Tolerance - maybe I've got it all wrong?
My very first post was about Tolerance and how on the one hand it’s held up as the pinnacle of a civilised society, but on the other hand it’s not a very lofty goal, considering it’s merely gritting our teeth and bearing those we disagree with.
But in recent days, since I saw the KONY 2012 video, I’ve been wondering if I’ve got it all wrong? Maybe we shouldn’t aspire to tolerance at all? Maybe we don’t really, anyway. Maybe it’s all just rhetoric?
My head has been muddled. I blame postmodernism. I’m trying to get it straight. This is where it’s got me, so far.
I thought I could respect the person and still reject his ideas. But I don’t respect Kony, I despise him. But I am angry at him because of love; love and compassion for the children enlisted in the LRA. Love and hate both lead to a call for Justice. Justice is an intolerance of injustice.
It seems we have a choice to make: either we want to be a Tolerant society, or a Just society. The two seem mutually exclusive. I know, I know, it’s all relative.
But this video showed that people want the world rescued from evil, even though we reject absolutes and therefore the notion of evil. Was it Bertrand Russell who said there is no right or wrong, just different; like purple is different to brown? That idea is at the heart of tolerance: because nothing is right and nothing is wrong, we all need to accept one another; live and let live.
But it’s a very short journey from live and let live, to live and let die. The people of the TRI campaign decided they cannot live and just let Kony live how he chooses, because he chooses to abduct, rape and kill. And people like Jacob’s brother, die.
Why do we reject absolutes? So we can reject God as a failed hypothesis. But Nietzsche recognised the implications of removing God from our modus operandi: if we cannot appeal to an absolute outside ourselves, then we are reduced to living in fear of ‘the will to power’. Enter Joseph Kony. We despise his will and are fearful of his power.
Even though we hate absolutes, we love truth. We are tolerant truth-lovers: an oxymoron if ever there was. In reality truth is unfashionably, un-politically correct, or is it politically incorrect? Either way, it’s because it makes an exclusive claim: I am right and no other! It is intolerant of lies. Lies are much more tolerant and inclusive, accepting of every version of anything. We hate lies, even though they are friends with relativism.
The invisible children campaign made it very clear that in the age of relativism, there is still an absolute: Kony is evil. They want him brought to Justice. But who holds the measuring stick of what qualifies as evil and what qualifies as justice? Apparently the people do. In this postmodern, tolerant society, the final authority is what the people power approves. After all, ‘might is right’. In this cyber-age, our moral gauge is: if it goes viral; it’s right.
We want people like Kony stopped and punished for his crimes against humanity. We are angry at his mistreatment of people, at his claim on children’s lives. We hate what he does. But we are not motivated by hate, we are motivated by love. Jason Russell has spent nine years of his life fulfilling a promise of love, in the form of his friendship with Jacob.
I am no hate-loving radical. I hate hate so much that I even hate the word hate. But this whole Kony campaign has got me wondering whether hate and intolerance leads to justice in the name of love and compassion?
Maybe we need intolerance, after all? That is, if we want Justice.
P.S. Here's my piece on lessons I learned from the Kony 2012 campaign.
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