Friday, September 05, 2008

Let's stop "tolerating" the abuse of our language and common sense

Howard Rotberg is not content to relocate Tennyson's lotus eaters:
My forthcoming book, Exploring Vancouverism: The Political Culture of Canada's Lotus Land views the "Lotus Land" culture of Vancouver, where organized religion has its fewest proponents on a per capita basis in all of Canada, as a culture that has abandoned the yardsticks of Good versus Evil. The mariners in Alfred Tennyson's great poem, "The Lotos Eaters" land on the idyllic shores of a Lotus Land where life on the beautiful beaches is complemented by the intoxication of eating the "Lotos" leaves brought by the natives. Soon the mariners decide not to go back to Greece and resume their struggles for good versus evil, because, after all, what pleasure do they derive from that struggle, as compared to life in Lotus Land.

In fact, if one checks out the on-line Urban Dictionary, (,

one sees that there is a term being used by young people, called Tolerism, but it is defined as: One's skill in consuming massive quantities of alcohol without displaying obvious signs of drunkenness.

I suggest that in our wider culture, Tolerism is the skill in consuming massive quantities of political correctness, and moral and cultural relativism, without displaying the obvious signs of the drunken leniency toward, and even taking pleasure in, the slow ascendancy of Islamist values of terrorism, breach of human rights, and attempted reversals of the wonderful liberties and advances made in western societies, where church and state have been successfully separated, and an enormous degree of freedom reigns.

The drunken Tolerists, with the abymsal ideology of Tolerism threaten all that we have accomplished.
That's from Part I of Howard's essay on the ideology of Tolerism. It's a powerful way of summing up the moral sickness that has flowed from our descent into cultural and personal non-judgmentalism, all in the name of a "tolerance" which cannot mean very much if you yourself do not have a clear centre, a clear sense of right and wrong, from which to truly tolerate other positions. If you have given up on that hard, Eurocentric, heteronormative stuff, you know, good and evil, then you can't really be tolerant. True tolerance comes from recognizing the limits of your own ability to know good and evil; but to get there, first you have to try to know as much as you can...

In fact, once you have given up thinking hard about good and evil, in a world where human reality is such that there nonetheless is always such a thing as good and evil, better and worse, you must descend into a mythic consciousness and ritual practise that will positively require the public rendering of a whole array of sacrificial victims to replace your society's former, more rational, more "Eurocentric", more monotheistic, approach to learning about right and wrong, and hence about true tolerance of your own limits in knowing right and wrong. And in becoming religiously dependent on a culture of victims, i.e. on a mythological system of many victims, or gods, you will become relatively more evil - i.e. more in need of bloody rituals - than were our immediate forebears in Western modernity.

If all gods are equal, if that's your idea of "tolerance", then the inevitable conflicts between the gods cannot be mediated rationally but must be proven in the fatalistic flow of events, though "observation" on who, today, but maybe not tomorrow, is the noble victim and who the ennobled or ignoble sacrificer (or vice versa). And since such "observation", your unscientific questing after signs of divine favour, will become so important to you, you will act to anticipate it by encouraging events to move in the direction of rendering more victims, not that you will be very aware of what you are doing.

So we should definitely welcome Howard's redefining of "tolerism". In Part Two of his essay, Howard notes:
Treating very bad behaviour with excessive leniency, and even taking unrestrained pleasure in that behaviour, hardly seems to me an admirable ideology. Yet, over and over again, we are told that "Tolerance" is our most important value. I disagree.

Now, when talking to Tolerists, I avoid the Israel-Arab problem entirely and I just ask them what they would have done with Hitler and the Nazis. Would it have been an admirable and tolerant position to be lenient with the Nazis?

If you think that the Tolerist mind gives in at that point, I have news for you. I have now heard the argument, made in all seriousness by a highly educated (but morally infantile) Vancouverite, that the Nazis were, in his opinion, the result of the Allies after World War 1, imposing draconian terms on the losing Germans. To this Tolerist, then, in an astounding leap of tolerist logic, the Americans were responsible for World War Two and even the Holocaust!

The Tolerists have infected so much of our Cultural Elites. Here is the example of PenCanada which gave its inagaural 2005 Paul Kidd Award for Journalistic Courage to an anti-American ranter named Paul William Roberts, as if it takes courage nowadays to join the chorus of anti-Americans. Roberts succeeded in getting a three page excerpt from his nonsensical book carried by the Globe & Mail, which shows the current reach of Tolerism.
Follow the above link to read Howard's letter to the Globe and Mail condemning their publication of Roberts' infantile polemics. Finally, in his latest post, Howard considers how the British love for the masochistic has led them to be the world leaders in "tolerism".


Eowyn said...

"It's a powerful way of summing up the moral sickness that has flowed from our descent into cultural and personal non-judgmentalism, all in the name of a "tolerance" which cannot mean very much if you yourself do not have a clear centre, a clear sense of right and wrong, from which to truly tolerate other positions."

truepeers, you've hit a nerve, I think. An important one.

Human culture is "sieving" itself finer and finer, anymore, if that makes sense. That is, we're learning to separate wheat from chaff as truth from falsehood. When all is winnowed, what is left is what is sound.

To use prospective vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin as an example:

In not so many years past, having a daughter pregnant and unwed at age 17 would have been anathema. Today, of course, we recognize that the optimum window of sexual behavior is, in fact, between the ages of 15 and 21. Gov. Palin has taught her children that it is not correct to act irresponsibly -- but still one did. Did that disqualify her as a representative of the people? In years past, perhaps. But today, reality is recognized.

Gov. Palin did her duty toward her children. That her daughter chose to act irresponsibly was the DAUGHTER'S CHOICE. And here is where conservatives have evolved.

It is a supremely conservative value that EVERYONE chooses his/her path in life. NO ONE orders anyone to make decisions, right or wrong. All one can do is try to do the right thing, and encourage others. NO ONE can dictate.

What Gov. Palin has done is emblematic:

No. 1 -- She did her best to instruct her children what was right.

No. 2 -- Bristol Palin learned the lesson. Young as she is, she and the father will get married, so as to offer their child the stability of the nuclear experience. (Will it succeed? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. But as long as the child is put first, it's all good.)

The point is that family is the rock upon which society rests. Shared values. This doesn't change, with conservatives. It may take shape differently, and upset a few "status quos" -- but the foundation remains the same.

Leftists are fond of throwing back at conservatives changes of orientation. "Hypocrisy." Etc.

Well -- conservatives aren't fossils. They recognize change.

They just don't tack into any prevailing wind.

(Ugh ... feel like I'm blowing hot air, perhaps. But, well, not.)

truepeers said...

I think I know what you're saying, eowyn.

It is just one of the left's myth that conservatives are "reactionary". And it's another of their myths that the political landscape is well understood in terms of a "left" and "right". As a conservative, I don't think of myself as a rightist. That's a leftist concept.

No, I'm simply a defender of the many sacred centres around which the best of the past has circulated and from which, in yet unknowable ways, the future will be renewed.

Thinking of yourself as a defender of the sacred centre is useful. Yes, we are involved in separating wheat from chaff as you mention - in other words, a refining of what has come before. But we are also interested in cultural renewal in realistic, not Utopian, ways. If the conservative puts emphasis on shared faith and transcendence it is because this is necessary to renew our culture, not to freeze it (it is secular bureaucratic reason that is best suited to freezing culture), something we must always do, all the while realizing that things can never be exactly the same as they were in the past. Realistic renewal requires an expansion of freedom.

It seems to me that we should strive to be fully involved in the conversation between past and future. Much of what I oppose politically are people who simply want to narrow the possibilities of the present by the way they conceive the past as a scandal to overcome, and the future as Utopian redemption for the victims of the past. Such thinking involves a dangerous narrowing of the present possibilities. The defender of the centre is a defender of the present in its fullest possibilities for human freedom. And then we will be open to seeing what works, what new and beautiful things emerge in ways unpredictable, by people engaging unfolding events in good faith.