The Gambian society has some way to go in order to fully and wholly tolerate, accept and respect each other’s views, opinions, ideas and beliefs without resorting to public spat and manifestation of intolerance and boorishness. A classic example of which had repeatedly happened between Yahya Jammeh’s oppositions and to name but few in particular, Pa Nderry Mbai, Banka Manneh, Bamba Mass, Fatou Camara et al., and these are people who supposedly are meant to set examples for others to follow. Now before we go further it’s absolutely vital to make this declaration that this article is not meant to cite or lecture anyone but to put records straight as the author has no connection with anyone individual but Gambia and her people.
Tolerance of persons, what might be referred to as ‘civility,’ can be equated with the word ‘respect.’ This is the orthodox characterisation of tolerance’ “the freedom to express one’s ideas, opinions or views without fear of reprisal.”
We respect those who hold different views, opinions and beliefs than our own by treating them politely and allowing their views a place in the public discourse. We may strongly disagree with their ideas and enthusiastically contend against them in the public square, but we still show respect for the persons in spite of the differences.
However, what we need to note here is that, respect is accorded to the person, here. Whether his/her behaviour should be tolerated is an entirely different issue. This is the second sense of tolerance, the liberty to act, called tolerance of behaviour. Most of human laws validate that a person may believe what the individual likes and the person generally has the freedom to express those beliefs, opinions or views but the individual may not behave as he/she likes. Some behaviour a threat to the common good or immoral so rather than being tolerated, it is restricted by law. As the former US president Abraham Lincoln put it “There is no right to do wrong.”
Tolerance of persons must also be distinguished from tolerance of ideas. Tolerance of persons requires that each person’s views get a courteous hearing, not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth. The view that no person’s ideas are any better or truer than another’s is irrational and absurd. To argue that some views are false, immoral, or just plain silly does not violate any meaningful standard of tolerance.
These three classifications are frequently conflated by topsy-turvy sages. If one rejects another’s ideas or behaviour, he/she’s automatically accused of rejecting the person and being disrespectful. To say I’m intolerant of the person because I disagree with his/her ideas is confused. On this view of tolerance, no idea or behaviour can be opposed, regardless of how graciously, without inviting the charge of impoliteness.
Historically, human culture has emphasised tolerance of all persons, but never tolerance of all behaviour. This is a critical dissimilarity because, in the current pomposity of doctrine, the concept of tolerance is most regularly advocated for behaviour and they are two different issues all together.
Ironically, though, there is little tolerance for the expression of contrary ideas on issues we differ. If one advocates a differing view or associate with different people, he/she is soundly censured and denounced. The tolerance issue has hence gone chaotic: tolerate most behaviour, but don’t tolerate opposing opinions about those behaviours. Instead of hearing, “I respect your view,” however, those who differ in politically incorrect ways are bigoted, prejudiced, and narrow-minded.
Cases in reference are attacks by Yahya Jammeh and his supporters who labelled everyone as unpatriotic and bad Gambians when you differ with them in views and ideas. Also, those who oppose Yahya Jammeh and co. who show or manifest no tolerance at all as anyone who oppose or challenge their views or ideas are labelled as agents of Yahya Jammeh’s regime or destabilisers of the struggle.
Meanwhile, for a better Gambia we need to be tolerant of opposing views no matter how much we disagree with them. To conclude I borrow a quote from Plato “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” JARAMA, ALA-BARAKA, JEREEY-JENJEFF