Friday, February 25, 2005


I've been called "intolerant" before. The pervading and almost ubiquitous thought on tolerance and modernity has vastly erased classical understandings of tolerance. That is to say, I've claimed that others are wrong, and I'm right. I've been involved in a discussion regarding postmodernism, and so far I continue to find it difficult to cast classical tolerance. I find it interesting that the community-generated English Wikipedia has entries for tolerance from a straight postmodern point-of-view.

Tolerance, now, is someone the notion that nobody can be told that they are wrong, and to tell someone they are wrong is to oppress them or to persecute them. *sigh*

Classical tolerance involves three elements:

  1. permitting or allowing

  2. a conduct or point of view one disagrees with

  3. while respecting the person in the process.

Notice that we can’t truly tolerate someone unless we disagree with him or her. This is critical. We don’t “tolerate” people who share our views. They’re on our side. There’s nothing with which we need to put up. Tolerance is reserved for those we think are wrong, yet we still choose to treat decently and with respect.

This essential element of classical tolerance — disagreement — has been completely lost in the modern distortion of the concept. Nowadays if you think someone is wrong, you’re called intolerant no matter how you treat the person.

That pretty much sums up my experience. Oddly, when being confronted for my "intolerance" I am actually suffering from intolerance myself.

It is rare that I can find a person who will accept that I think they are wrong and to be able to discuss the merits and faults of each other's viewpoints. It would be a pleasant change to freely exchange ideas with someone, disagreeing, and still go home with respect for each other. More often than not, discussions break down into diatribes and emotional outbursts, and I hear (too often), "how can you possibly believe that?!?!" But, such is the "tolerant" society I live in.

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