The use of the word “tolerance” creates some discomfort or controversy, even in everyday or interpersonal contexts. Let’s say it’s not an “easy” term. When we invoke tolerance, we can find the opposite effect: that our interlocutor, at the outset, manifests an intolerant or impatient attitude, or calls into question the fact of having to “tolerate” something. What is this about?
When we refer to personal or social dynamics in which our emotional reactions, prejudices or learned behaviors go to the background, we cause discomfort because they require a rational exercise that we are not always willing to put into practice. Tolerance, well understood, implies a degree of sensibility, humility, emotional objectivity, moral commitment and making some concessions in our belief system.
The interpretation of a reality will depend largely on our perception, our cultural, personal filters and how willing we are to deepen the position of the “other.” It doesn’t matter what we think about someone. There is no way to put yourself in his place. But we have to try with all our strength. If we open our perception, leaving aside our cultural and /or personal prejudices, tolerance can be a great tool to fit into social and labor spheres.
Having developed as a theater professional for more than twenty years, although it has not necessarily made me and a priori more tolerant, it has brought me closer to the understanding of human diversity as an essential factor in spiritual development. The fact of assuming different projects, scripts, teams, directors, countless stage or set partners, in addition to the large number and diversity of characters that develop in a more or less fruitful career, has given me a certain moral openness, a sense of group above the individual and the need and ability to put myself in the place of the other.
The theater is, in itself, a platform to develop or approach the concept of tolerance, as a media professional or as a spectator. While it is true that it’s feasible to create from conservatism, in my opinion, the best works of universal dramaturgy are those that, from comedy, drama or tragedy, somehow question the “status quo.” Those who ask us sometimes uncomfortable questions, but always useful for our lives. And the very fact that we question ourselves brings us closer to the promulgated tolerance.
If we make a parallel between the relationship “scene-spectator” and that of “society-citizen,” we could say that the theater, by serving as a mirror of our desires, miseries and passions, is a perfect platform to develop that much-needed objective look to exercise tolerance honestly. When we see things represented on the scene, we process them differently than when we live them in our own flesh or when we witness them in our environment.
In any scenario (theatrical or social) there will be individuals and dynamics that may not be of our liking, and a dose of tolerance, whatever interpretation of the term is applied, will be very useful.
In uniform, closed societies that recreated the same customs for centuries or decades, tolerance was practically a “luxury” promoted by some intellectuals, artists or leaders of minority civil movements in an effort to expand collective consciousness.
Do not go too far in time. Seventy, sixty, or fifty years ago, Western societies in which we live were, in general, much more intolerant. And they were a priori, without even considering it: towards women and their social demands, towards people with disabilities, towards sexual minorities, towards racial differences, and, in general, towards everything that represented a departure from the norm.
In our dynamic and interconnected current societies tolerance is not only an abstract idea to be analyzed or put on the table as an object to dissect, but it is practically an imperative to fit as citizens. Migration, globalization and the expansion of civil rights have made intolerance more difficult to justify, but we must not lower our guard: it is “just around the corner.”
Many of the cultural advances we have made in recent decades can be dismantled from one moment to another by snake charmers, false prophets and populists. So, it is convenient, even at the risk of lending ourselves to misunderstanding, to put on the table concepts such as tolerance, inclusion and integration, again and again, until we understand that they must be an essential and natural part of our human condition. Be certain that tolerance, although it is not enough, can be a common starting point for all human beings, regardless of their differences.