I’m sure this is going to land me in hot water, which really would just prove my point, but I’ve been thinking about tolerance lately, what it means today and how it’s almost always invoked in the culture wars by those espousing a secular liberal viewpoint.
The general argument typically boils down to this: “you may not like what I do, think or say but a pluralist society requires that you tolerate me and my actions thoughts and views”. Most self-described liberals feel that they do not need to tolerate things which they view as freedoms – so when they call for tolerance, they’re not really applying that concept to themselves. Typically you’ll find that liberals value openness, but struggle to incorporate ideologically diverse views. Diversity in terms of gender, class or ethnicity is important – but so too is ideological diversity.
I typically dislike singling one side out because no party or demographic has a monopoly on bigotry or ‘bad behavior’, but I do take issue with liberals when it comes to the particular concept of “tolerance” because the political left have always considered themselves morally superior and more open-minded than their conservative counterpart and that’s simply untrue.
“Tolerant to everything except intolerance” is something the liberal left loves to say as a means to justify their oppression of those with whom they disagree. But that logic is inherently flawed. In 1971, philosopher John Rawls concluded in A Theory of Justice that “a just society must tolerate the intolerant, for otherwise, the society would then itself be intolerant, and thus unjust. … In a tolerant regime, such (intolerant) people may learn to tolerate, or at least to behave as if they possessed this virtue”.Liberals fail to practice what they preach about tolerance. I’ve said it before, and I’m hardly alone. I believe, in general, that liberals are not actually tolerant. Liberals tolerate only what they want to tolerate. They tolerate things they agree with-which, of course, isn’t tolerance. Tolerance is about accepting the often-difficult differences between you and someone you strongly disagree with and respecting that person’s right to an opposing point of view. Obviously, that’s not liberalism.
There are too many examples to mention but same-sex marriage, abortion, and religion come to mind. Liberals are relentless in denouncing, demonizing, boycotting, attacking, picketing, prosecuting, suing, fining, and even threatening to jail people who disagree with them on these particular issues which they consider themselves to have the moral authority on.
In truth, what liberals really practice is a selective tolerance. And when that selective tolerance doesn’t extend to you and your viewpoint, they tell you that you’re against tolerance, that you’re against diversity, and that you “hate” – but the truth is, there is nothing liberal about shutting someone up.
Look at how liberals run universities, the training grounds for their missionaries of diversity. The faculty at these colleges are 80-90 percent liberal, and conservatives are not only marginalized but often barred from speaking on campus or angrily protested by these self-professing champions of free speech and open-mindedness.
In the past, conservatives may have driven intolerance from the pulpit and the press, but today, enforced orthodoxy derives primarily from the left, emboldened by near total control of the media, university curricula and cultural products.
Amazingly, a recent research by the University of Pennsylvania, found that “the most politically intolerant Americans” tend to be white, highly educated urban progressives.They don’t routinely talk with people who disagree with them; this isolation makes it easier for them to caricature their ideological opponents.In fact, conservatives are more -not less- tolerant than liberals because conservatives don’t expect that liberalism is going to disappear whereas liberals expect that conservatism will disappear and that’s because they believe that conservatism is based on superstition or prejudice, something that isn’t necessary to human life and that can easily be dispensed with so there’s no excuse therefore in their minds, for a conservative to remain conservative. Liberals believe that conservatives, once enlightened and have ‘seen the truth’ then will abandon their views. But conservatives are under no such illusion. We understand that there’ll always be a left and that our politics consists of a kind of alternation between left and right.
Obviously intolerance and ignorance are not concepts only of the left, many conservatives can also be intolerant but it’s more often an intolerance of concepts as opposed to individuals or groups of people and it’s not often you find that conservatives force their beliefs on liberals the way it usually happens the other way around.
I think it’s important to remember that NOBODY has a monopoly on right or virtue. In fact, it is only by being open to hearing opposing views that people on both sides of the political spectrum can learn something.