What do you do?

July 31, 2009

What do you do, if you have politically or socially incorrect views?

Every age and time has views that are “right” to have. And it is difficult to realize that the beliefs and credos that we take for granted right now, may have been unacceptable just a short time ago.

When my daughter was a baby, it was not only the accepted thing, but actively the “right” thing to do, to feed the baby water as well as milk, and to give the baby “gripe water” (are any of you old enough to remember Woodwards Gripe Mixture? God knows what it was made OF, I never asked!)….today’s mothers would be horrified to feed the baby anything but mother’s milk (or formula) for the first six months of the infant’s life.

We were taught that putting the baby in the “thooLi” (cloth sling hung from the ceiling)would accustom the baby to it so much that it would never sleep elsewhere…and I was worried when DnA decided that they would have the thooLi for their baby. And yes…she sleeps in it…and sleeps just as comfortably anywhere else…well, so far, at least.

But there are other opinions, not just about child-rearing….what, for example, if I believe that homosexuality is an outrage against Nature, that homosexuals are “freaks”? In today’s world, when it is “cool” to accept homosexuality (I personally still cannot see how we can turn our face against something that seems to have existed from the dawn of history)…but if I genuinely DO believe this, it’s a very difficult world for me. I dare not express such a view, for fear of being labelled as an anti-progressive…or worse.

I feel often, that though today we tout ourselves as “tolerant”…we are, in reality, no different from the people of the Middle Ages who were proud to subscribe to THEIR accepted views on the world, and would be as intolerant of other views as they were.

What would traditional parents-of-the-groom in my community do? They believe in dowry…NOT as a cruel way of extracting money from the bride’s family…they would have been shocked to know that is how it’s regarded (and that’s how it is!)…but to them, it is a social custom, and if they have daughters, they would give the dowry without a second thought, too. They are just people who don’t question the validity of their beliefs, but accept what has been handed down to them…surely not a crime all the time. Even today, there are people who genuinely believe in this..or perhaps the reverse, that a bride-price must be paid, before bringing the bride home. We have got used to the idea that money being involved in a wedding as distasteful…but I know plenty of communities where the couple are allowed to coochy coo while the elders quietly settle what is delicately referred to as the “loukeekam” (worldly affairs!) part of the wedding! But have we, in changing our views, made it impossible for divergent opinions to be expressed? Are we not perpetuating the same intolerance that our forbears handed down to us, where one set of beliefs had to be adhered to, or professed, and another was taboo?

Wouldn’t REAL tolerance only be achieved when someone can strongly express an opinion that is NOT of the majority, and not have to either keep up the semblance of conforming to the group, or be quiet about the beliefs?

I believe that dissent is essential…if everyone were like everyone else, what would be the interest in life? We must learn to respect other points of view, if held honestly, even if they are diametrically opposite to our own. As someone famously said, “I may not share your views, but will defend to the death, your right to express them.”