Moving Towards a More Tolerant Society

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I have managed, over time, to develop a courteous association and friendship with a young woman on social media. We have never met in person, although, from time-to-time, I think about her as I would my own adult daughter(s). I genuinely do care about her well-being and that of her family as they start a new chapter of their life in North America. We share a love for reading, writing, and history. We value the liberal democracies that we live in, and tend to look at modern culture, religion and politics from a moderate point of view.

Although we have grown up in remarkably different societies, we share a strong interest in understanding the world that we live in, including the desire to step out of the ordinary in order to truly understand the extraordinary. For a young woman, she possesses an incredible amount of wisdom and grace, pointing to many positive influences in her life including, perhaps, immediate family and friends. It is almost as though I know how she thinks and feels  – a kindred spirit as it were. We may not always agree on various aspects of modern culture, politics, and religion, but I value her directness, honesty, and that ever-so-British politeness.

I think that is what tolerance is all about – learning to listen to the points of view and perspectives of others without being dismissive and/or judgemental. It is when we genuinely care about the lives of others in a personal way, that the dividing walls of gender, race, religion, country of origin, politics, etc., come tumbling down.

I may have developed very strong convictions and beliefs in the religious and political arenas, but God help me if I neglect to LOVE another human being. Alas, this is where the rubber meets the road – loving others and exercising tolerance for individuals and whole societies that differ from our own.

There are many views of love and an equal amount of opinions on the subject. The love that I am referring to is something I am still working on – a work in progress, so to speak.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

Recently, I read an excellent article, an opinion piece by Fareed Zakaria, published on CNN in June of 2016. Fareed could rightfully be considered as a moderate, who attempts to correctly differentiate between Islamic terrorists and ordinary Muslim people. Fareed, in discussing the current conflicts, asks the question:

How can we bring an end to this?

And then provides a succinct answer:

There’s really only one way: Help the majority of Muslims fight extremists, reform their faith, and modernize their societies. In doing so, we should listen to those on the front lines, many of whom are fighting and dying in the struggle against jihadis. The hundreds of Muslim reformers I’ve spoken to say their task is made much harder when Western politicians and pundits condemn Islam entirely, demean their faith, and speak of all Muslims as backward and suspect.

I tend to agree with him. Islam is not a stagnant belief system any more than Judaism and Christianity. Muslims around the world do want to reform their faith and modernize their societies. When one takes exception with Islamic terrorism, and works towards the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in society, they are moving in the right direction. We may not concur on various elements of our respective faiths, but we can live in peace and mutual prosperity, demonstrating tolerance, respect, and love towards each other.

Utopianism you say? I know…I get a lot of flak from friends and foes alike when I publicly espouse the ideals of freedom of religion and conscience in society. Yes, I lean towards being an idealist who expects great things, not only in myself, but in others also. I hold on to the biblical concept that “we are our brothers keeper” wholeheartedly, and try to extend the same grace towards those outside of my own inner circle.

I am also a realist and truly understand, from my own life experience, how difficult it is for even like-minded people to mesh together in a continual peaceful coexistence. Nevertheless, if the Jewish and Muslim people of the Middle East could peacefully coexist for hundreds of years (before the tragic wars of modern times), there is hope for North American cultural, religious, and political plurality.

Fareed Zakaria said it best:

But if America is about anything, it is the idea that people should be judged as individuals with individual liberties and rights.

I agree with his sentiments. If that makes me a Liberal, so be it.

The Great Confusion: Part 2

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Christ crucified…a stumbling block?

In a previous post I touched on the subject of the human heart or soul as being the source of our actions, whether for good or evil. I also mentioned the theological concept that all of humanity has been separated from God through sin, i.e. we have all missed the mark of God’s highest standards for our lives, as individuals and as nations. Finally, I referred to the historical life and death of Jesus Christ as God’s way of reconciling Himself to all of humanity.

Continue reading “The Great Confusion: Part 2”

Silton Sizzler: A Day to Remember

 

 

A beautiful day for a ride to Silton, Saskatchewan. Clear, sunny skies and the typical prairie winds made for a challenging road ride on Saturday. I love long endurance rides (110+km) over hilly terrain like this, as there is so much to see and experience. One can sense the Fall season moving in very quickly. September will be here soon, and the many Century rides (100km and 160km events) that are so typical for cyclists to participate in at this time of year. The Fall season is always a transition period for road cyclists. Some are looking forward to the cyclocross season, and others (myself included) begin earnest preparation for the winter cross country skiing season.

The good news is that Summer is still here and that there is plenty of time to get outdoors and enjoy the warm weather. I hope to do a little travelling out west over the next few weeks and do what I do best.

Eat, sleep, ride, rinse, and repeat 🙂

A special thank-you to fellow cyclist and Prairie Randonneur, David Macneil for taking these photographs. I added a little of my own special sauce (edits) to make them really shine 😉

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Beatnik Free Verse: The Tomato

Tomato, tomato, tomato!

Pizza sauce is hot! And so is Tabasco!

Grow faster, plant! Impatience!

I’ll eat you when I want! Are you talking to me?

Curse the darkness! Curse the darkness!

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The Great Confusion: Part 1

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Tower of Babel. Image courtesy http://www.biblestudytools.com/

It is not difficult to understand the societies we live in when we look at the actions of individuals as stemming from the human heart or soul. All our actions stem from the desires of the human heart, both good and evil. A group of individuals is what makes up our villages, our towns, our cities, our provinces or states, and our nations. It is the corporate thoughts and desires of a group of individuals that also determines whether something good or evil will come out in our actions.

Continue reading “The Great Confusion: Part 1”

There is someone out there…

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©2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.

You won’t be popular as you step out of line

To befriend the lonesome slightly out of step with time

You see the world is full of people like you and me

But those who are alone are the ones we do not see

 

Show some compassion and reach out like a friend

You never know where this will end

I see tears of gratitude in my new found love

God sees their heart from far above

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I don’t do STUPID any more…

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The first time I heard the statement, I don’t do stupid, I burst out laughing. A young man in his late twenties was expressing his exasperation at the stupidity of an individual who was attempting to enforce a set of ridiculous proceedures and methodology in the workplace.

The scene was a large automobile dealership. As a relatively new employee, the obviously intelligent young man asked a simple question:

Why do we do things this way, when there is a much simpler and easier way to go about it?

That is when the cow manure hit the proverbial fan. After all, new employees, especially young people, are not supposed to ask questions and challenge the holy grails of methodology and procedure in the workplace.

This is the way we have done it for thirty years…just shut up and do what I tell you to do!

The young man looked at his manager straight in the eye and said, “I don’t do stupid“. A week or so later, he handed in his resignation and went to work somewhere else.

Of course, this young person was correct in his idea(s), but could have used a little more finesse in his approach. Unfortunately, management did not see it that way. They were stuck back somewhere in the dinosaur age and were still micromanaging their employees like the 1950’s. Later, this young man was smeared as being lazy, unreliable, and insubordinate. In reality, the top-down management style of this particular dealership had just been put in its rightful place – stupid is as stupid does.

It was not much longer after that I began to signal my own intentions of leaving and my dissatisfaction with the high school mentality of some of the dealership management and many of its relatively uneducated employees. I felt disappointed in myself that I had put up with this nonsense for four years of my life, four long years that I could not get back. Being educated and underemployed in a situation where management and many of my co-worlers had barely got out of high school was NOT a fun situation to be in. This is NOT an expression of arrogance or elitism – it is an expression of frustration of having to work side by side, shoulder to shoulder with CAVEMEN 🙂

My father, a former high school teacher, once said to me, “Ignorance is no excuse”.

What he meant was that instead of wallowing in ignorance, making excuses as to why I couldn’t do something – figure it out. If I do not know how to do something correctly, instead of hanging on to “I don’t know how”, get out there and learn how to do it right.

I think I kind of went overboard on the “learning” part of the equation, spending some seven or eight years in post-secondary education, much to his chagrin 😉 Nevertheless, I do not regret taking the necessary time to get an education, as it has greatly enhanced my understanding of the world I live in. I am not referring to the mass of information that colleges and universities disseminate into the minds of the relatively young. I am talking about the ability to think critically, debate, and to research continually. If anything I have learned through all those years of learning, it was to be a life-long learner.

Unfortunately, for some, learning almost stops after high school. People may adapt to their chosen field of work (and obviously learn new things) but they often remain immersed in the same narrow social and cultural situations as they did in high school. They do not venture outside of that which is comfortable to them, and thus, they never really grow intellectually and often spiritually also.

Of course, one cannot apply this kind of generalization to all people everywhere, but it is certainly true in much of western society.

I have often heard the statement,

Who needs an education…I have street smarts!

Well…what can I say to that? I have street smarts too, and an education! I went back to pursue a post-secondary education later in life BECAUSE of what I learned on the street.

Sorry bud, but street smarts alone do not cut it in the real world.

Again, this particular individual is justifying, for whatever reason(s), that education has no value and that learning on the street, including experiencing the hard knocks of life, is the best approach. I just happen to disagree.

One of the things I learned while working in a far northern health district is that former addicts do NOT always make the best drug and alcohol addiction counsellors. It was a cultural norm and acceptable social reality in the North to hire former addicts with a minimal educational background (certificate or diploma) to serve as addiction counsellors to their own people (the Metis and Aboriginal or Indigenous people of the North). The reality was that a few of these counsellors had an extraordinary high rate of absenteeism in the workplace. When a formal inquiry was made as to why this was happening, nine times out of ten the individual(s) concerned had fallen off the wagon and were once again deep in the grip of their alcohol or drug addiction. The pressures of the workplace, including the normal expectation of the counsellors fulfilling the requirements of their job was too much for some. As soon as management would zero in on a problematic employee, they would go on stress leave for six months costing the health district and the taxpayer a disproportionately large amount of money – only for the cycle to repeat itself over and over again.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I feel great compassion for many of these individuals – one or two of which I would consider to be friends. Addiction of any kind is a horrible thing to overcome. But, the decisions the health district made in hiring and then carrying these ineffectual employees over a long period of time was just plain STUPID, in my opinion. The concept that a supposedly recovered addict with street smarts and a minimal education is ideal as an addiction counsellor is ludicrous to me. The best counsellor we had in the entire health district was an educated young person from another country half way around the world. To the hiring managers and board who held to the old and ineffectual ways of doing things, this came as a great surprise. This person’s success as an addictions counsellor only seemed to amplify management’s own ineffectiveness and narrow point of view.

There is so much more that I would like to write about publicly, but unfortunately I am bound in perpetuity to privacy and procedural contractual obligations, not to mention personal ethics. There is much we can learn from life and living. If we possess a broader framework to comprehensively understand the philosophical, cultural, and religious underpinnings of society, we will do even better. Does any of the above necessitate that everyone should pursue some sort of formal post-secondary education? Of course not! But I can highly recommend venturing out of that which you are accustomed to and comfortable with, in order to truly become a life-long learner – a seeker of truth. Consider developing critical thinking and debating skills, and taking the necessary time to develop research skills – that alone will serve you well your entire life.

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