Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On Tolerance…

Recently, I refused to tolerate intolerable behavior and, being known as one who preaches Tolerance, was called a hypocrite.

I'm not kidding.

This made it necessary to ask myself if the person was correct. Does a belief in Tolerance necessitate Tolerance of all things?

Obviously, this is not true. If it were, we would have cheered the Nazi's for genocide… and that certainly didn't happen. That the person's accusation was specious, at best, did not set me free from this line of inquiry, however. I wanted to know about Tolerance, not just "what" but "why", and what limits it was held within by reason.

Let's start with a dictionary (dot com) definition. Tolerance is the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others. Therefore, Tolerance is not the permission to do whatever you like but, rather, a responsibility to accept those around you. The phrase "within reason" is implied here, which is easy to see if you apply it to any extreme. Someone gouging your eyes out with an oyster spoon is not something I would suggest anyone tolerating.

Tolerance is a means but what would the end be? As I can see it, the end that most people can agree upon is the spread of peace and harmony. Tolerance is a means to that end. So, when we talk about tolerance, we are talking about a road to peace and harmony. It would seem reasonable, then, to assume the inverse true, that anything that does not end in peace and harmony would not begin with Tolerance.

Let's test this. The Nazi's genocide did not end in peace and harmony and were not started with Tolerance. True. The work of Martin Luther King helped promote peace and harmony and began with Tolerance. True. I could go on and on but I won't. I'll leave that to you.

Let me try a couple other kinds of tests. It's safe to say that most people support equal rights for homosexuals. It's also safe to say that most people wouldn’t support the right of two men to fuck on the hood of your car in broad daylight. Gay rights promote peace and harmony, which applies to most people and is within reason. Most people, however, would find it unreasonable for anyone to have sex on their car in broad daylight. Let's say I asked your opinion on this. You could reply with, "I disagree. I think Gay Rights are not tolerable and here's why…" or you could say, "I fucked your mama's asshole last night and she said you have a small cock. If you like fags, suck my cock! You're gay, mother fucker!" Which of these responses promotes tolerance?

There are such things as intolerable acts. For the most part, we agree as a society on what they are. When the lines begin to gray, however, and it's possible to promote peace and harmony, that's when it's important to remember to be tolerant. It's not a sign of weakness to do so. Nor is it hypocrisy to say that you won't allow intolerance. This is clearer to me now.

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