Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Once More Into the Breach

Maybe you have seen this meme floating around. Maybe you have come across it as a reaction to the dumpster fire that is the New New TSR's public relations. And I put that mildly. 

So here I go. Again.

There is a limit to tolerance, but the argument in the meme suggests that the only solution to intolerance is to be equally intolerant. Intolerance, like tolerance, occurs on a spectrum. It isn't necessary, or even desirable, to tolerate too much of it, but it is far more desirable to help the intolerant join the tolerant than it is to just thrust them outside the protection of the law.

It is also notable that, when we look at something like speech (or any other rights, for that matter), allowing people to have those rights when you disagree with them - ESPECIALLY when you disagree with them - is the only thing that safeguards those same rights when they disagree with you.

And let's be clear - if you lose a right when it is inconvenient, it was never a right to begin with. It was always just the illusion of a right. Rights are tested by the worst case scenarios, not the best.

And, Crom on His Mountain, when you start trying to silence other people, it always ends up with your being silenced. Always. Every. Bloody. Time.

Sorry. I think Karl Popper (at least as translated by this meme!) is way off-base here. There is a large difference between some sheltered idiot who is afraid of people different than themselves and Adolf Hitler. When you begin to equate the two, you join the list of people who have decided that they have the right to change people's beliefs by force.

That is not something that I can tolerate.

For instance, I have no desire to be associated with the New Coke TSR, but that doesn't mean that I think their attitudes should put them outside the law.

Their actions might cause them legal troubles. They are very likely to cause them financial troubles. But someone being a transphobe should not mean that they wind up in prison ("outside the law") for their beliefs.

Being tolerant of the intolerant doesn't mean giving their ideas a chance. It means giving them a chance to evolve better ideas.

Intolerant actions, of course, are a whole different thing. And that does include attempts to encourage others to intolerant action.


  1. The meme you cited it's a very, very misleading aproax to Popper theory. It's discouraging that people allways use the meme and not what the actual phillosopher said (even if you are not a fan of his work or ideas).

    My reality is very different than yours: I'm from Spain, a very different country with different problems, so I think that I don't really understand all your tensions and social problems. But as a human being I feel that there is a big difference between disliking what one is saying and what one is doing. And in Social Media this difference sometimes seems to disapear, but I think (and maybe I'm wrong, I don't know) that's a really big problem.

  2. To put it more succinctly, tolerance is not a virtue. It is a consequence of love, which is a virtue; however, intolerance is also a consequence of love. So, rather than trying to make everybody tolerant, which is not always appropriate, we should be focusing on how best to love each other.

    1. That is not exactly what I said, and I do tend to think that tolerance is a virtue, to a point.

    2. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I disagree with it. Intolerance is a consequence of fear, not love. Like war, it is always an evil, even if it might sometimes be a necessary evil.

      When we leap to "We must fight evil with more evil, and that is good" things become somewhat concerning.

    3. Of course intolerance can be a consequence of love. Should I tolerate the use of alcohol around my loved ones who are alcoholic? Drugs and drug use around my addict friends? Racist sentiments and activities around friends and loved ones that belong to the groups being discriminated against? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is no. Love is the virtue that drives the decision of whether or not tolerance or intolerance is appropriate. And intolerance can very much be a good thing.

    4. I understand what you are saying. But that intolerance is not a consequence of love. It is, rather, a consequence of fear. If you did not fear that the use of alcohol around your alcoholic loved ones would cause them harm, the fact that they are your loved ones would have no effect at all. You fear loss or damage to something that you love.

      You could make the exact same argument about war. Should you not kill People X who might damage People Y, who you do care about? Does caring about the possibility of terrorism not justify US actions in the Middle East? Do the effects on the US economy - and possibly those who you love - not justify the US meddling with governments in the Middle East, South America, and just about everywhere else?

      The argument is the same. We are doing those things to protect our own. It is out of love.

      I reject that utterly.

      Those actions might be taken from greed, or from fear. They might even be motivated by fear of loss/damage to things that you love. At times, taking negative actions might be necessary (although it is not necessary nearly as much as we claim it is). What is is not is *good*.

      A necessary evil is still an evil, even if it accomplishes something good. We should never be casual about justifying evils.

    5. I think we are talking about two different things, because it seems to me that you are conflating the word “love” with things like “materialism” and “patriotism” — both of which can easily be used to justify things like war. So, it might be useful to define terms. What I mean by love is the Greek αγάπη, which has the connotation of unconditional. Thus, there is no fear. Love occurs despite fear.

      The reason that I think it is really important to understand the difference between tolerance (the non-virtue) and love (the virtue αγάπη) is that one is relative and mutable, while the other is universal and immutable. What we tolerate is largely dependent upon circumstance. For example, we have radically different expectations of toddlers than we do of college students (despite their proclivity for similar behaviors). Love (αγάπη) is unconditional. Thus, it does not matter whether we are dealing with a toddler or a college student. If we use love as the place from which to decide when and when not to tolerate things, we have a much better chance of bridging gaps, healing wounds, and giving everyone a change to be a better person.

      If, on the other hand, we insist on tolerance as our bench mark, we willingly stand on a foundation that is in constant flux. We are in grave danger of making decisions that seem universal, but are in reality finite. We also begin to erode the positives that can come from intolerance, when that intolerance comes from a place of love (αγάπη). We can doom ourselves to becoming an ouroboros, constantly devouring ourselves instead of lifting each other up. As you point out in your post, "when you start trying to silence other people, it always ends up with your being silenced. Always. Every. Bloody. Time." Elevating tolerance to the status of a virtue is one of the reasons the cycle of silencing is so prevalent today.

    6. I don't believe that the issue is definitions. It might be a matter of attempting to argue by semantics, however.

      IF one accepts that there are no conditions on love, but there must be conditions on tolerance, THEN one can say that love is a root cause of tolerance, and that tolerance occurs because of love. So far so good. I have argued often enough that love may be unconditional, but relationship is not.

      Your second paragraph I don't really disagree with, so long as by "virtue" you mean "something that exists as a platonic absolute" rather than "virtue" as it is used in general conversation.

      No one is insisting on "tolerance as our bench mark". Here you are tilting at straw men.

      You have not, in any way, shape or form, made a convincing argument that intolerance comes from a place of love. You cannot build from an assumption to demonstrate that the assumption is true. Likewise, your case is not made that the cycle of silence has been elevated by trying to be tolerant. Rather, it is attempting to elevate intolerance as a good (which you are trying to do) that has achieved that result.

      No one says "Tolerance is a virtue! So let's be intolerant!"

      Many (including you, and including the meme referenced) say "Intolerance can be good! So let's be intolerant!"

      When you view intolerance for what it is, an evil, you might end up deciding that the ends justify the means, but you don't go leaping down that path.

      And your response doesn't actually answer the point about all the atrocities that have been, and currently are, justified by using the same reasoning you are proposing. We are "constantly devouring ourselves instead of lifting each other up" because people feel justified in doing so. Deciding that "constantly devouring ourselves" sometimes comes from love doesn't make self-justification harder.

      To sum up: I believe your response is well-intentioned, but it does not support its conclusions or answer the objections to it.

  3. That comic, like a lot of memes, is a poor substitute for thinking things through. It's telling that it can be twisted to mean whatever the reader wants it to mean. It is indeed a paradox, just like it says, but perhaps not the kind of paradox the creator thought.

    E.g.: I am 100% intolerant of drunk driving. I am an intolerant prick about it. I preach against it and take action when necessary. According to this comic, society should not tolerate me or the anti-drunk driving crowd.

    Of course, if I said I am 100% in favor of sober driving, I'd be fine.

    The comic is a semantic tool to justify all kinds of behavior, good, bad, or otherwise.

  4. Great sentiment! It's better to be welcoming and inclusive!!

    1. Within reason, yes. I mean, we all have things we cannot tolerate. Exclusion shouldn't be our go-to move for any infraction, though. We should consider intolerance to be a sometimes-necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless, and not something we do without considering whether it is justified, or what the ramifications will be.

      IMHO, anyway.

  5. I think you're overly worried about what the "sheltered idiot who is afraid of people different than themselves" is going to feel when they get excluded from a game for being a shitheel, and not worried enough about the people subjected to said shitheel's hateful behavior. If the basement nazis of the world would keep their repulsive worldview to themselves then nobody would have to ostracize them, but it's an important part of growing up to learn that if you say things that make everyone around you uncomfortable you won't be invited back to play more DCC. Love your blog, just disagree with this take.

    1. The argument isn't about being excluded from a game.

      Please clarify which part of this you disagree with:

      "There is a limit to tolerance, but the argument in the meme suggests that the only solution to intolerance is to be equally intolerant. Intolerance, like tolerance, occurs on a spectrum. It isn't necessary, or even desirable, to tolerate too much of it, but it is far more desirable to help the intolerant join the tolerant than it is to just thrust them outside the protection of the law."

      When you do, we will be talking about whether you agree or disagree with the argument presented in the post, and we will be able to discuss it meaningfully.