Listening and Tolerance

by Dr Nick
Tolerance and Respect

Music with a Message

I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend U2 Joshua Tree concert recently – it was a great spectacle, a big trip down memory lane 30 years on from the release of that album and a lot of fun.


Aside from the ringing ears I really enjoyed the experience. It was a far cry from my early days of attending concerts in London including Elvis Costello at the Hammersmith Odeon and The Clash for their “Riot in Brixton” Combat Rock tour at the Brixton Fairdeal (renamed the O2 Brixton Academy (the full audio recording of which is available online!):



But it was the reaction from some people that surprised me – they were upset with the political commentary that came with the concert. I found this surprising since Bono (Paul David Hewson) has been political since the early days and their albums and songs are littered with political commentary. He is known for his rebellious spirit and activism for social justice and has been a big campaigner for Africa where my heart remains. It was of sufficient significance that a friend of mine told me how he had written an academic paper “U2: Music with a Message” in his Media and Morality class in the spring of 1986. The band’s exploits and success have been written about “The World and U2: One Band’s Remaking of Global Activism“. Many of their songs are political commentary including Pride (In the Name of Love)” that refers to Dr. Martin Luther King and Sunday Bloody Sunday referencing the horrific acts of violence in Derry in 1972 to name a couple. But Bono embraces differences:

To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater
Bono, U2

And was famous for his attempts to call sitting presidents during live concerts in an attempt to get their attention and focus – he met with George W Bush and they developed a friendship over the years and a shared mission to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and save the lives in Africa. That friendship continues as evidenced during their recent tour and his picture with Gorge W Bush while playing tour dates in Dallas.

Going to a U2 concert and not expecting to hear some commentary or views on politics is like sitting in the splash zone and being upset when you get soaked!


Online Intolerance

The Social media world we inhabit has been called an Echo chamber and there has been much written about the impact of the medium on the polarization of views and opinions. Perhaps you disagree with this assessment – that’s OK. But disconnecting or blocking me because of an opinion or viewpoint reinforces the polarization and without insights into alternative or opposing views it becomes impossible to understand their position and by extension difficult to either change their opinions/views or reach a compromise.

That same week I tracked a couple of people who unfollowed me as a result of one of my tweets. The offending tweet – an online newspaper that is produced each day and posted in my feed “The Dr Nick Daily” which is automated and pulls its stories from some online sources and my followers and based on and algorithm’s assessment of the “popularity” (as measured by re-tweets, favorites etc) decides which 10 stories get included in the list


That alone was just sad but in the case of one physician, included blocking me, which seemed an extreme reaction to content that had been pulled from “The Drudge Report” – which is certainly conservative and right leaning but then I believe a proportion of the people I follow and am friends with are as well. I try hard to listen to all views and strongly believe that you need to walk a day in someone else shoes to have even the slightest sense of the challenges and demons they might be dealing with. I made this point in my post on Treating Mental Health which received over 50 comments and almost 700 likes on LinkedIn suggesting it hit a chord. My own personal blocking strategy is limited – I block any overt sexual advances and any threatening or trolling type behavior.  A fair number of those blocks arose when I ended up in some twitter alternate universe as a result of posting a study that suggested Vaping was not safe and there was evidence the industry was using it to hook young children. The tirades that followed were at risk of overwhelming my feed.

Division of our World

Shortly after the in Alexandria, Virginia, Republican member of Congress and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot while practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity and it appeared to have at least a temporary effect of calming the usual partisan rhetoric. Fareed Zakaria at CNN captured my feelings around that as he commented on the shooting

Interesting he covers the history of differing opinions and that our different views have been in evidence and with bigger gaps in the past – but as he points out we appear to be moving towards identity-based differences that seem unsolvable because there is no middle ground. No doubt I’ll upset some people posting something from CNN as some view this as a left-leaning news organization – but as with all things it’s a perspective and viewpoint and serves as information and knowledge and not meant as a lightning rod for attacks

Liberals and Conservatives should open themselves to all kinds of opinions and ideas that differ from their own. Instead, of trying to silence excommunicate and punish – let’s look at the other side and try to listen engage and when we must – disagree
Fareed Zakaria at CNN 

Suggestions for Incremental Approach to Tolerance and Understanding

  • Follow or Read from a Source that is Opposite to Your View
  • Process the Information without Passing Judgement and Let it Sit for a Few Days
  • Read a Book or Article with an Opposing Perspective
  • Take the Bias Test (thanks to Maxine Mackintosh for insights into bias and for this link)
  • Best of All Engage in a conversation – not an online conversation but one in person – with someone you disagree with


Do you have any better suggestions? What small change have you seen that makes a difference to improve tolerance and understanding and help defuse the current tension and polarization in our world? What one thing could we do that would have a big impact in this area?


You can also follow me here on medium, on twitter, or on facebook or Sign up to receive my posts each week

Leave a comment



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.