Thursday, 15 May 2014

Tolerance: Why We Should And Should Not Do It

Date Started: 3/5/14                          Date Completed: 14/5/14                      Date First Published: 14/5/14

The word 'tolerate' is one of those words that has such a sufficiently vague meaning, that it can be used in different contexts, to mean very different things.

This can be advantageous, but it can also be disadvantageous.

It can be a good thing, when it means writing a law that all are happy with; and it can be a good thing when you want to draw people from one politic to another, by desensitising them to certain notions.
{As long as you're right, of course}

But it can be a bad thing when it means equivocation, duplicity, and giving metaphorical rope to those who would use the term for deceptive purposes, to hang other people in society.

When genuinely well-meaning and well-doing people use the word 'tolerance' they're thinking of everyone getting along fine, and not seeing each other as divided by the quasi-social discontintuities of, for example: nations, religions, races, maybe even sexes, cities, and hair colours.

But when well-meaning but unwell-doing* people use the word, it is as an excuse to be foul, evil-doing people. It is used to excuse bigotry and to compartmentalise it - to dig it into their minds, so that it can never be brought into contention and, heaven forfend, be seen as morally wrong!
{* I elaborate the distinction between 'well-meaning' and 'well-doing', down at the bottom of this mini-essay. Look for the third '*'}

Also, tolerance and respect are two very different things.

Tolerating what someone is or does, is very different to thinking that behaviour or feature a respectable thing. And it is far from approving of it.

The word 'tolerance' is used when factionalism and/or disagreement are problems, whether accepted by the speaker or not - if accepted, they will be using the formerly-alluded-to definition meaning tolerance of people despite beliefs; and if not, they will be using the latterly-alluded-to definition meaning tolerance of beliefs despite people.

Let's temporarily consider society as a school. And this as the school bullying policy:

- Tolerate the ginger kids
- Tolerate the skinny kids
- Tolerate the fat kids
- Tolerate the speccy kids
- Tolerate the spotty kids
- Tolerate the queer kids
- Tolerate the gypsy kids
- Tolerate the heretical kids
- Tolerate the bullies

Does this sound happy and egalitarian and fun and frolicky and free to you? And why? Or why not?

There certainly seems to be something wrong, here. For the well-meaning well-doing people, the intent of these tolerance rules, is to protect people from being made into victims, by the people who wish to bully them.

But the premise is set, intrinsic to the policy, that for the bullies, all these people are fair game. Tolerating their potential victims, is not the same as acknowledging that those victims are undeserving of spite - that there is good reason to not make them their victim.

Dogmatised tolerance does not change the premise of whether someone might be deserving of tolerance.

I'm sure many of us will have seen some kind of crime committed before our eyes - more likely a moral one, than a legal one - stealing, littering, queue-jumping, using faked ID cards, drinking underage, bonking underage, etc.

If we've seen one/some of these things as genuinely wrong, which we probably have, for at least one of them, we won't (always) have actually intervened. Well, that was tolerant of us, wasn't it.

But it doesn't mean we approved of the behaviour. For whatever reason, we baulked at confrontation - we tolerated the behaviour that we disapproved of.

When factionalists - nationalists, religionists, etc - preach "TOLERAAAANCE!!!" they are saying they should not be attacked... or maybe merely criticised.

Oh yes - they do love to equivocate between an offense (as in an attack/assault) and 'offense' a spoilt-brat kind of whine, intended to cast the victim of their emotional blackmail as some kind of horrid oppressor.

-- When 'minority' factions preach tolerance, they do so because they think they can't win the battle - the people within them just want to quell criticism of their faction.
-- When mid-size factions preach tolerance, they do so because they want to carry on feeling superior to the minor factions, and to execute their plans of usurping power from the major factions.

-- When 'majority' factions preach tolerance, they do so because they want to exploit their power, to gain more diverts and converts, from free people and the smaller factions. But when they outnumber even the free people, they usually see tolerance as a threat to their dominance. [0]

All of them use the "TOLERAAAANCE!!!" battlecry to deflect valid criticism of their often-supersitious and thereby often-destructive movements.

Ideally, it should make no difference to the world, whether this battlecry exists or not.

The supersitionists will indoctrinate people, and convert them to their own factions; the other superstitious factions will do the same; and the free people will try to avert people from the movements that they see as socially harmful.

And whether those movements genuinely are socially harmful, should be down to evidence, to be determined. Claiming something to be harmful, or not, or helpful, is an objective and coherent claim that can be right or wrong.

But in practice, that's not the way it works. Human contemporary culture is not so committedly rationalistic.

And humans within contemporary culture are easily fooled by these cries for tolerance. They make the error that humans have made for thousands of years - confusing people with their beliefs.

Beliefs come and beliefs go, but the people can be exactly the same ones.

Superstitionists strive to maintain the equivocation between 'people' and 'beliefs' because their 'beliefs' (whether they actually believe them or just propagate them as pseudo-social doctrine) are horrid lies.
{You might consider them to be benign lies, but there is little i find more egregious than active deceit}

Ironically, many of the religions of the world explicitly condemn lying; but hypocrisy has never been beyond religion!

In a rational debate, superstitions, of which religion is only an example, can not win. The claims are frequently objectively false - contradicted by currently-possessed knowledge - and the rest of the time, completely baseless.

This is the nature of superstition - ideas that are believed without/despite evidence.

It is emminently possible to tolerate a person, and to treat them kindly, without thinking that you must necessarily molly-coddle all of their incorrect beliefs, all of the time!

Indeed, when it comes to subjective beliefs, we will do this more often than not - if someone is a Belieber, or labours under the perception that Twilight is a tetralogy worth watching, then we do not feel compelled to strangle them, on the spot. We might joke that we do, but we do not. And if we did, then that would be an example of the irrationality that this mini-essay is soon to condemn.

With objective beliefs, it is always rationally feasible to persuade, through reasoned argument, of a valid case; and it is this that rational people attempt. For superstitionists, however, who claim objectively false things to be true, they can do no such thing. All attempts will fail.

Advocates of superstitions can only manufacture agreement through indoctrinating the claim as a dogma, through bullying people into submission through blasphemy laws, or... through killing those who insist on disagreement.

It is the superstitionists who have the logical endpoint for epistemic dominance as genocide. The 'final solution' was so-named for a reason! And as such, is a very good example.

The Christian movement of Nazism had all the same enemies as Roman Catholicism - the Jews, the Queers, the Atheists, and to a smaller extent, the mentally and physically ill/deformed - and all of these were murdered in huge numbers, in the Nazis' death camps.

All the 'final solution' was about, was a bid to 'purify' society - to make it the 'best' it could be - to make it reflect the Christian ideals of the Nazi Party members - blondeness, physical strength, Christian Faith, going forth and multiplying - all of these and more were rewarded traits.

Slaughtering all of the ideology's opponents was only the last-straw action - Christianity had made do with brutal subjugation and oppression, for millennia, but genocides like the Holocaust were absolutely not incoherent with the movement's fundamental mal-logic.

It is not in the interests of a rational person to go around murdering people they disagree with. In their mind, there is a clear distinction between the beliefs someone possesses and the person themselves.

They know, all too well, from their own experiences, that opinions change. They remember that they once believed things that were later found, by them, to be wrong. And so they changed them.

All of us have moments when we look back on our past beliefs, and think "Did i really think that? God i was sad! But i thought that [hairdo] was really cool, at the time..."

Here, i have deliberately chosen a mundane example, because i wish to engage you, the reader, with the realisation that this happens to all of us.

People lose interest in beehive hairdoes, and ugg boots, and they can lose interest in much more important things, too. Like ritual mutilation of children's genitals. It says something about modern Jews, that they still haven't grown out of this bronze-age-psychotic-maniac-inspired practice.

I, personally, recovered from Christianity (and yes, i do say "recovered", much to the chagrin of current adherents) and am glad to have done so. But that happened because i learned. Not because i was bullied. And i was not bullied by atheists.

I learned that Christianity was fundamentally flawed, both logically and morally; and from there i learned that all of the world's other religions were essentially the same. Which, of course, just made Christianity appear even less worthwhile - if it's just as valid as all of the other baseless and mutually contradictory dogmas in the world, then what's the point of it?

And as i developed, further, i came to realise that there were more ideologies in the world that manifested in similar ways to religion, and appearing to cause similar sociological machinations. Rejection of criticism (in religion, it's called blasphemy) is the one that is common to all pseudosciences. And when they've been around a while, there's also the divergence of thought by the 'experts'.

Real science converges on right answers. Pseudosciences do not find a right answer... because they can't - it isn't there! Their only option is to try more and more baseless ideas, and so the superstitions become more and more diverse.

This is true of religion (Christianity alone has thousands of sub-sects to it) and medical pseudoscience, too. Just look at the plethora of bullshit that quacks sell to people - acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, the definitely-completely-different osteopathy, reflexology, reiki, therapeutic touch, chiropody, ayurvedic poisons, all the other herbal poisons... the list goes on and on and on. And they are all purported panaceically. In real medicine, there are definite boundaries, beyond which anti-biotics, for example, are impotent. You wouldn't use them against glaucoma, because they wouldn't work. But there are homeopaths who have and continue to claim that they can treat domestic abuse, homosexuality (and homophobia!), and even international conflict, with shaken water!

All of these purported panaceas have their own superstitious belief systems that are mutually contradictory with each other. Either the world works one way, or another - in stark contrast to the plethora of 'alternatives', there is only one Science, matching with the one reality. Quacks, however, don't care about this - they'll 'believe' in Qi and Chakras, and Pressure Points, Subluxations, Laws of Similars, and everything else going, as long as it gets money out of people!

Religion and quackery both wish to extort huge amounts of money out of people, because they think that if they can do so, then they must have validity. They Smaug-esquelly hoard money, in an attempt to give their destructive business models a sheen of respectability; and in the process, provide one more reason for a rational person to oppose them - they extort money from the people who are most vulnerable to their ideologies!

Is this fraudulent industry something you're willing to tolerate?

There is no integrity to a worldview that can incorporate awareness of these things, and yet think them all valid!

But there is no motive for someone who knows that advancement comes through learning, to murder the people that disagree with them. It's not even an emotionalistic baulking at immediate causes of harm - something the quacks don't manage when they try to shut bloggers down with legal suits (SLAPPs) - it's just that there is no motive to do so.

When rational scientific movements and irrational superstitious movements declare that tolerance must be had, they are thinking of very different things.

The same is true of 'open-mindedness' - rationalists want minds to be open to evidence; superstitionists want minds to be open to hollow claims that are not supported by evidence.

And guess who has the battlecry of "BE MORE OPEN-MINDED!!!"

Yes, that's right - it's the superstitionists. And i think the same is true of the "TOLERAAAANCE!!!" battlecry. It tends to be the people who have unjustifiable, undefendable, bigoted beliefs who call for tolerance, in equivocation between tolerating beliefs, and tolerating people.

The web-site is a huge catalogue of the harm done when people have superstitious beliefs. This is why there is a difference between well-meaning well-doers, and well-meaning unwell-doers.*

To actually help people, you have to be right. You have to be right that whatever you want to do, is really going to help. If you are wrong, you might unwittingly be committing harm. catalogues some, but nowhere near all, of these cases.

Well-meaning well-doers are people who are, essentially, well-meaning and right; and well-meaning unwell-doers are well-meaning but wrong. For pedantry's sake, i shall point out that it is possible to be wrong, and still make the world a better place, but this consequence is, and should be seen as, accidental. Accidental morality is therefore not something that can be aspired to, and so it is a necessary part of striving to be a better person, that we also strive to learn how we can be so.

So it isn't just quaint philosophy, to see people and beliefs as distinct concepts. To make important moral decisions, in the real world, it is necessary to make such a distinction.

Tolerance of people and tolerance of beliefs/ideas are two very different things.

And that is why the school bullying policy, posited above, is flawed. Not just because it mistakes tolerance for knowledgeable kindness - for being well-meaning and well-doing - but also because its defence of bullies completely misses the point.

That point being that it is the behaviour caused by the belief that, for example, "fags are fair game for scape-goating" that is the problem. It's not the people - it's the behaviour.

Defending bullies is not a moral action, unless they're being defended from a vengeful mob. Such a mob's actions would be worthy of condemnation, on the same grounds as the original miscreant's - the willful causation of suffering. By wishing to commit such vengeance, they make themselves, by definition, also bullies!

In order to run your life, or school, or club, or company, or country, you must know the difference between people and beliefs, and tolerance and respect. It is also important to know that people often deliberately equivocate between the words of each of these pairs, and that tolerating and respecting people often necessarily involves being intolerant and disrespectful of their claims, rituals and dogmas.

To protect a child from their parents' superstitious beliefs, means acting with the acceptance that those beliefs are objectively wrong. Doing otherwise can cost lives. Sometimes, the Law steps in, to prevent them, as regularly happens with the children of Jehovah's Witnesses.

To condemn genuinely harmful behaviours, though, you must be right about which they are. And to be right, you must become right. It might not be easy, but sometimes, a lot hangs on it, and you won't want to be culpable for a terrible mistake, when it's already happened.

This is the profound importance of rationality, to everyday life - the will, and ability, to distinguish helpful ideas from harmful ones.

So when someone says you should be tolerant of something, what you need to know is.... of what, exactly?


[0] Notice that in Christianity and Islam-dominant countries, members of these factions do not call for tolerance, the way members of those same religious factions do in other countries - in other contexts, where they have less power. For example, Islamists are persecuted in Buddhist Burma; and advocates call for tolerance from the Buddhists. In the Islamic Middle-East, minority Christian groups call for tolerance; and Islamists call for tolerance on the border between Jewish Israel and the Gaza Strip.

In the UK and Australia, where Atheists are the majority, Christian groups, who find themselves middle of the range, call for tolerance from the Atheist majority, to tolerate their proselytism and bigoted persecution of smaller groups such as Islamists, Hindus, etc.

In the Christianity-dominated USA, pretty much everyone wants tolerance from the Christians. And yet because the Constitution of the USA is secular, the overwhelming Christian majority tries, extensively, to con people into thinking they're an oppressed minority, so that they can plea for tolerance. "I want my country back", etc.

All around the world, the safest religious groups are the smallest, least powerful ones, whose tiny voice is merely a plea for their perceivedly weird and exotic ways to be preserved, and shielded from criticism, for absolutely no reason whatsoever. The larger the group, the more power they have to bully other people into tolerating (pretending to respect) their practices, to the extent that dominant groups get their way, with their perceivedly normal ways preserved, and shielded from criticism, for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

The solution, for constructing a peacable, de-factionalised society, is to forbid segregation - to prevent the cultural in-breeding that happens when people of one faction are allowed to congregate exclusively with each other. Many past and present governments have absolutely failed to do this, because they credulously accepted the notion that people are happiest when they're with their 'kin'... even though factionalistic dogmas are not necessary for emotional bonds to form (and thereby be kin)... and even when they have had no prior awareness of their supposed kin's existence! Such segregation is known to engender factionalistic prejudice, in religion, and sexism too - the only 'utility' in sex-segregated schools, is to make the pupils more sexist.

The tolerance files:

This list could, of course, be hundreds, or thousands, long, but these will have to suffice.

Irrational tolerance:

'Sam Harris on Jihad and Islamic tolerance'

'New Testament: Intolerance'

'On Tolerance'

'Why Tolerance Isn't Possible'

'Beaverton church sues family after they criticize it online'

'Tolerating the intolerant'

'BBC News - Anti-Islam film: Thousands protest around Muslim world'

'Anti-Pope protesters urged to show tolerance'

Rational tolerance:

'UK is a state aiming for equality, liberalism and tolerance'

'Atheist intolerance'

''Tolerance' and the 'Ground Zero Mosque''

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