Intolerance… Is It Good, Bad Or Plain Ugly?


Intolerance. It is in the air like the flavor of the season. No one particularly likes it yet no one does anything to lessen its impact.

We are a 130 crore+ nation with strong and sometimes unyielding ideas on life, likes, dislikes and the most contentious one of them all…religion. We are an ancient race which has seen life evolve for the last 5000+ years. This does one thing to people. It gives them baggage of the past to judge the present with the result that the future too is a reflection of the past.

Reality apart, should intolerance as an attitude be taken with such extreme emotions? It should, provided it leads to something good. And that good is when it leads to betterment of life. Intolerance towards corruption, intolerance or zero tolerance towards women’s abuse, intolerance towards bullying are some of the instances where by not tolerating, you actually do good!

Moving away from emotional and sensitive issues involving intolerance, even in the field of business, enterprise and economic pursuits, an attitude of intolerance can be a great source of strength. We mention below a few scenarios where intolerance could actually be quite helpful.

  • Compliances:Be it paying taxes or filing sensitive information on time, there is no leniency and let-up. And why should it be? When it has clearly and unambiguously been stated that an organization or individual has to provide certain information, there should be no room for tolerance towards laxity or avoidance. And god-forbid if you do, the least you can expect are stiff penalties. Going forward if your intransigencies continue unabated willful or otherwise, it can also land you behind bars. If that happens, you lose all the way…money, reputation, goodwill…all. A brand gone bust. For what? An oversight!
  • Values: An organization how-so-ever big or small is in some way a reflection of its founders. And most founders (if not all) would want it to show the world their values, ideas and character. Yes, your organization built with toil and hard work is actually your best advertisement and that too for something you won’t sell…your character, your ambitions and ideas. Would you tolerate it if anyone how-so-ever big, small, close or distant tries to change it in a demeaning way? NEVER! After all there is no loss bigger than the loss of face…!
  • Client servicing: You are because of your client….and thanks to competition. That apart, your best advertisements too are your satisfied clients. Every businessman would at all times want all his/ her clients to be satisfied. A tall order this but certainly possible where you practice with what you preach. And one way to achieve it is to have zero tolerance towards uncalled-for goof-ups!
  • Society and Environment Obligations: We may (yes may!) be alone in the universe but certainly not on this earth. And most certainly not in India where we share space with other humans numbering in excess of 130 crores…and counting! These are the best of times for humanity as we have more-or-less conquered every inch of the earth and its immediate environs like the Moon (for a start!) and seem to have no competition other than from our own selves. But what appears good may not be all that great. Such a huge human mass puts immense pressure on the earth and all its earthly resources like water, tree cover, arable land etc. Remember these are perishable and non-renewable resources where used recklessly which in the Indian context we seem to be doing with gay abandon.

    Can we as Humans, Indians and Responsible citizens let this happen with eyes wide open and conscience wide shut? NO. Intolerance is what is called for. Pure, unambiguous, blunt intolerance is what is called for which thankfully we seem to be taking up in a big way. No more should we sit back and watch helplessly as freeloaders, muggers and other assorted ruffians run riot with our precious resources.
  • Corporate social responsibilities: Flowing from the previous point above, corporate given that their very survival is dependent upon the society and their management and employees being part of the same society it serves, can it exist simply to earn profits for its owners and guarantee an income to its employees? What about the society at large in whose domain the corporate units exist? Should or shouldn’t the corporate world strive for a better society and where called for, contribute from its own kitty to set things right. Here too, the answer is a clear, unambiguous and blunt (you could called is INTOLERANT!) YES….and for all times to come. As they say, a ship is as buoyant as the sea below it. More the draft, better the movement!

    This blunt and vocal espousal to the cause of tolerance and intolerance brings before us a question. When is it that we should tolerate the intolerable? After all we are humans and oversight could be termed a human trait. From one’s own experience and ideas garnered from the knowledgeable, one should tolerate only when:
    • - It is a case of pure, unintentional and unavoidable mistake/ oversight
    • - It happens at the hands of one new to the trade/ vocation
    • - It happens when the underlying circumstances and information show confusion and lack of clarity
    • - It happens in relationships which are very deep and meant for the long terms, like marriage.

This brings us to the end of this topic.

Remember, a word like Intolerance by itself is powerless. What powers it are the circumstances and context surrounding its usage!