The Boundaries of Tolerance

aka ‘how the Brexit/Bremain debate  has destroyed some of my friendships and made me hate the people I have to spend time with’ 

I have been pondering on writing about this for a while now, and the draft has been sitting in my file for weeks. Then the murder of Jo Cox happened, and nothing felt like the appropriate thing to say. But the EU Referendum day is only a few hours away, and this feels like the time to let out a small vent before returning to work tomorrow.

I’m the only non-British EU citizen in my team where I work at. I’m the only immigrant in the core team of all the supervision and management team in our building. Everyone else is very English and occasionally quite vocal about it. Especially right now, and, God help me, during the football European Championships. I supported Wales recently which might explain my particular pain about that particular aspect of life. Outside the university I spend a lot of time with very anti-EU/ immigrant people. Who knows why. 

 I have heard the whole ‘all the immigrants don’t speak English and come and work for us’ which makes my ears bleed since it is yours truly who constantly gets asked how to spell English words by our native British peers. There irony is sadly lost on those who ask me these things. And believe me, I have heard some similar things about people ‘not bothering to learn our language’ from a hell of a lot of people who haven’t got dyslexia but who struggle with the most basic english language. But enough about that particular frustration.

As you can guess, the upcoming EU referendum has been the one thing that has been talked about for weeks now. And apart from my own work colleague, nearly everyone I know thinks that Britain should vote leave. Now, knowing my own long-term plans and how long the process to negotiate a departure would take, the result in itself would make no difference. As I cannot vote, I am not going to comment one way or another in the actual process and the arguments that go with it, although as a someone who researches media I have to say it’s been painful to watch. And also a great source of material for anyone researching the topic! Too bad it’s too late for me to change my own research areas now..

 But the whole period has brought forward a new dilemma. Just how long should you tolerate the ideas and opinions of others if they are against your own ethics and/or violently offending to you?

 It has been said that the problem with places like Facebook is that people have lost tolerance. If one of your friends has opinions that differ from yours, you can just unfriend them. because of the relative easiness of blocking those who do not agree with you, it has been suggested that it is easy to live in a happy little bubble where everyone agrees with you and you do not have to question your own values and attitudes. Now, for me, I represent the kind of demographic that in the Brexit- debates is more likely to be pro-European. Discounting the fact that I am European myself, I am reasonably young and educated. On top of that, I view my post-PhD life as one that exist in an international stage, and I currently work in a project that exists in web 2.0, and is done internationally.  My colleagues on the other mainly represent the kind of demographic who are more likely to vote for Brexit, when you look at the age and education levels.

 So here I am, logically thinking that everyone votes based on their own perception of life and interpretation of their circumstances. I live my own life based on those perimeters that my own experience creates. However, recently there has been an increase in the xenophobia at work, and someone recently made a comment about possibly sharing some offensive racist material on Facebook, finding it funny. Here is where it gets difficult. Do I note in my next review that I have an issue with the climate at work, or do I keep quiet because of the likelihood of being told to ‘lighten up’. You see, people, when challenged about behaving in an offensive way, often retaliate by either moaning about having to be politically correct, or tell you to lighten up. So then you have to try and figure out a.) how to react and b.) whether you really ought to lighten up.

 And should you really have to lighten up if someone is offending your values, and offending you? I certainly don’t think so. I don’t think that you ought to threaten the persons in question with ‘I’ll take you to court you b****rds’, but there is nothing wrong with some gentle challenging. As long as you do not call the other person an idiot, even if you want to. Or do a Boulton on them, even if violence does not solve the matter.


This Brexit debate.. I am glad that it will be done whatever way things turn. I think I will concentrate on the NHL Draft instead, because of the whole ‘it is not racist to be concerned about immigration whilst simultaneously supporting negative stereotypes based on nationality‘ is getting a bit old now.. Give me a day or two of hockey chaos, and maybe then I can get my sociology hat on and start focusing on what the EU Referendum really means for Britain and my research. But for now.. just get it over and done with!