Friday, July 16, 2010

Tolerating Intolerance

The modern mind loves paradox. This love of paradox is the primary difference between the modern and classical thinker. (Aristotle thought paradox a self-destructive waste of mental effort).

One interesting paradox is that the politicization of tolerance leads to intolerance.

When politicians position feigned tolerance in a political platform, reactionaries might accept intolerance as theirs.

Even if the opposition is wise enough to avoid the ploy. The politicians in our image-driven culture have learned to project the image of intolerance on their opponents.

Projecting false images of intolerance on the opposition is paradoxical as the act of projection is itself an act of hateful intolerance.

The game of projection and paradox would be quite amusing were it not for the unfortunate fact that they have negative consequences in the real world.

Right now, we have a broken immigration system which is hurting a large number of people.

Some on the left feign a pose of hyper-tolerance while advocate a policy of ignoring immigration laws. This position allows them to project intolerance on the people who want the immigration laws enforced.

The issue seems cut and dry from the distance. The left is the party of tolerance and right a hotbed of intolerance. This image fades once one realizes that the wide scale flaunting of immigration laws created a large, exploitable underclass living in an extra-legal state.

Having a large underclass leading an extra legal lifestyle ends up creating the very intolerance that the supporters of illegal immigration claim to want to avoid.

People living an extra legal existence are exploited and alienated. This exploitation often drags down other elements of society.

That progressives will actively encourage the flaunting of immigration laws removes political solutions from the table and creates the very intolerant society they project on those wanting to enforce the laws.

Conversely, the enforcement of immigration laws (which is framed by the left as intolerance) establishes the legal process as the venue for debate. Forcing the issue through a deliberative process is likely to result in greater sympathy and tolerance for the people trapped in our broken and corrupted immigration system.

Following those who feign the image of tolerance leads to intolerance, while following those framed as intolerant is the best hope for instilling tolerance.

The reason for this paradox, of course, is that "tolerance" is not a foundational issue. It is simply a descriptive term that describes one's attitude to a given issue.

The paradoxical nature of the term is immediate apparent when applied to itself (the reflexive paradox). For example, a champion against racism does not tolerate intolerance. A policeman who turns a blind eye to a racist act is tolerant of intolerance.

It is a descriptive term. It is not a human right nor does it serve well as a foundational principle for a society.

As a descriptive term, one might use it to describe sentiments within a society: Society tolerates this, but does not tolerate that, etc.

There may actually be things that we, as a society, don't want to tolerate. For example, I dislike child abuse. I believe that we, as a society, should not tolerate child abuse.

In conclusion, tolerance is nothing but a descriptive term. Focusing on tolerance, in and of itself, is a paradoxical distraction that can divert attention from real issues. The focus on tolerance can even take a negative turn when people engage in games of feigning tolerance while projecting intolerance on others.

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