The Social Tolerance

You are minding your own business, maybe deciding what to have for lunch or when a task is due, when suddenly you accidentally meet the eyes of someone else you don’t know. We all know what that’s like. It’s awkward. But when that person looks at you from head to toe like a piece of unworthy trash, that’s another state that is generally unpleasant.

It is undeniable that we live in a society with social classes. Okay, maybe not as strict as India’s caste system, but there are social classes. There are those who live worrying about what they will eat dinner tonight, maybe some of them this weekend, maybe some this month, and there are those that wonder if they’ll really eat at all.

We may turn our other cheek to pretend that this doesn’t exist, but it does. Walking to a fashionable clothe store is one of the most awkward, as if people know that you can’t afford, therefore you don’t belong. Social gatherings, coming from a scale of fancy dinners to casual Friday nights, will make you see the difference. And how do we cope with it? Tolerance.

Yes, tolerance. This is a two-way street. The ones higher tolerate the lower, and the lower tolerates the higher. It’s how the system works. Being in the same classroom, workplace or malls is tolerance. Conversing with others is tolerance. Forgetting the materialism of another, tolerance.

On this standing, I would rank myself as a lower class. I may be able to stop worrying what I will eat tomorrow, but I worry enough about my family’s financial future. And boy, being in this class? I begin to wonder if fairness is an illusion.

I admit that I’ve judged by appearance and I am very wary when surrounded with people that beg me for food or change. It’s been instinct I guess, to stay away from people like those given the number of people with a tendency to harm me out of desperation to escape the class, or even just to have something to eat for the day. Children like these have approached me, and I am still wary of the fact that they may be a distraction to some kind of modus operandi I don’t know. I have talked to them, asked them their names, if they went to school, and where they live. They seemed okay, and usually, I just come home feeling guilty to have seen them with a false eye.

On the higher hand however, I’ve experienced being stared at from head to toe. I’ve been given strange looks in clothing stores (though this is probably because I’m not fashionable). I’ve been judged, by how I dress, by the shoes I wear,  by the computer I own, by the cellphone I use. I know I know, this is all about ensemble, but here’s the thing: even the food I eat, and the way I eat it? Judged by the very same people I consider close to me.

How much longer will I be able to take the guilt I feel when I see people I can’t help?

How much longer do I need to keep up a certain indifference to the classes?

How long to I need to intake the ridicule that happens when my back is turned?

How much longer do I need to hide the worn-out small bills in my wallet when I’m around certain people?

I wonder sometimes how much tolerance a person can take. Or maybe, the better question is:

When will we end the social tolerance?

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