Zero tolerance, sometimes

Zero tolerance, sometimes

As I slowed down seeing the red signal at a prominent junction on my way to office, I noticed a board with the words ‘zero tolerance’, with the explanation that it is one of the many signal junctions in the city where police handle traffic violations seriously. It was not the first time that I saw that board but this time it made me reflect how many of us live our life these days — with zero tolerance towards anyone who goes against what we feel is right. 

We have always had intolerant people among us. I remember how my strict Physical Education teacher stood at the school gate with a cane in her hand to admonish latecomers. This was way back in my childhood where most of us walked to school. And then there was a very eccentric neighbour of my uncle who punished his children severely when they fared badly in the exams. My mother would not let the family dog enter the house if he returned beyond a certain time, something which got the dog to learn the importance of returning home on time without loitering around.

A little bit of intolerance is good, in fact essential. We need to be unaccepting of misbehaviour by children so that they grow up into good human beings. We ought to oppose corruption in public offices. I see a swimming instructor come heavily on the slightest degree of complacence of his student inside the pool. Both the student and his parents are fine with this as they feel it brings out the best in his performance.

What is disturbing is the extent of intolerance — or zero tolerance — which we experience, see or read about, almost daily. Recently, a cab driver brushed past my small car as he felt humiliated after I overtook his big car at an earlier junction. He did it so aggressively that, had I not swerved my car just in time, both of us would have been in a serious accident. We read how people take out guns in road rage, or students shoot down their teachers or classmates in anger — something that was unheard of years ago. Anger is but an offshoot of intolerance.

Even seemingly unconcerned events disturb people easily. We read horror stories of compassionate dog feeders being attacked and abused for doing something which doesn’t harm anyone. People say no to planting of tree saplings as they cannot tolerate dry leaves falling on the lawn below which they believe makes the garden look filthy. Plants and animals disturb us? Seriously?

It is one thing to dislike something or even hate it but it is extremely sad when we don’t consider other person’s point of view or right to his own opinion or lifestyle. Being tolerant doesn’t mean we agree to do the same thing as the other, or excuse something drastically harmful. It just implies that we accept to live and let live amicably, letting the law of the nation or natural justice, whichever is applicable, prevail for a peaceful life for all.