Europe Edition

2023 number 3

Resilience - Cultural magazine


Billy Elliot

Let the others dance ... As long as they let you dance

The protagonist of Billy Elliot is not Billy. Billy is the character around which the plot revolves. The protagonist is Billy’s father.

For Billy, it’s not that complicated: it’s about getting carried away by the “electricity” that is activated in his body when he dances. The father, on the other hand, faces the biggest challenge of accepting something he does not want, the desire of another, his son Billy, who wants to dance.

The tough miner, in the final scene, attends a dance performance of his son, sitting next to a gay couple. Billy’s father understands that he is not asked to be homosexual, only to admit that they have the right to be sitting next to him, that is, to exist.

That’s what tolerance is all about: accepting the diversity of the human, recognizing the right to exist of the “different one,” without representing it as a threat.

It is likely that the Hungarian authorities that recently banned the musical Billy Elliot in Budapest did not keep this principle in mind when they adopted their intolerant decision. It is true: there are people with more psychological tendency than others to detect dangers and threats, and seek to protect themselves. Intolerance in the face of ambiguity has been studied as a perceptual variable of personality. The intolerant is afraid.

It is also a matter of identity construction. As the philosopher Byung-Chul Han writes: “The enemy is, although in an imaginary way, an identity provider”. That other whom I despise, defines me. If I tolerate it, my identity could crack.

The most political Freud of the last stage of his writings pointed in another direction: “… the right to despise those who do not belong to their civilization compensates them for the limitations that it imposes on them”.

To tolerate is not only to accept that the rain falls: it is to get wet, in the joy of being, here and now, together with others equal to us, united in difference. It is about admitting diversity and receiving it with pleasure, to escape from what Byung-Chul Han calls “the hell of the same”.

To tolerate is to give up the attempt to impose our point of view. To tolerate is to recognize that our perspective, by definition, is unique, that is, limited. Not only are others likely to have a reason: they have it.

Good news is that tolerance can be cultivated.

In Buddhism there is the term metta to refer to the feeling of goodwill towards others, without distinctions, together with an active interest in the welfare of others.

In the field of research and psychotherapeutic practice based on mindfulness (full awareness) there are important developments such as the Training Program in the Cultivation of Compassion (CCT, Jinpa and others, 2009) or the Therapy Centered on Compassion, developed by British psychologist Paul Gilbert.

Consciously wishing the good of all beings, including those we hate, has the ability to modify brain structures and connections, generating health and emotional well-being, research suggests.

Being tolerant and feeling compassion is not a sign of weakness, as Nietzsche believed, but, on the contrary, is of strength: “… being strong enough and being sure enough of one’s choices to live without scandal or shock with the diverse” , says the writer and philosopher Fernando Savater.

Of course, tolerance has a clear limit: let others dance ‘as long as’ they allow you to dance to yourself. Your way.

Máximo Peña / Graduate in Journalism from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and in Psychology from the National University of Distance Education (UNED). Specialist in Psychotherapeutic Intervention and Mindfulness.

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