Given creativity often involves challenging conventions, and asking questions outside of the norm, the level of tolerance a society has for difference must necessarily affect the creativity of its denizens.
It is not surprising that Tolerance is one of Richard Florida’s Three T’s of Creativity. Tolerance counters the fear of difference. It is a sign of a maturing civilisation, where more of its populace are able to engage rational thinking to push the boundaries of human biological hardwiring.
Intolerance is inculcated and maintained through behavioural control mechanisms like culture and religion. There is a real biological need for us to belong to a group. And this can lead us to suppress or self-censor our creative sides, lest we be rejected by the group for asking the wrong questions or offending someone. In extreme cases, non-conformists are killed to remove them from the group. Mao’s Cultural Revolution is one example. The net effect is the dampening down of alternate viewpoints and out-of-the-box thinking.
We can observe the effects of self-censorship in our daily interactions with people in a given group. Do we hear statements like “you can’t say that”, “you can’t think that”, “we don’t do that”? Or blanket statements/beliefs about entire subgroups of people? Or the passing of quick judgements?
Are there laws in place to prohibit the discussion of certain subject matters? How willing are people willing to asking the hard/scary questions? Blasphemy and sedition laws are two examples of legal limits on thought and speech. And because these are subject to interpretation, they serve to create fear around questioning.
We can also observe the level of group behaviour and presentation. How many lifestyle choices are present in the group? How many subcultures? How many different ethnicities? How many vocational and education pathway options?