Guest Column

Our intolerance will be the death of us

2017-05-07 06:23
Rhodé Marshall

Rhodé Marshall

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Another day, another aeroplane incident.

My fear of dying in a plane crash has given way to worrying about the intolerance of fellow passengers and flight attendants that results in embarrassing and bloody clashes.

SAA’s flight attendants were striking and my 16-hour trip to New York was delayed by three hours.

Once we were able to board, an American seated next to me was extremely annoyed by the four squealing local youngsters in the row behind us.

He huffed and puffed, and turned to me for sympathy: “I need to sleep and this noise is going to be a problem!”

I pretended to listen and then awkwardly looked away, trying not to hype him up.

But then he turned around and leaned over one of the young men.

“Stop being stupid and shut up!” he demanded.

“Sit your arse down,” came the reply.

Threats of physical violence were followed by an awkward silence, broken by the arrival of a flight attendant, who pointed out that the man can’t call someone stupid.

“I’m from the US, I can say what I want,” he snapped.

He was quickly told that he was not in the US yet.

I had plenty of time during the flight to ponder about how tense public spaces have become, and to think about our lack of humanity and patience.

Vilification has become a form of discourse.

Once home from my trip, the video of the recent racist incident at a KFC in Cape Town popped up on my timeline.

In it, two young white women ask a group of black men what was causing a delay at the drive-thru, resulting in a heated argument.

One of the men leans into the woman’s car and accuses them of making racist assumptions about him and his friends.

One of the women calmly listens and, at one point, even asks her friend to keep quiet and let him explain how he feels.

This didn’t entirely calm the situation, but the women handled it well despite being upset.

I by no means consider myself to be a “rainbowist”, but I do wish we could take some of the goodness of its principles and regrow some of the tolerance we have lost.

We need to listen carefully and then maturely express our feelings.

We need to find common ground, which, admittedly, is not always possible.

Perhaps some of the frustration about our superficial unity has made us painfully intolerant of each other, but I truly hope we can find a way to engage in creative debate rather than antagonise each other with our assumptions.

Read more on:    saa  |  new york
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