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Multicultural tolerance: from Henry the Great and Voltaire to what do we need today

Multiculturalism is a question of tolerance, ethnic attitudes and culture.


There is an opinion that what’s defining an ethnos largely depends on self-consciousness: what a person considers himself to be.


But to come to the confident liberty of self-definition a person should not be distracted by too much noise.


From an Interethnic tolerance appearance to setting respectful attitude.


For the first time, thoughts of tolerance began to appear during religious wars. It was the middle of 1500s. when Henry IV the Great (Henry of Navarre, Heinrich Bourbon) started to speak about it loud. As we know, himself, he changed his religion six times. A great rarity even for that turbulent era.


Historians suggest that he treated all these questions (of religion, confession) with a certain degree of tolerance, if not to say cynicism.


But no, not cynicism. In 1598, 26 years after the night of St. Bartholomew, he secured the signing of the adoption of so-called the Edict of Nantes, the edict of religious tolerance.


A little later (in the 1700s), the world was taken by the popular Quote about the principles of freedom of speech and democracy, attributed to Voltaire: "I do not agree with a single word that you say, but I am ready to die for your right to say it." Do you recognize the French? :-)


Gradually not only ethnic, but also cultural differences were determined.


In the western part of the world freedom of expression dominated as freedom of speech is understood to be fundamental in a democracy.


Idea of "losing face" appeared to be taken more seriously in East Asian cultures than in others.


In Russia with its strong orthodox roots it happened to be a humility.


Today in the 21st century we’ve defined a merging concept, the concept of "tolerance”. And it became absolutely necessary because of three life conditions appeared to be crucial:


1 - Cultural diversity;

2 - Social and legal equality;

3 - Sense of security.


It is the latter condition that dictates the need to rethink the concept. We need not so much “tolerance” in the classical sense. What we need today is to learn to protect our rights and interests, to achieve our goals, while at the same time not violating the rights of other people.


To achieve it, knowledge of 3 principles of communication is useful:


1 – Not only know, but also understand cultural differences;

2 – To respect values and never affect national feelings, never humiliate national dignity;

3 – Look into the future and not into the past.



Today when borders are blurred – ethnic identity is growing. People fight for their culture, for their language and for their sovereignty. We face a paradox between globalization and the desire of people to preserve their culture.


So here we will repeat: What we need today is to learn to protect our rights and interests, to achieve our goals, while at the same time not violating the rights of other people.


(C) Historycally yours,

La Classe team