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Tolerance Is Not a Virtue

Cliff Notes version of this post: Tolerance (inclusion, acceptance, etc.) is not inherently virtuous. It is only virtuous to the extent that the thing being tolerated (included, accepted, etc.) is virtuous or to the extent that tolerating (including, accepting, etc.) the non-virtuous has a virtuous outcome.

Tolerance is Not a Virtue

Failing my own rule #4 of Sacrament Meeting talks, I am going to begin today’s lesson with three definitions. This is an equivocation-free zone, so read carefully.

  1. Tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own
  2. Acceptance: favorable reception; approval; favor
  3. Inclusion: the state of being part of the whole

Tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion can mean:

  • All economic classes are permitted/approved/welcomed (without regard for ability to pay)
  • All ethnicities and/or cultures are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All phsycial and/or mental abilities are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All races are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All species are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All genders are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All sexual orientations are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All non-traditional claimed gender spectrums are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All manner of dressing, non-dressing, cross-dressing are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All political persuasions are permitted/approved/welcomed
  • All religious groups are permitted/approved/welcomed (or, more likely, equally shunned)
  • All _________ is permitted/approved/welcomed

Ohio State University, Cornell University, and University of Tennessee-Knoxville (among others) recently crowded the PC bandwagon to help their staff and students be the best in all the world at including (specific) things while also excluding (specific) things (of course, without acknowledging the latter). They did this by outlining the best ways to celebrate the holidays while being “inclusive, respectful, and festive.” Interestingly, these types of rules are generally put forth by the offices of “Inclusion and Diversity” (which, one would suppose, supports embracing a range of…something) and yet they demand homogeneous conformity. Weird how that works. 

Students and staff were told, among other things:

  • The colors red and green—and the word Santa—should be avoided. (Micoraggression.)
  • Food must neither privilege nor inauthenticate a culture or religion. (Appropriation.)
  • Decorations must not contain religious references. (Triggering.)
  • Mistletoe is banned. (Rape culture.)
  • Cultural games are out. (Weapon-free zones (dreidels are kind of pointy).)
  • No secret Santa. (The North Pole is not a safe space.)
  • “Holiday parties” must clearly and carefully be planned so as not to be  misconstrued as “Christmas parties.” (For example, by holding them in June?)

One astute person suggested the staffers might want to flood the campuses with nativity scenes, calling them a “study in Middle East culture around 1 AD.” You know, for the sake of diversity and all that.

I lived in Boca Raton, Florida, for a decade. The Seinfeld jokes are correct, it’s a mecca (heh) for Jews. Just before we moved away, we were the only non-Jewish family left in our neighborhood. Somehow our neighbors managed to deal with our “very bright house” in December and we survived being surrounded by menorahs and blue stuff. Of course, back then none of us realized that we should have been offended and triggered and oppressed by it. If only.

Robert Dyas, a British company, tried so, so, so hard to be inclusive. But, seriously, where are the trans, pans, pols, queers, and all other variations of the LGBTQRST communities? Talk about hate and exclusivity!

(Sadly, Robert Dyas missed the mark of the quintessential The Red House Furniture race inclusion parody ad.)

In his paradox of tolerance, Karl Popper ironically notes that the promotion of tolerance (which he advocated) was at peril from itself and, as a result, advocated the use of force, if necessary, to enforce tolerance. Weird how that works.

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. – In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

Did you read that? We shouldn’t always suppress “intolerant philosophies.” We should only do so when we can’t sufficiently refute them. Now there’s a First Amendment cause for you.

In a recent post, The Gospel of Inclusivity and Nothingness, I posited that the value of inclusion has expanded from a particular brand to a general sweeping demand. Rather than a specific kind of tolerance/acceptance/inclusion being proposed and discussed, these three characteristics have been expanded to values in their own right, independent of the thing being tolerated/accepted/included.

I concur that no one actually believes in a general, overarching, limitless tolerance standard (easily shown by the intolerance of intolerance, rejection of rejection, and exclusion of exclusion; see Popper, et. al.). Still proponents often neglect to specify the demanded tolerance and rarely recognize their own lack of and limits to the value they (claim to) espouse. Instead, they use the culturally (and idiotically) accepted positivity of these values to shut down conversation and beat the opposition into submission.

Here’s how the easy peasy three-step process works:

  1. Hear/read/see something I don’t like
  2. Call the “perp” intolerant/hateful/exclusive
  3. Everyone falls in line with me to condemn the perp so as to appear tolerant/accepting/inclusive

One reader disagreed with my premise and seemed unwilling to note the oft-promoted contextless demands for tolerance. When presented with examples, he seemed eager to use any other wording in the piece to provide specifying context, even when the wording wasn’t referring to the tolerance being demanded.

When pondering this conundrum, it occurred to me that the simplest way to prove the premise is in the context (see what I did there?) of  memes. Rather than attempt to show that the demand is general even though the article or post contains a context of some kind, the most efficient way to show this demand is in the plethora of tolerance/acceptance/inclusion memes that flood the internet and social media spaces. This works because the meme is a stand-alone statement to present an idea. The meme includes the entire context.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the tolerance/acceptance/inclusion memes and pull-quotes I gathered in 20 minutes whilst also watching an episode of season 10 of Bones—multi-tasking to make the task tolerable. (heh) The pickings are too easy. Feel free to google on your own for more mindless fun!

Tolerance Is Not a Virtue

Happy holidays, whatever they may be!


Addendum (1/2/16): I neglected to add one of the best examples of a general call for tolerance. Action Sprout has a “Pledge to Prioritize the Teaching of Tolerance to Children.” Ahem.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • CamBendy December 27, 2015, 4:19 pm

    If I hadn’t seen the guy who is the tolerance denier claim people don’t push for general tolerance, I wouldn’t have believed anyone could have lived under that big of a rock.

    That long list of memes is hilarious.

  • Margo December 27, 2015, 4:35 pm

    So . . . I’m one of those people who preaches tolerance and inclusion all the time and I never really though through what that has to mean at the end of the day. That Popper quote really hit me in the face. Time to think this through.

  • IdRatherNotSay December 27, 2015, 7:47 pm

    I read this while wrestling a momentarily hyper baby but I enjoyed what I was able to comprehend. I have been feeling especially intolerant of the intolerance of Christmas this year. Maybe I am extra tired or hormonal, but I am getting to the point where I have stopped following businesses on social media for saying “enjoy the holiday.”

    I am fine with “happy holidays” if a person really does mean “holidays” in the plural, because it makes sense… But if they mean Christmas, then they need to say Christmas. “Holiday shopping” is especially irritating. Labor Day, MLK Day, etc. are holidays but we do not buy gifts for them. We buy presents for Christmas. If a business is going to capitalize handsomely on Christmas, then the least they can do is give Christ His dignity.

    Like you said, (I think) becoming too tolerant makes you intolerant of others. People who are too tolerant of the anti-Christmas group have become intolerant of those of us who still choose to exercise our freedom of religion… Without persecution.

    Thanks, Alison!

  • parisisinfrance December 27, 2015, 9:37 pm

    This is what I needed to read today. After all the Christmas anger, I should have just linked to this.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 29, 2015, 12:26 pm

    CamBendy, I didn’t anticipate that response either. I’ve dealt with the general tolerance demands for so long that I couldn’t imagine anyone who hadn’t seen it.

    You learn something new every day!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Same Sex Marriage and the New Church PoliciesMy Profile

  • Andrew S. December 29, 2015, 1:27 pm

    LOL at a lot of these. I guess I’m just really fortunate not to have these sorts of sentiments throughout my social media, etc.,?

    aka living under a rock.
    Andrew S. recently posted…Prophets < Apostles?My Profile

  • Taylor Davidson January 1, 2016, 11:32 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful list of quotes on tolerance/ intolerance.
    Taylor Davidson recently posted…Public Holidays WA 2016 Calendar and ListMy Profile

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