Monday, 28 September 2015

The Comparative Merits of Tolerance

I don't suppose the recent incessant banging of the DrumOfTolerance has escaped the attention of any save the hard of thinking. At least, when not being drowned out by its more resonant sibling, "equality"...

It occurred to me that things have a tendency to engender their opposites.  I'm no anthropologist / sociologist; surely there is a buzzword or catchphrase to describe the phenomenon where prominence given to any one particular human virtue ends up bringing about its opposite, either by necessity filling a void, or by stimulating an equal and opposite reaction.

This preamble, being a roundabout way of introducing a rather neat assertion that I have assembled relating to the nature of tolerance in societies founded on Christian and Islamic systems.  In a nutshell:

I) Tolerance is a virtue intrinsic to societies built on a Christian foundation, often taken to grotesque ends by members not possessed of its corresponding virtues of modesty/humility who prefer to exploit it to flatter their moral vanity.

II) Tolerance is a necessary coping mechanism in structurally hypocritical cultures subject to endless strictures on every form of activity, as is often found in Islamic cultures, where it accordingly finds more natural limits.

To many, the first statement will sound baffling.  The second outright offensive.  Allow me to explain.  Firstly, it is worth clarifying that the ability to express intolerance of certain actions and behaviours is probably as essential as the capacity to tolerate individual differences is to the moral health of any given culture.  Which brings me to a second point of clarity relating to terms.  It merits a brief iteration of the six possible attitudes one may adopt toward any given point of principle:

Rejection = disbelief + opposition
Tolerance = disbelief + passivity
Submission = disbelief + support
Denialism = belief + opposition
Acceptance = belief + passivity
Celebration = belief + support

It is surely a sign of how progressive we have all become that we can move so nimbly between Rejection and Celebration these days, no? (Perhaps another category is needed to describe criminalising people for failing to celebrate things that were illegal less than five decades ago...?)

On the surface, celebration and rejection would appear to be the most principled stances to take on any given subject, which is no doubt why those who have an existential need to think well of themselves avail themselves of their use with such frequency.

The foundations of conservatism rest on tolerance and acceptance.  An understanding of one's own sinful/hypocritical nature and humble acceptance that one's own beliefs may not always be sufficiently well grounded in truth to impose them on all peoples for all times limits the desire to codify positive rights.  Respect for time honoured received wisdom and tradition corresponds with an urge to defend negative rights in the hope that they might conserve us from the Universal Law of Unintended Consequences.  Negative rights which, largely already codified, rarely need tinkering with anyway.  Hence Conservatism's famous maxim to never change the law "except with a trembling hand".

Submission and denialism would appear to be the least principled stances, but it is worth remembering that we are, after all, only fragile humans - lest we also fall into the ever popular trap of judging others too harshly.  Further, in addition to the social fury and scorn that can be heaped upon a person for insufficient celebration or rejection of the latest causes du jour, extrication from the tax system is no simple matter.  In the absence of being able to do so, a person has little power to withdraw their subsidy for the various public programmes to abort babies, inseminate lesbians, euthanise grannies, supply drugs/vaccines to children, etc.

The preamble done, justification for the two assertions follow:

I) Christian Tolerance

Whilst contemporary wisdom would have us believe that anybody claiming an objective external standard of truth will naturally gravitate towards a violently intolerant view of those who don't share their views with such enthusiasm, it is worth considering the central message of Christianity.  You needn't believe in the resurrection, or sky pixies to accept that a story about a God that loves the world enough to sacrifice his only son - to willingly submit to Roman barbarism allowing himself to be crucified for teaching a message of love, forgiveness, and non-judgement, has the principle of tolerance writ large in its core.  But here's the kicker.  The message of tolerance not only refuses to affirm acceptance of immorality, it actively condemns it.  Whereas "let him without sin cast the first stone" powerfully articulates the principle at work in Tolerance II, it clearly indicates a rejection - at a personal / individual level - that poses a common sense existential threat to the uncompromising, absolutist narratives of the many radical positions that (post?)modern day Social Justice Warriors unsustainably heap upon the edifice of societal tolerance raised up by the Christian system, whilst not only rejecting its truths, but also furiously denying the very possibility of any standard of external truth, so famously asserted as being findable by all willing to seek it.  To summarise then, the Christian / Post Christian traditions tend to promote tolerance based on love of your fellow sinner and a respect for a complex, abstract, but at least mostly knowable truth, and yet breed intense intolerance when they abandon humbleness and play fast and loose with facts

II) Islamic Tolerance

I can see that describing another culture as hypocritical is liable to get backs up, so I will lay out straight away that I admit entirely to being a hypocrite of sorts myself.  Therefore, I am not trying to be damning in describing the tolerance found in Islamic Cultures as being bred of hypocrisy - just pointing out that it comes from a different source.  As far as I am aware, there is no equivalent injunction to "let him without sin, etc." in Islamic scriptures, which even contain its opposite injunction to physically, verbally, mentally and spiritually oppose all forms of evil at all times. It is not a misrepresentation to say that Islam is predicated on notions of justice and obedience to Gods will over the love and honest truth seeking that Christianity emphasises in their place.  Indeed the former substitution is widely viewed as a recipe for chaos and the latter a theological absurdity - a position shared with leftists and postmodernists of all stripes.  However, none of this would cut me much slack with Islamic hardliners, as hypocrisy is regarded as something of a cardinal sin in Islam.  The Arabic term is Munafiq and whereas believers in other Abrahamic faiths are offered three options - conversion, submission, or death, polytheists and atheists two - conversion or death, only one option is open to the persistent renegade Munafiq, covered succinctly in the fourth sura by an injunction to "slay them wherever ye find them".  There is some protective ambiguity surrounding the number of chances they get and regarding the full list of behaviours that put you beyond the pale.  These two factors, plus high evidential tests, plus the odd drop of milk of human kindness probably go some way to explaining the relative paucity of initial stone castings, unless we are to believe that adultery simply doesn't exist in such societies. In addition to matters of faith being in the public rather than private sphere, there are strictures on practically every area of human activity, from clothes, to hair, associations, beard length, prayer, fasting, cloth dyes, cleaning yourself, many of which go beyond mere advice.  In summary, the mystically elusive conception of truth combined with the volume and severity of the many intolerant injunctions impingent on its adherents create a de facto tolerance not widely considered to be a good within itself that cannot therefore be stretched to accommodate whatever you want it to. Therefore, whereas opportunities to be intolerant are only limited by people's capacity to hate one another, unpopular (minority) attempts to impose tolerance will typically backfire and ironically create more intolerance.  The implication being that democracy will not typically promote greater tolerance under such systems.


  1. Post retweeted by Vox Day. I gather you guys favour a particular kind of diversity of thought, so please be free with your comments!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. An insightful, thoughtful post. Thank you!
    One thing, though re the "untangled" ending as posted on VD:
    From The Daily Mail: "While the (Science) teacher approved, Ahmed got into trouble after the device started beeping while in an English class, and the second teacher mistook it for a bomb."
    This does not seem like provocative behavior on the kid's part. It seems more like a purely dunderheaded conclusion on the teacher's part (especially after the Science teacher had given the device a pass) and an equally dunderheaded No Tolerance policy that compelled detention even after the police had declared an all-clear.

  4. Thanks for your comment Tim.

    Well, one can never be sure, to be sure. However:

    - You & I werent there. Police & Schoolteachers, who were, all claim he was "passive agressive" ("looks like a CLOCK to me...")
    - Admits to the contrary on video that he knew the device would look like a bomb
    - Claim that it was an "invention" appears disingenuous at best - looks like he took apart an old clock radio and put it into a military looking metal briefcase.
    - Doesnt sound like an electronics whizzkid to me. "my hobby is to invent stuff and... I do a lot of stuff, for example inventing this type of stuff" (shows a pcb bought off ebay) "right here - transformers... you git what Im saying..."
    - Ignored science teachers instructions to put it away & not parade it around
    - Daddy is a professional rent-a-gob for all things Islamophobia related
    - Sister expelled for bomb threats. (allegedly...)
    - Somebody with the same name as his uncle owns a company called Twin Towers Corporation
    - Happened just after 9/11 - whaddyaknow...
    - Dad insists on keeping the handcuffs on for a photo.
    - Whole thing stage managed from thereon in.

  5. Whilst contemporary wisdom would have us believe that anybody claiming an objective external standard of truth will naturally gravitate towards a violently intolerant view of those who don't share their views with such enthusiasm, it is worth considering the central message of Christianity.

    I love this. The fact is, I can reject the socially-destructive impact of government-approved gay marriage without failing to love gay people I work with. The central message of Christianity commands me, as an individual, to behave in a certain way. It does not command the society in which I live to voluntarily self-destruct because of my beliefs

  6. Something I brought up over there, but while the definitions in the post here are wonderful for articulating the difference between tolerance and celebration, it's not a work-all definition for general situations. Disagree could be put in place instead of disbelief, but I don't think it'd make as well of a contrast and article.

    Some other things too but I'm exhausted.