Introduction: Rising Culture of Intolerance
In the world today, there has been incessant rising of intolerance, we unfortunately found ourselves in a world where prejudices and intolerances are gradually but surely taking over the mindsets of many people. From the time of trans-Atlantic slave trade, down to the ancient times in human history, and then back to our society today, the rising tendencies of intolerance are clearly prevalent and seem to have indirectly been institutionalized in the minds and cultures of various people. Intolerance is becoming norms and norms are changing fast into intolerance.
Most of these intolerances have been inculcated into the socialization cultures of our people, and have been deeply assimilated into our ways of life to the extent that we rarely see anything bad in doing things that revolve around intolerance. We have already adopted the lifestyle as part of our lives. This is dangerous because such intolerances that have been adopted as part of culture normally loose with time, the real reasons they were institutionalized. Thus, most often they would soon be taken as cultural sacrosanct which nobody is allowed to defile whereas there is no valid reasons for promoting such intolerable views in the first place.
There might also be extreme cases where some people would opt to die in defense of what they came to know as their cultural heritages than to tolerate anyone they considered going against what such culture prescribed. Today, there are a lot of hatreds and unnecessary rancor among people for some flimsy negligible excuses. We clearly observe that some desperate people with their untamed subconscious minds and behaviours have always come up with unquenchable tendencies to find ways of segregating others with little or no reasons. This is dangerous!
Culture of Violence in Nigeria
Let me refer to what Rev. Fr. Dr. Uchenna Okpalaunegbu posted on his Facebook wall on 8th September 2016. He called it “Culture of Violence” in Nigeria. He wanted to use verbal outbursts of some people on social media to x-ray the unfortunate condition that Nigeria society today is being submerged. Being disturbed by the rising culture of verbal violence on Social Media among Nigerians which of course is as results of social, religious or cultural intolerances inherent in everyone currently living in the geographical expression called Nigeria, he said:
“What happens on the Facebook is not dialogue but pure verbal violence. Have you tried expressing a contrary opinion to what some people post on their walls or their reply to some posts? Have you also noticed some people’s response or rather non-response to other people’s opinion? If you say anything contrary to what they expect you to say, then, be ready for their insults. Even on religious matters, people insult others for expressing contrary opinions….We live in a society with a stereotype form of thinking and speaking. The worst and disturbing part of this ugly phenomenon is that the youths and those you can apparently classify as educated are the mostly involved.”
This is appalling and really unfortunate. Gradually but unfortunately, this kind of verbal violence has got some strong roots in the mindsets of average Nigerians. In all, it creates rancor and unnecessary segregation among people, and leaves the society vulnerable. The culture of healthy debates and dialogues has died and buried in Nigeria system of socialization. No one wants to hear the opinion of the other person, especially if such opinions are contrary to his own opinions.
There’s no guarantee that someone who cannot tolerate your mere utterances because he deemed them contrary to his own views, can tolerate your physical presence elsewhere. The most likely thing for him to do is to devise any possible means to make sure that your paths didn’t cross at all and if possible, finding any available permanent elimination method. Most often, violence is a physical outburst of intolerance. For some people, it serves as the only way to foist their authorities on other people whom he had considered as weaker. We find these today especially in Nigeria politics where opposition has been taken as enemy and must be sometimes, violently eliminated.
Segregation more than anything else is what creates unnecessary tensions in our society today. The tensions have their peculiar ways of developing into monstrous entity that no one could control in a very small range of time. These kinds of segregations don’t spare anyone, including their creators when they bounce back to unleash their venoms unto the society that haboured them. Segregation creates classes and alienates people from each other. It makes people to see themselves as opposites or rivals rather than as people with one goal and one destiny. It can spur violence and cause conflicts, and at worse, wars. Segregation is a vice that comes raw and direct out of intolerance and when this is involved, the consequences are fatal and unjustifiable in any court of common sense.
Today, there have been incessant unprovoked angers and killings among people just because of some negligible little differences found among themselves. Killing others in the name of cultures or traditions or for the sake of religious beliefs has become the order of the day in Nigeria, and are somehow becoming what some people have started regarding as ‘normal’ as Igbo proverb normally say that “If evil is left unattended for years, it becomes tradition” (Arụ gbaa afọ, ọ bụrụ omenala). There is no opinion no matter how good it sounds that can make intolerance to be accepted, but in today’s Nigeria it seems to be the other way round as evil people have found succor in the intolerable views of the society to make their evil tendencies to be seen as being somehow justified. And most often, these wicked souls find one passage or the other in their religious books to justify their evil tendencies.
I won’t forget to assert that the history of violence which is clearly an offshoot of intolerance has been as old as man himself. If we could go back to the Holy Bible for instance, we could see where we learnt of Cain and his brother Abel in the Book of Genesis (Chapter 4). From that narration, we could decipher that violence fueled by anger (which is a product of intolerance) started as early as the history of mankind. Then, from Christian crusaders in the mediaeval period of history to Islamic jihadists through historical development of Islam till today, the world has never known peace due to some people who promote intolerance in the name of their religions or on behalf of their gods. Till today, some people’s prime disposition is to resort to violence and then later find some viewpoints to justify evils they did.
In this age of unremitting intolerance therefore, some people prefer to feel comfortable intimidating others that do not share the same beliefs, cultures, languages, civilizations, sexual orientations, attitudes or ethnicities with them – forcing them to bend to their wills and raising bars of superiority over them. These people develop unnecessary superior feelings that makes it look as if they are more right or correct than those that refused to share in their ideologies. The worst part of this dangerous story is preserved in their minds so much infested with prejudice, thus they take anyone who doesn’t share their ideologies as inferior, outcast, infidel and maybe, only worthy of being eliminated (by all possible means). Thus, some people kill for no other reason except their superiority complexes that make them think that they are better off than others. This is the lofty inglorious height of intolerance that needs urgent attentions in the society today.
Tolerance as the key to peace.
No one for any reason whatsoever has moral right to hold what other people believed in to be false while leaving what they believed in to be the only truth, which should be regarded by all as dogmatically sacrosanct. There is no valid barometer to measure the veracity of one’s belief against that of others. Thinking or behaving in a manner that makes one’s belief to be enforced into being the only truth, promotes intolerance. Today, we have a lot of people in Nigeria and in all parts of the world who prefer to have this kind of erroneous understanding of their religious addictions. Whoever does not accept their religious beliefs is then an enemy and a soft target for any violence bred by their intolerance.
I always ask myself some rhetorical questions on why people prefer to hate than to love. What really makes hate easier than love? Why is it that human minds are always plotting evils against each other? Why do people exhibit unnecessary ego and impose themselves on others (seeing such as their rights) while assuming in themselves that the rest of mankind who do not share their subjective ideologies are wrong? Come to think about this again, with what barometer did they measure what is wrong and what is right?
These are rhetoric that should be bothering the mind of everyone instead of living in the illusive ego of selfishness or biased mind, thinking always of being superior to other people or even being more right than them. Allow me to say this (without any fear of contradiction) that intolerance is one of the cankerworms that have eaten up everything we owe together as humans. And sometimes, we cover it up with our decisions to keep mute and completely complacent because we don’t want to offend people with such intolerable views or ideologies about other people.
Worthy to note is that any day we collectively decided to keep mute on things that matter around us, then we are getting seriously closer to the destroying of those fabrics that hold our society together.
In this age of rising intolerance across the globe, we are unfortunately being caught up in the ugly web of crisis that was generated by hatred and our inability to accept others as they are, and not only as we would want them to be. This is the way that the society looks at other people of varying ideologies and characters which most often seem to be unfortunately irredeemable.
We are doomed by our ego by playing holier-than-thou when we think a particular situation only concerns others and not us. While some of us would be comfortable playing the roles of incorruptible judges when others are involved in a situation, surprisingly, you will still get the same people playing defensive roles when they are involved in almost or the same type of situation. This is despite the fact that they had earlier condemned others for the same thing they are guilty of. Regretfully, some people would like to undermine even the basic human rights of others to prove just a false point that they are right and that others are wrong.
Intolerance can be found in varying degrees in almost all facets of our human existence. But we have to dwell much here in some notable forms of intolerance we have today across the globe, especially in today’s Nigerian society. But then, let’s talk about intolerances being nursed by ethnic, political, religious and cultural beliefs. When all these listed forms of intolerance are involved, then I can boldly say, “Let’s talk about intolerance in Nigeria”. Despite the fact that these intolerances are also seen in other part of the world, but there is no doubt that they are more pronounced in today’s Nigeria.
 Uchenna Okpalaunegbu, (2016), “Culture of Violence”, https://www.facebook.com/uchenna.c.okpalaunegbu/posts/10206734786190221