Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Howard Rotberg on "Tolerism"

The great value of new words that play, like puns, on the old, is that they can open up new ways for people to see and to exchange their differences and thus contribute to building up understanding of our shared reality, saving it from decaying into tired cliches that with time become less and less able to make sense of what is an ever-changing world. We can only engage seriously with a reality that we are helping to name and construct, and not with one that has been lost to cliche. The play on words is thus essential if we hope to successfully recognize and mediate our differences going forward. Perhaps nowhere is the need for new words and concepts greater than in our now deeply-cliched discussions of "tolerance" and "discrimination". At a time when we can read of government officials outlawing job ads that ask for "reliable" workers, because this might be discriminatory towards the unreliable, we know we are in desperate need for fresh ideas, or just plain old sanity (the two going together), about what it means to "discriminate", a word that not long ago had positive connotations for it pointed to a superior, not lesser, accounting of reality.

Something the same can be said for the word "tolerance" which our friend Howard Rotberg has taken on in his new book Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed (now also available at amazon.ca) We hope to have a review of Tolerism up at this blog before too long. In the meantime, let's look at an excerpt from Howard's interview by Jamie Glazov at this week's Frontpage (readers who are in areas where the Michael Coren tv show is broadcast can also watch Howard's guest appearance tomorrow night (Wednesday the 27th):
FP: What is the difference between tolerance and Tolerism?

Rotberg: Over the years, such philosophers as Karl Popper and John Rawls had struggled with the idea of toleration and what limits must be placed on the tolerance of the intolerant, who, without such limitations could destroy the tolerant and the ways of tolerance. As the Second World War becomes a distant memory, we have noticed an alarming development: Instead of warnings about appeasement of Evil, we are told by the post-religious that there is no good and evil, only “competing narratives” which in a world of cultural relativism, means that western distinguished historians are given no more respect than mere polemicists, and that liberalism in Israel is given no higher respect than the totalitarian propaganda machines of its neighbours. The causes of Tolerism, then, are political correctness, cultural and moral relativism and moral equivalency.

Tolerism, the ideology, involves not just a tolerance of what should be intolerable, and the failure to set reasonable limits on tolerance, but an intolerance of opposing viewpoints within liberal democracies, and an element of self-hatred, cultural masochism, and delusions about the difference between social tolerance and political tolerance. Those who seek justice are mocked with the allegation that we are seeking “vengeance,” as Spielberg did with his dastardly re-writing of history in the movie Munich to show that Israel, and, impliedly, the Bush administration, were all about retribution and vengeance instead of the supposedly enlightened trait of tolerance. Tolerism, then, is the ideology of those who have attempted to cast off the Judeo-Christian ethics of justice and morality, and the sanctity of human life and fundamental liberties, and instead seek to undermine the great liberal democracies by their unwillingness to accept that tolerance has limits and that justice is far more important.


FP: What is the connection between Tolerism and anti-Semitism?

Rotberg: There are several: Firstly, to the extent that Tolerism contains a large dose of self-hatred, or the hatred of America and Israel standing for all that is good – liberal freedoms and human rights- a large number of Tolerists (think Naomi Klein here) begin to hate America and the Jewish state equally. These haters of all that is good relate well to Radical Islam which is the repository of unbridled hate for all things Jewish and American. While historically, up until the 1940s, Islam accepted Jews as dhimmis, Radical Islam has never accepted Jews in the Middle East, which is, according to them, Dar-Al-Islam, once and forever Muslim territory, notwithstanding the continual presence of Jews for 3500 years.

Secondly, Tolerism posits a type of moral and cultural relativism that resents states like America and Israel striving for the morality and justice advocated in the Bible. As well, if Islamic totalitarian theocracies or Palestinian death cults are as morally valid as any other position, then the Jewish narrative must by its nature be extremist and hence suspect. This is why there is such little regard paid in the topic of “refugees” for the nearly one million Jews who were expelled from Arab countries in the 1940s, and were taken in and resettled by Israel. The United Nations then can create a separate organization for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and be utterly silent about the Jewish refugees from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon.

Thirdly, I referred to Spielberg’s travesty of a movie, Munich, which portrays the Jew-nation of Israel as vengeful and intent on retribution, compared to the supposed Christian virtues of tolerance and mercy. This is a theme that is best explored in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, where a proper reading of this classic shows a man so marginalized and abused by society that he ends up, as a result of this marginalization, vengefully obsessed with retributive justice, which of course is denied to him, because the very Court proceeding has been corrupted by Portia impersonating the Judge. An improper reading, such as was done by the Englishman Michael Radford in the most recent movie version of The Merchant of Venice, makes the Jew Shylock the archetype for the supposedly vengeful Jews and Americans exacting a negative form of Justice against the poor, oppressed terrorists or the Iraqi terror state. The fact that the worst terrorists have university educations and come from above average income families is irrelevant to the anti-Semitic fantasy that the intolerant Americans and Israelis are the new Nazis and supposedly deserve the terrorism inflicted on them. It is all anti-Semitic in nature.

FP: How do we find the limits of tolerance?

Rotberg: Starting with the great philosophers of Toleration, we would have to accept, like Karl Popper that “if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed and tolerance with them … We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”

But just as important, we have to begin to discuss how Tolerism and its associated ideologies are behind many of the delusions about the nature of the war that has begun against us, and the nature of the enemy. We must learn that Terrorism is successful precisely because it creates what I call a “Cultural Stockholm Syndrome” or a cultural response similar to the “Patty Hearst Syndrome” where we begin to indentify with our terrorist oppressors and begin to accept small benefits from them as part of a submission to their will and values. The idea that the West can defeat terrorism by more tolerance of the evil perpetrators of murder directed at civilians, is, quite frankly, preposterous.

In the book, I explore a variety of ways to find a suitable limitation for tolerance, and I refer to writings of such heroic writers as David Solway, David Horowitz, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Greenfield, Vijay Kumar, and even moderate Muslims like Tarek Fatah (who has called for a clear statement by Islamic theologians that Jihad must henceforth be only construed as an individual inner struggle for spirituality rather than be construed as an outer-directed violent struggle against Jews, Christians and Hindus). I hope that my book induces further discussion of what are the limits of tolerance.
Read the whole thing...


SDAMatt has put up a video covering one part of the Coren show:

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