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Tolerance Issues in Australia - Essay Example

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In his "Introduction" to The Retreat from Tolerance, A Snapshot of Australian Society, Philip Adams questions the limits and reality of tolerance in Australian society. This essay will critically analyse Adams' discourse on tolerance/intolerance in Australia and attempt to answer the following question: is tolerance by its very nature conditioned and limited
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Tolerance Issues in Australia
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Download file to see previous pages The implication here is that irrespective of racial or ethnic affiliation, all Australians are equal members of society and are accepted as such. According to Adams (1997), this supposition is little more than a myth or an exercise in politically correct, wistful, thinking. Not only has the dominant, Anglo-Saxon, group only recently embraced the principle of tolerance but have displayed a persistent proclivity for continued backtracking.
To fully comprehend Adams' argument on the status of tolerance in Australian society, an explanation of his conceptualisation of the term is important. Tolerance is the acceptance of the other,' accompanied by recognition of the inherent value and equality of social/ethnic/racial groups. Tolerance is characterised by the embrace of moderation and the absence of ethnic/racial arrogance (Adams, 1997). It most certainly has its limitations and these limitations are reached when one's rights are transgressed upon or one's space is violated (Adams, 1997). The violation of one's place/space/rights generates fear which is, in turn, outwardly expressed through intolerance towards the others. In other words, there exists a fine line between tolerance and intolerance according to Adams' definition.
Operating from within...
Indeed, the land was violently wrested away from its native inhabitants and redefined in the White Man's image. As Adams' argues, "Australia was devised as a white man's country, defiantly and arrogantly white" (Adams, 1997: 13). Within the framework of the project for the re-creation of Australia, not only did tolerance have no place but intolerance, legitimised through conviction in the white race's superiority, was the main instrument. Historically, therefore, Australia was founded upon intolerance.
It was only following the recreation of Australia as an Anglo-Saxon country and the solidification of the white man's status as the dominant socio-political group that Australians began to embrace the concept of tolerance. As may be inferred from Adams' discussion, Australia's embrace of the principle of tolerance was motivated by the growing popularity of liberalism, on the one hand, and enabled by racial confidence, on the other. Quite simply stated, the White Man believed that he had created a white Australia, forged a nation in his own likeness and hence, could afford to be tolerant towards minorities (Adams, 1997).
As minority populations increased and Australia evolved into a more obviously multicultural society, the dominant group's tolerance was tested. According to Adams (1997: 13), "the voice of bigot has never been silenced in Australia." It was aroused upon the sensation of threat emanating from immigrant groups and the supposition that their growing number could instigate change in Australia's Anglo-Saxon identity. It was capitalised upon and exploited by Hanson and other right wingers who, not only divided the nation but, exposed the very narrow limits of tolerance in Australian society (Adams, 1997).
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