I admittedly frequently take tolerance for granted. I grew up in Singapore, a cosmopolitan and mostly harmonious city populated with a web of people of different colours and backgrounds. Growing up in such an environment has made it easy for a young Singaporean such as myself to forget that my country once struggled to achieve racial harmony as well – which is why I am often shocked by the level of prejudice there is all around us.
Take the recent attacks in Norway for example. On July 22nd, anti-Islamist Anders Behring Breivik set off a car bomb in Oslo and proceeded to murder 69 people attending a summer camp on a nearby island. Although horrific on a multitude of levels, the sad thing is that the event was simply one of the many that has occurred over the history of humankind that showed that in spite of the human ability to love, much narrow-mindedness and hate exists in the world.
Although Singapore is a peaceful city, upon closer examination, we too are often guilty of intolerance (though no one has gone on a killing spree because of it). For instance, Singaporeans kicked up a massive ruckus over the building of a temporary dorm for foreign workers near a residential estate. As much as we like to proclaim that we believe in racial harmony and what not, a lot of underlying feelings of xenophobia were exposed during that episode.
We are now living in a shrunken world, where huge distances no longer have the same meaning as they did in the past. Air travel has allowed millions to criss-cross the globe and experience a variety of cultures. Countless businesses have operations in various countries, and it has become ever more imperative that we express tolerance and build acceptance to build strong working relationships with overseas clients.
So the next time that you experience a negative feeling towards someone else because of a superficial quality such as the colour of his skin, or the sound of his accent, take a step back and rethink it - because the world could use a little more tolerance.