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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 09:33 GMT
'Let's ban banning'
No fireworks would be dull
Should banning be banned? In our new Readers' Column, Lewis Graham says we should stop calling for bans on every little thing and learn to be more tolerant. If you'd like to write a column, tell us using the form below.

I have a passion for tolerance. Not just the tolerance for the great sweep of racial, sexual preference and faith, but the small things.

What saddens me is when you hear demands that something - insert almost anything you can imagine - is "banned". Somehow if only that small thing were to happen, the world would be a better place, children would dance in the streets...

But what the writers often focus on is the transient and frivolous. Yes, fireworks let off late at night are annoying, but in the great scheme of things they're not the end of the world. Burning crop stubble makes smoke for half an hour a year, yet there is an annual outcry raised by it.

Bleak lives

Surely it is better to think beyond the small and encourage tolerance. We need to respect others and consider their needs, but that doesn't mean living bleak lives shorn of any risk or fun. Nor does it mean if someone is annoying you on the tube that you can't tolerate him or her, just for a few minutes.

The freedom we have can mean another's pleasure impinges slightly on your day
Lewis Graham

When something trivial begins to annoy, I try to reflect on the annoyance and consider it from the other point of view. Perhaps if children are playing noisily outside, they are getting away from TV and enjoying some exercise.

Another tactic is to think about why someone is doing what he is doing. This can, admittedly, lead to some odd conclusions. Recently I concluded that the barista at a station coffee bar was slow because they were, in fact, an undercover MI5 operative watching for money laundering in the ticket office. Unlikely, but amusing enough to defuse my tension and improve my day.

And if a trivial annoyance isn't worth trying to stop, then it isn't important enough to get annoyed about. Apply the frozen halibut test: if a personal stereo is too loud on the tube, is it bad enough to find a frozen halibut to use to persuade the miscreant to stop?

The worse thing to do is take a trivial annoyance personally. Someone gets on the bus with a laptop, sits opposite you and starts to type noisily. You notice him; he glances up from his work; was that a slight smile on his face?

You then have several thoughts in succession: "He's doing that on purpose... Yes, I saw him, he's trying to annoy me now... I don't believe this!" Instantly your tension goes up and the day is ruined, even though the man using the laptop on the bus is a completely random event. Relax, look out of the window and it will soon be over.


The rich variety of the world, the freedom we have, sometimes means that another's pleasure impinges slightly on your day. But imagine what would happen if something were banned - would a country without the delight of fireworks really be better?

People laughing
Be more tolerant, be more happy
The message is to have tolerance for others in small things. Even if they annoy at first, there is good in everything: seek it out.

There are always things that need to be tackled. If someone not only let off fireworks late at night but did so through my letterbox, I would feel entitled to be peeved and stop it.

There are also bigger issues in the world. Be intolerant of war, poverty, governments that abuse human rights, and hopelessness. Don't let a noisy Walkman absorb all of your energy to make the world better.

If there's a subject you are passionate about - whether you love it or hate it - let us know using the form below.

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