance, but I do not think it is up to the Olympic Committee to judge a sportswoman on the political perspectives of her boyfriend. One can of course discuss her choice of boyfriend, and whether or not she should tolerate his perspective.

The expulsion of Voula Papachristou is more straightforward. Her tweet translates to: “With so many Africans in Greece… At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!” This is obvious racism and definitely not tolerated from Olympic participants, nor anyone for that matter. Personally I don’t mind jokes about different nationalities. For example I live in Germany and am made fun of by not being able to drive, always having a camper on holiday, smoking weed all day and living under water. No harm done, we are just joking around. Jokes involving racial/national differences can be funny, but should be made in the right context, e.g. comedy clubs. Not at the Olympic Games.

The badminton scandal involves Chinese, South Korean and Indonesian badminton players trying to lose in order to have an easier next round. They played to lose and got exactly what they were playing for. They all got expelled, losing in a very sad way. The Olympics is a competition were the expectations are high and players have to perform on the A-level. Cowardly play like this, embarrasing themselves in front of fans was not tolerated. And it shouldn’t be.

Of course there have been the drug expulsions. Being Dutch and former university student I have a more liberal view on drugs, but drugs and Olympic Games do not match. Drugs are not, will not and should not be allowed for professional sportsmen and women. The expulsion of US Judoka Nicholas Delpopolo did make me grin a little. He was expelled after testing positive for Marijuana. He ate the wrong cakes, accidentally. He probably visited Amsterdam and just wanted to drink a cup of coffee and have a cupcake. Wrong coffeeshop my friend.

All in all it has been an interesting week at the Olympics. How did you perceive the tolerance issues? Did the Olympic committee make the right decisions? And how do you feel about the influence of the media on these items? Feel free to share, and spread some tolerance in your own circles!

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Filed under Sports

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization

After writing my own mission last week I just found this organization. They fight for a good cause, but also struggle where the boundaries of tolerance are. Interesting organization though, definately tries to spread tolerance!

“A tolerant society cannot tolerate intolerance, which would destroy it. It is difficult to strike a balance, however, and different societies do not always agree on the details.”

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization

What is tolerance?

Tolerance is respect and acceptance of the rich diversity of the world’s cultures, forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty; it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance is the virtue that makes peace possible. It contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.

Tolerance involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments. One is free to adhere to one’s own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behaviour and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means…

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The definition or meaning of Tolerance

Welcome to BeTolerant. This is my dedication to strive for a better, peaceful world where people treat each other with respect.

Some definitions of Tolerance according to my friend The Internet:statue

  • “The ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behavior that one dislikes or disagrees with.”
  • “The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.”
  • “A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.”
  • “Interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.”

I think it is important to point out that tolerance is not a belief system, not does the word contain truth. The word itself is just a word. Nothing more, nothing less. It is up to us to figure out what we mean by tolerance, define its boundaries and create a shared understanding of its meaning. The meaning may vary between cultures and religions, and even neighbors might have a different perspective on what includes tolerance and what “proper tolerant behavior is”.

I am not a prophet. I do not speak unquestionable truth. I am not a religious man, but I can understand the reasons to believe. I will not deny your prophet and say you are wrong, nor will I accept your prophet and promote your belief as the only truth. Not even science can claim absolute truth until we know all there is to know. And every answer science uncovers leaves us with more questions, so I do not think that time will come soon. Every human needs to believe. Whether it is in Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Tom Cruise, or Science, we all seek truth. And once we think we have found it, it is our purpose to convince other people of this truth. This cycle has been going on for ages with many ups and down along the way. Torture and murder, enlightenment and purpose, has been done in the name of truth. I do not say believing is wrong, I think believing is not even a choice. We all believe, we just differ in our belief system.

I believe that every human has value, every human deserves rights. Whether you are Muslim or Christian, black or white, German or Pakistani, I believe that does not matter. What does matter to me is how you treat your fellow man or woman. I believe in simple common sense. You do not steal, murder or rape. You do not beat up your wife. You do not force your truth upon others. You stand up for yourself and your family when threatened, but do not provoke and threaten other people.

I was asked what I thought about the statement: “tolerance ends where intolerance begins”. It is an interesting quote for sure. It tries to establish boundaries on the word tolerance in order to make clear to everyone what “the right way of tolerance” is. Tolerance is context depended. Tolerance is culturally different. Tolerance is individually different. So I cannot make these boundaries for you. The only universal aspect I would like to give to the word tolerance is respect for your fellow man and woman. Where you put your boundaries is up to you. Live as a good person, protect the people that require protection, support the people that require support. Do not assume to hold absolute truth but be open to other beliefs. Discuss. Argue. Get involved. Get angry! But be civilized. Be tolerant.

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