Definition of Tolerance. Question: What is Tolerance? This relates to cultural diversity in America, the definition of cultural diversity. So, what is cultural diversity, and what is tolerance?
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Definition of Tolerance. Question: What is Tolerance?
Definition of Tolerance. What is Tolerance? Definition of Tolerance. What is Tolerance?
WESTERN TOLERANCE and ISLAM
Western Mental Blocks, All Opinions are Equal
It was one small boy who noticed the leak in the dike and averted calamity long ago, plugged the leak until help could come. Lots of people have been noticing this time around, hearing Muslim protests that prejudice and bigotry are destroying what is supposed to be a tolerant society. But - like with climate change - far too many people have not had the eyes to see the obvious.
I would not be writing abut disproportionate Muslim rage if it were widely seen. instead, over and over, I've heard, "Oh those poor Muslims. No wonder they're offended." And from Muslims, with even more vehemence, "How dare someone offend our religion? It's our right to have our religion respected."
I don't want to be like that little boy, blocking the water from coming in, keeping things as they are.
In this case, a lot of effort is going into keeping knowledge out.
I get images of super heroes battling away - Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. Over and over the villains keep coming. It's almost always easy to spot the bad guys. But what if they're masked? What if the exterior shows someone nice? And even harder, what if inside there is no villain - but something that may be equally dangerous - a nice person who isn't good at seeing.
Instead of just looking at Muslim outrage, I've been bashing away, hacking away, at Western barriers - such as the barrier of denial.
Virginia Satir wrote of 5 fundamental freedoms. One is the freedom to see what is here - not what was, should be, could be, will be, might be. A powerful message from much of Islam has been: we are enraged if you criticize, and we refuse to change. That message has been met with enormous compliance from the Wes: all religions are equal, you have the full right to be offended, not to think, not to be shown as you are. So for the West, there is no freedom to see and explore. Instead the wall of "we must accept difference diversity difference otherness difference." One can only do that, with no limits, if one builds barricades against seeing, thinking, exploring.
I feel a little like the suitors trying to get past the wall of thorns keeping them away from Sleeping Beauty. But there's a big difference. Sleeping Beauty was safe. Imagine Sleeping Beauty ever more in danger while in her deep sleep.
I think of Chamberlain, the British prime minister in the first years of Hitler's rule in Germany. His policy: appeasement. He let Hitler get away with whatever Hitler wanted to do. He gave Hitler time to build, to strengthen.
The current widespread Western taboo on thinking, exploring and seeing is a dangerous taboo. Women taking self-defense courses are taught: listen to yourself, listen to signals of danger - because so often, women have learned to be nice and not want to hurt someone's feelings, like the feelings of someone following them. Instead many risk rape. The West, I would say, is equally running enormous risks.
Important question: what is tolerance? What is a definition of tolerance - especially a definition of tolerance of diversity - that makes sense?
Here is a brief answer: many schools aim for zero violence tolerance, and so far at least, I haven't heard of outraged protests - how can you dare to limit our freedom of self-expression, how dare you denigrate cultural diversity, including the diversity of sub-cultures that value violence?
What is a definition of tolerance that is healthy? Tolerance except when it creates or encourages harm. In other words, a definition of healthy tolerance needs to include what is outside the limits of tolerance. In the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill, at a time when most people had very little freedom, did a lot of thinking and writing on freedom and healthy limits to freedom. Freedom: he wrote on freedom for women, for instance. In brief, the position he came to is: freedom until harm. When it came to offense, he was much more careful - as people can be offended (or claim offense) by just about anything. The offense had to be such that it created harm: incited violence, noise at a level that it kept people awake in the night, etc.
What is cultural diversity, by the way? It is just the reality that cultures are diverse, different from each other. It does not automatically mean that one is better than another. Nor does it automatically follow that all are equal in value - that a pro-slave culture is equal to one that upholds the equality of all people; that one which does nothing to stop extreme poverty is equal to one that does its best to ensure that all people in it have enough to live adequately (adequate food, shelter, health care, education).
A huge difficulty for many people who want to be tolerant in Western society is recognizing the reality of the inequality of cultures. Nazi culture - a blatant example. Stalinist Russia - another blatant example. The China of the Cultural Revolution. These are not equal to cultures where human rights are far more respected.
"It's wrong to be judgmental," comes the cry.
I answer: Dangerous to have such a person on a jury. One is required to judge: Did this person kill? What was the level of responsibility? And so on. I teach. Over and over, teachers need to make judgments. How good is this term paper, for instance? How well organized, well reasoned, etc.?
What is needed is well-thought-out standards for judgment, not a lack of judgment - including about culture, religion, diversity, tolerance.
Western society has gone from general intolerance and rigid barriers - against women, people not from some race or religion or sexual orientation - to one where tolerance and cultural diversity are revered. The intolerance and barriers depended on blocks to critical thinking and taking in evidence. All too often, this has not changed. The values are different - valuing cultural diversity and religious diversity instead of holding one culture and religion as superior to all the others - but the level of thinking has not changed.
Here's just one instance of imbecilic political correctness. A Canadian non-Muslim quoted a very right-wing Muslim imam - and a Canadian Muslim group charged him with Islamophobia. It would be nothing if the charge were sure to be laughed out of court, and if the Muslim group were sure to have to pay all legal costs for having launched a frivolous suit. But that's not the case.
Here's what does not make sense. The Canadian government agency which investigates charges of prejudice has never once judged that a complaint was unfounded, has never found one person or institution not guilty of a charge leveled against it. That makes no sense. It would mean that no one has ever launched even one unfounded or frivolous charge. Statistically, that is highly implausible.
How important is good rigorous critical thinking, the capacity to evaluate well what is coming in, to think logically, to spot logical fallacies?
My answer comes from the best overview I read on Islam. (What's the name of the book? I can't remember. One of our dogs chewed up the first copy. The second was lent to someone and did not return. But the book was brilliant.)
The answer comes from the author of the book. His big question: why has the Islamic world, after speeding ahead of the Christian world, in the past centuries lagged behind despite the many efforts on the part of Muslim leaders? His answer: with the Reformation, the West moved increasingly toward freedom of thought, and this (relative) freedom of thought is the basis of the West's radical rapid advance. Even before the Reformation, people like Copernicus and Galileo were moving toward a research-based model of knowledge. So while much was imported by the Islamic world from the West - technology, etc. - because the underlying difference remained, Islam has stayed behind the West.
If this author is right, then poor thinking is a major dangerous failing. All the more important for the West to look at areas where there are widespread pothole - even sinkholes - that threaten to break or swallow efforts at seeing and thinking clearly.
So, next come several explorations of current Western nuttiness, and also suggestions for how to remedy current Western widespread weaknesses.
The goal: to break the hold of some current Western blindnesses - which may be instances where, without realizing it, people are blinded by fear. The goal: Virginia Satir's. To see what is here, rather than what one wishes were here, what might be here, what may be here some day. To see what is here.
I start with a fundamental instance of widespread Western blindness, poor thinking, Stupid Opinion Number One - the opinion that all opinions are equal - and following from that, the opinion that all religions are equal, and that one must not judge anyone's opinion, religion, etc. This opinion sounds, to me, too ridiculous to mention - but as it's widely held - for example, by over 90% of the college students where I teach - it's a demon worth battling.
Here, stupid opinion number one meets Elsa.
Next. Walls in the Mind.
They stand high and mighty in both the Islamic world and much of the West. Long ago, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. More recently the wall between East and West Germany was knocked down. Time for more tumbling and crumbling of walls.
How break those walls? Go and read ...
How to Think - Tip Number one:
Then, here are
The Ingredients of Good Thinking
- very different from the ingredients of political correctness. Good thinking - information and logic, not rules. The road to hell, I have heard, is paved with good intentions. Well, most likely there's no hell - but we can create hell on earth with good intentions that don't look at reality. Political correctness - a hotbed of good intentions. So easy to see what's rotten in the good intentions, the weaknesses - except that those who have seen and used the weaknesses most have not been the politically correct, but those with intentions of their own that have nothing to do with political correctness or tolerance or the milk of human kindness - and everything to do with getting their way by whatever means possible. Using the weakness of one's enemy - nothing is easier than that.
Breaking the Spell of Stupid Opinions.
Breaking those spells, tough though it is, is not as hard as breaking the shell of dangerous religious opinions. For religious beliefs that say kill in the name of religion, die in the name of religion, confine in the name of religion, mutilate in the name of religion - those beliefs are held in place with masses of fear. It's frightening to question such a religion, and even more frightening to leave. Fear of retribution - physical retribution often, and also retribution from a wrathful punishing God.
And with that I say, enough of looking at the West, and I turn back to my exploration of Islam.
Here I am back to violating a widespread current Western taboo, in this case the stupid opinion that all religions are equal, and for many people, not only that but basically all the same. The opinion clearly makes no sense. For instance, a religion that requires human sacrifice would then be equal to, and basically the same as, one that is against human sacrifice; one that requires animal sacrifice would then be equal to one that is against animal sacrifice, etc.
The taboo blocks exploration. What is that religion like? What makes it tick? How does it work? What are its basic beliefs? For instance, in Christianity, a huge rebellion came centuries ago with Protestantism, where most branches are for an individual connection with god and each person reading the old religious texts. In the Muslim world, there is much more adherence to a top-down format, with people having obedience to religious authority drilled into them.
The West needs to look closely at what is happening, with Islam as with everything else. After all, research into other areas is valued - so why the widespread barriers against looking deeply at religions, including Islam.
Next: a closer look at Islam. Is it a religion of peace or not? That's a little mystery I do find good to clear up - because I am faced, over and over, with the claim that Islam is a religion of peace and the reality that many Muslims behave very non-peacefully, and the further reality that this violence elicits much less criticism than a small Danish cartoon.
So, is Islam a religion of peace?
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copyright Elsa Schieder, 2008, 2011, all rights reserved
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Definition of Tolerance. Question: What is Tolerance?