Originally published in Ukrainska pravda on March 14, 2018
Written by Pavlo Vyshebaba, musician, co-founder of member of the council of Community organization “Yedyna planeta”, UNDP tolerance envoy
Couple of months ago I was nominated to be a UNDP tolerance envoy. Together with other envoys, we organized a series of different format events in 17 cities.
Here I would like share some of my thoughts about widespread myths that define the ideas of tolerance in Ukrainian society.
The discussions initiated under Reinvent Respect communication campaign organized by the International Centre for Policy Studies showed that many Ukrainians don’t have clear understanding of what tolerance is; sometimes tolerance may be even considered as a something detached from real life and not that important.
And yet, despite the dominant perception, many Ukrainians we met prove to be tolerant in their daily lives.
Through discussions, we managed to uncover some dominating myths about tolerance that many Ukrainians share.
Tolerance is a sign of weakness
Tolerance is for those who are incapable to dominate over others because of lack of physical strength or emotional domination. A reality check shows that tolerance has quite different meaning from that constructed by this myth. Tolerance is a conscious choice to act in a way that prevents any violence from our side. It takes moral strength, solid life experience and values to be able to make this choice. On the other hand, aggressive behaviour does not require any moral efforts or analytical thinking.
Tolerance for others stands in the way to personal success and happiness
Quite the opposite, tolerance is a powerful tool for achieving psychological balance and happiness in personal life.
There are many advantages to respecting others: love from family and relatives, more friends; this gives us confidence and support during hard times.
It’s a common knowledge that the more friends we have, the happier we are.
Another important aspect not to be forgotten is that respectful society enjoys economic advantages as there is a higher security level so it's much easier to do business in such environment. As a result, the country is able to attract more investments, and economic wellbeing of communities, regions and the country improves.
Ukrainian society is tolerant
Fortunately, this is the only myth that isn’t that far from reality.
In the very beginning of Reinvent Respect campaign, we started analyzing whether Ukrainian society is tolerant, whether people coming to our events are tolerant.
Majority of people we talked to consider themselves tolerant. Though during our discussions we discovered together that each of us still needs to make additional efforts to be truly tolerant: we need to apply our analytical thinking, analyse the advantages of having equal rights and tolerance, and, in some cases, the only thing to be done is to show empathy more often.
An important takeaway of this discussion is that Ukrainians consider themselves tolerant meaning they are willing to be tolerant.
In the meantime, we do not always have a clear understanding of situations where tolerance is lacking and discrimination develops.
In my opinion, to boost tolerance and social cohesion we need more awareness campaigns that would focus on the most common manifestations of intolerant behaviours.