I was thinking about tolerance, and how it is supposed to be the cornerstone of our civilization and what not.
I think it’s actually complete nonsense and here’s why.
If you live in some Western country, in Europe or America, and you want to create a political party or a social movement which advocates murder of those who criticize your beliefs or offend you, if you advocate treating women as inferior, if you advocate treating other religions as inferior, if you advocate destroying ancient relics belonging to cultures you find offensive, you’ll either be put in prison or in a lunatic asylum, you will be socially ostracized, lose your job and essentially be perceived as a bigoted Nazi piece of shit, and rightly so.
However, if another culture or a civilization does the same thing, those very people who would crucify you, a member of their own civilization, for holding such beliefs, suddenly come to defend you because “other cultures need to be respected”, essentially they will advocate tolerance. In fact, you can literally tear living hearts out of prisoners of war and sacrifice them to your gods, and if Mel Gibson makes a movie criticizing such practices, he will be attacked as intolerant for even expressing a critical opinion of you.
Which brings us to my second point: the Western civilization has serious internal contradictions based on self-loathing, and this needs to be resolved, and quickly. I understand that a Victorian attitude of “we are superior and we need to bring the inferior peoples up to our high standards” eventually produced Nazism, and that the assumption of one’s own superiority combined with the simple logic of good stuff needing to prevail over bad stuff eventually produced the holocaust; however, citing Hitler and the Nazis every time someone says that there are superior and inferior things and people leads us nowhere. Of course there are superior and inferior people. Even the liberal critics of such position will agree – they will see the Nazis as inferior people, who need to be killed or in other way punished, for instance. They will see the “intolerant ” people and philosophies, at least within their own civilization, as inferior, worthy of contempt and destined for extinction.
So, essentially, this intolerance toward the intolerant ones suffices to prove that it’s not about tolerance, but about defending some implicit underlying set of values that describes the Western civilization as such, and the thing is, I’m not exactly sure what that is. We had Western civilization before we had equality of races, religions and sexes. Even the Nazis are obviously a branch of the Western civilization. It’s not about Christianity, either, but it might be about secularism, moral relativism, humanism and science. I don’t know how to define it, but I can recognize it when I see it.
But why does the Western civilization so readily denounce its own unacceptable offshoots, while tolerating even worse offenders outside of its fold? What comes to my mind is that it might seem as a way to avoid intercivilizational conflict, so rather than to judge everything on merit, or to reject all merit altogether, one needs to suspend critical judgment outside of one’s civilization – so if one of our own were to insult a Jew, he would be denounced as a Nazi scumbag (and rightly so), but if Arabs or Iranians insult Jews and call for their annihilation as part of a daily routine, we need to tolerate them and accept that it’s “part of their culture”.
Yes, it’s part of their culture, I agree, but if their culture happened to be a part of our civilization, it would be utterly denounced and seen as the vilest bigotry and scumbaggery that it indeed is. If a German or a French man thought women need to be obedient to men, are inferior to men, and need to be covered head to toe in some cloak in order not to be seen by “strangers”, what would we think of such a man? We would think that he’s a sexist piece of shit and a vile scumbag. However, a billion Muslims espouse those same beliefs, and organize states and laws accordingly. How are they different from, let’s say, the Nazis, who also espoused intolerant, racist beliefs and organized states and laws accordingly?
That’s why I don’t care about tolerance and I think it’s not a value worth upholding. Rather, I’m a meritocrat, meaning I perceive things and people on a coordinate system of merit. If someone knows more and performs better on tests of mental aptitude, he’s smarter. If someone is kinder and gentler than other people, he has more value on that axis than people who are cruel and abusive to others. If someone is perceptive and truthful, he fares better on the axis of adherence to reality than people who are liars and deceivers. Essentially, it’s not a single-axis space, and it’s a complex thing, but there are values and there are people who are better compared to others. It’s better to be smart, honest, kind and helpful, than to be stupid, dishonest, cruel and abusive. I think we can agree on that. However, if you do agree on that, what remains to be agreed on is universality of application of this principle. If it’s good for me to be smart, kind and gentle to others, and it’s a good thing that people in my town and in my country are smart, kind and gentle, and not stupid, cruel and violent, how is it that the rule stops working as soon as I try to apply it to people outside my town, state or civilization? How is it that in my town, if a man treats a woman like shit, he’s a sexist scumbag, and if a man in another town or a state does that, I have to tolerate his culture, and I can’t perceive his culture according to my normal set of values, as that of sexist scumbaggery and therefore inferior to mine?
I will leave this question open, as something to think about. However, I personally believe in an absolute justice, I personally believe that God will punish every villain and a scumbag on merit of his deeds and spiritual state, regardless of his “culture”, because tearing live people’s hearts out as a sacrifice to gods is an evil deed, and it will not be pardoned because it was normalized within a certain culture, just as killing millions of Jews in gas chambers will not be pardoned just because it was normalized within a certain culture.
Where tolerance actually makes sense is at the point where you refuse to take responsibility for other people’s lives and choices. True tolerance is to live according to your own chosen principles and to accept that it is so for others; that all will be judged on absolute merit, and that all will most likely be quite short of perfection. In order to be tolerant, you don’t have to turn a blind eye to the evils of others. You simply need to be an alternative to evil, and that’s the best way in which you can possibly fight it. You don’t fight evil by rounding up all evildoers and nuking them. You fight evil by being its opposite. And tolerance… tolerance is the part where you admit it’s not your place to force others to make the choices you personally favor. However, tolerance is merely a necessity, derived from human ignorance. Do not expect God to be tolerant. Expect, however, to be judged fairly and objectively, on absolute merit.