Thursday, May 17, 2012

How To Properly Be Intolerant

In my last post on intolerance, I discussed much as to why being intolerant is perfectly okay, but, as a few readers pointed out, this can lead to all sorts of mayhem if it gets into the wrong hands.

See what I mean?
So, it is only just and right to explain further the proper ethic of being intolerant...

As elaborated in the first post, the biggest problem of the tolerance ethic is that it undermines that which makes us different by telling us that it is exactly the same.  It takes religions, such as Christianity and Islam, and tells us that they're essentially the same and that we should all get along.  While I agree, we probably shouldn't be slaughtering each other wholesale, there's nothing wrong with saying "No, Christianity and Islam are not the same, and here's why...."  Conflict is something very near and dear to the human  heart.

I wouldn't be opposed to solving all disputes
in this way...
However, we have to understand what is and isn't proper conflict.  Too often, we look at conflict and identify it as its symptoms, and not by itself per se.  We see the conflict in Syria and the devastating violence stemming from it, and link the two, and rightfully so.  However, it is perfectly possible (and much more civil) to have conflict without any sort of violence or blatant disrespect towards our opponents.

So, the first step to being properly intolerant is to understand genuine similarities between your opponent.  Rather than a system of tolerance, in which one tries to form similarities where there are none and just makes the world a dull and banal system, a Christian (and indeed, any sort of decent person) ought to understand the fundamental similarities of the situation before he seeks to do battle over the differences.  Before I ever engage an atheist, a progressive, or any other person I find a disagreement with, I understand some very fundamental similarities with that person, first and foremost being their humanity.  Man's worst crimes come not at the hands of conflict, but at the hands of dehumanization.  It is only when a person looks on another and deems them less than human that he can objectify (or do worse) that person.  Before ever the swords clash or words are exchanged in firm disagreement, it must always be understood that the person standing before you is, first and foremost, a human being.

Furthermore, it ought to be recognized that a person with whom you disagree is driven by many of the same motives that drive you yourself.  Human beings only move towards what they find good, true, or beautiful.  Whether the ends they seek are actually good, true, or beautiful remains to be seen, but I digress.  In recognizing that the person opposite you is driven by the same things as you are, you only further recognize the similarities shared.

I may or may not fundamentally disagree with
quite nearly everything this man says,
but I certainly honor him as a fellow human being.
Finally, understand that the last two truths are resolute.  Even the most evil of men is still human, and still believes what he's doing to be good, true, or beautiful.  Apart from those things, I can dispute with him up to the hilt, but I must recognize that he is, and always will be, human, just like me.  I can argue with him, I can fight with him, I can even go to war with him, but I will never do so inconsequentially.  No, when we understand the dignity afforded another human beings, every word we say, every action we take, even the thoughts we think in regards to the other are dramatically reconsidered.
And don't get me wrong, I can still be very intolerant.  I may look at another man who demands the right of gay marriage and disagree with him to the cows come home.  I can pull every civil string I have to ensure that marriage is defined as man and woman, but I will not and cannot see him as less than human.  I might find the atheist, who tells me I'm wrong to believe in God, and I'll waste hours in back and forth debate, discussion, and deliberation, but from the beginning to the end of it all, I know him to be human before anything else.  The issues we might debate could be catastrophic; they could have massive consequences, and could very well influence the lives and eternities of countless people.  To say that a man is human doesn't make him less erroneous, nor does it make the error any more insignificant.  It is, however, to say that he deserves the dignity afforded to any human being, whether horridly wrong or immaculate.

To be intolerant in this way is a marvelous thing: I can be enemies with a man and still be his friend.  I can react to his heresies in unparalleled disgust, but I will still see him as valuable.  The man who I debate fiercely with may very well be the man whom I share a good moment of merriment (that's an underused word in our society) with.  Every step I take and every move I make will be balanced in the caution of understanding just what it is I am dealing with:  another infinitely valuable human being.

The great problem of modern intolerance is that it is so flippant and poorly thought out that it goes no where and ends up devolving into looking like a bunch of gorillas howling at each other (and that's insulting to the gorillas).  People see their adversary, not as a valuable human being who may or not be mistaken about this, that, and the other, but as the embodiment of a bad (and often poorly understood) idea, one to whom we can assign a quick and catch label and be on with it.  That's when you end up with these people:
Seriously?  Who the hell do you think you're helping?!

For once, could we just disagree the right way?  The proper way? The effective way?  Can we recognize that its fine to disagree, its fine to conflict over those disagreements, but its also fine to understand just what's at hand in those agreements: two (or more) living, breathing, fully human beings, just like you and me.  Its simple, but yet incredibly effective

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