The paradox of meaning well while causing harm: a discussion about the limits of tolerance within democratic societies

  • Edling S
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Curriculum guidelines in many democratic countries argue for the need to practice tolerance as a means to creating peaceful relations. Through moral education, young people are believed to be able to develop a way of being that respects plurality and decreases interpersonal violence in society. But where do students' personal involvements or the issue of unpredictability accompanying inter-personal relations fit into the discussion? This article draws on four young people's narratives as starting points to discuss the gap between progressive educational ideals and embodied ideals when it comes to stimulating peaceful relationships. The study indicates that these youths see themselves as persons who do not want to expose others to strong emotions (similar to the educational ideals of being tolerant), while at the same time struggling with strong emotions that tend to hurt themselves and/or others and paralyse their ability to actively interfere when people are being hurt. In order to understand these findings, Julia Kristeva's notion of ego ideal and the abject are used as analytical tools. Her reasoning contributes to understanding inconsistencies in (young) people's responses to others as significant to acknowledge when it comes to opposing oppression—inconsistencies which otherwise tend to be treated as temporal setbacks in the progression toward human perfection. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)

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  • Silvia Edling

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