“An artist if he is unselfish and passionate, is always a living protest. Just to open his mouth is to protest: against a conformism, against what is official, public or national, what everyone else feels comfortable with. So the moment when he opens his mouth an artist is engaged because opening his mouth is always scandalous”
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Those who know me, know me as someone who expresses her opinions quite openly. I have admitted to my own mistakes openly as well as having shared part of my wounds in order to help raise awareness regarding mental and physical abuse. Because I am opinionated; especially on the subject of physical/mental abuse, social oppression and real education; some people have accused me of being someone who “disrupts the waters” or as others call it ” someone who rocks the boat”. I will not disagree with those statements as I do not find fault in learning from your past or having the courage to stand up when it’s necessary.
Throughout my life I have often come across people who would say to me “You need to be more tolerant” or “What can one do but learn to be tolerant”. Interestingly enough, even as a young person such ideologies never sat well with me. I used to pay close attention to those who would provide me with such “advice”; upon close examination I often found what they really meant was “learn to mask your dislike for certain people or situations” or ” I don’t want to be the one put on the spot for bringing up something no one wants to talk about”. Worst yet, they wanted me to believe that being “proper” or “educated” meant to be able to live under those “standards”. Thankfully I was born with a rebellious spirit and an inquisitive mind, so no matter how hard others tried to “hammer” those ideologies into my head, they just never sank.
The word tolerance phonetically sounds like the words we designate for virtues such as prudence, temperance, diligence; but upon further examination one comes to the realization that if tolerance were a virtue, it would be a conceited virtue, we could almost say that it is pure arrogance–ignorance and cowardice masqueraded as virtue.
If you have read this so far and you don’t know me, you may assume this article is solely about misinformation or anger towards people who think they are tolerant; ironically by refusing to read this article or disregard it for doubting what tolerance is, would on itself be very intolerant. So what to do?…how about keep an open mind and read the whole thing before you pass judgement.
This article does not justify terrible acts committed by extremists of any background but criticizes a “medicine” that instead of healing only masquerades issues and creates dependence and confusion.
The misunderstood concept or paradox of “Tolerance” was popularized by Karl Popper; a titan of philosophy back in the day. To summarize an extensive rationalization of his teachings about tolerance, I will only focus on the concept of “tolerance” itself without elaborating on the reasons why Popper at that particular point in time was eager for people to learn to be tolerant. Popper taught that in order to defend a society that was tolerant of intolerant people, the intolerants had to be kept in constant check and if necessary, banned by force.
“We should therefore claim in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant”
Sounds interesting to say the least, but we have to ask ourselves what type of world was Popper living in? as like most paradoxes none of it makes proper sense. Popper wrote “The Open Society and Its Enemies” during the Second World War. When Popper spoke of intolerant people he was then referring to the “fascists” of the 20th century. He did not talk about the “fascists” of the 21st century; much less would he have predicted the problems and contradictions we would see with the issue of tolerance in the years to come.
Should we tolerate the intolerant? This question reveals on its own the errors of the idea of tolerance; but first things first, shall we? This question puts some in the position of being the ones who tolerate and below them the ones who are tolerated.
Do we really know the meaning of tolerance? To tolerate is to endure, resist or allow; it comes from the root word “Toll”. It does not mean to accept or consent, much less to support. The position of the “tolerant” is a position in which one believes himself more than the person he tolerates. “I am tolerant” is the same as “I allow you to…”
To tolerate is to admit what is tolerated does not cause you sympathy, you do not like it or support it. To tolerate is to admit you feel your personal view is the most valid and the position of others is something that to some extent has to be endured. Metaphorically speaking it can be represented this way…A tolerant person standing in front of someone who is tolerated; on the one hand the tolerating person holds a knife yet still presumes to be an open minded person, a peaceful person, an inclusive person, someone who is truly understanding and accepting without reservations.
Popper’s ideology certainly works for the one who is tolerant, not for the one who is tolerated. What if your dignity were crushed, if you were hurt and you wanted to defend yourself? then all of a sudden you are labeled as intolerant and as such you can be crucified for your beliefs or the actions you take to defend yourself against injustice. You will be banned in the name of tolerance or you will be attacked; most likely such attacks won’t be direct, as those who see themselves as tolerant do not like to say things directly because they are too worry about their “image”
Those who see themselves as tolerant like to think of themselves as understanding, however an understanding person is one who lives in coherency and has enough intelligence to understand people are different. One can agree to disagree on most things but there are some subjects which are pretty black or white to anyone willing to step out of denial. A real understanding person isn’t one who goes around “understanding” everyone, rather is the person who keeps an open mind. They have no problem relating to the opinion of others however if they don’t agree they simply say so, they don’t go pretending. An understanding person then, is one who lives without hypocrisy. They don’t see themselves as better, they simply know who they are.
On the other hand a tolerant person is so blinded by ignorance that chooses to label his cowardice, lack of intelligence or integrity as “tolerance”. In reality all that person is doing is hiding his inability to openly say what he really feels about a subject or a person. Tolerant people think by “hating” or “disliking” someone or something quietly they are better than what is being tolerated; yet by doing so, those who believe in tolerance expose their own lack of congruency and self esteem.
Karl Popper introduced the concept of Tolerance in a way very few understood its origin and why tolerance came to be. Most people who see themselves as tolerant hold the false idea they are being magnanimous by allowing others to be, when in reality they wish those other people would just disappear. They relate to people from a place where their false ego has masqueraded their narcissistic views which in reality are nothing but bad self esteem and deep fears to become less liked or popular. Their tolerance goes something like this: “I want you to know, I know you are just like me and I accept you. I often tell others we need to be more tolerant, it’s all over my social media. You are just like me. We are the same” and the tolerated person responds “Ok. Not sure why you feel the need to express it that way but I got it. You are just like me” To which those who see themselves as tolerant reply “No..no, I am not like you. You are like me. I accept you. You are like me. I am not like you. You are like me. It is different” As you see they seek to convince others they are being open yet they are anything but.
This idea of tolerance is what the great Paolo Pasolini stood against. For those of you who may not know, Paolo Pasolini was an Italian intellectual, poet, writer, journalist, among other disciplines. Due to his blunt, no B.S. approach he was always regarded as a controversial figure. One of the most common phrases often heard from him was “those who smile or cry less publicly are the ones who feel the most” .
Pasolini explained how when applying the concept of tolerance one can easily see how the tolerated person has no choice. The “tolerant” person is the one who has the option of tolerating or not. He is the one who has to be emulated, the other is the emulator. To Pasolini the idea of tolerance was nothing but a superb ignorance hiding behind an elaborated mask. To Pasolini tolerance was nothing but a “get out of jail card”… “A way of masquerading hypocrisy under a nice label, to add offence to injury they call their ignorance class and intelligence” Class and intelligence never needed to hide behind a mask to stand on its own, however by hiding behind the word tolerance those who lack the strength to face life as it is or who seek to benefit from others, can play with both God and the Devil. They can be friendly with the abused and the abuser and pretend they are better than those who stand against injustice.
More often than not the idea of tolerance works well for people who want to reach the top at all costs or for those who are very afraid of having to face their own shadow. Deep down, the “tolerant” know if they were to expose their true feelings, they will lose control and with it their precious image. As Paolo Pasolini explained the idea of tolerance is not an inclusive idea as most would have liked to presume.
So I ask again, should we tolerate the intolerant? Let’s analyze the second part of the question a bit more shall we? What really is intolerance? Intolerance can be used to refer to anything or anyone I find “intolerant”. A person who defends himself from unfairness is intolerant under the concept of tolerance. Unless we get into a dead end mental alley where we invent a “good intolerance” and a “bad intolerance” we are confronted by the reality that Popper’s concept was not very well developed.
We are not in a tolerant society, rather it is a society so intolerant that having forced “tolerance” spaces believes itself to be open, diverse, inclusive or worst yet see themselves as loving and welcoming of all. To Pasolini, tolerance was nothing but intolerance on itself. A concept behind which many hide their true emotions; with the clock ticking, afraid to lose the mask. Tolerance then is an intolerance to intolerance itself; what a nightmare! It is simply a brake some use to stop themselves from saying or doing what they really feel towards the tolerated person.
It seems the only thing a tolerating society is very good at, is lying to itself. It allows the hurting of others, stealing, killing, massacres, violence, cyber bullying, all selectively. It all depends of who you are and whether or not you are beneficial at a particular time. Let me give you a couple of quick examples:
Example #1.- A person bullies, calumniates someone else and constantly seeks to invade someone else’s life. Those actions aren’t good but because the person is of a particular sect of religious beliefs all is forgotten without consequence.
Example #2 .- A rich guy rapes a woman but because of his money and connections he escapes justice and the woman is crucified. When we look at things this way, is easy to conclude we do not live in a good and just society. Popper may have thought he was onto something but just like the concept of “forgive and forget” ;without working through the root of the issues; when misunderstood it only leads to more and more injustices which are kept hidden.
To truly understand the root of Tolerance we need to go back further in time than when Popper try to instilled the concept. The actual concept of tolerance was born in medieval times by governments who wished to lessen the chaos among the many different groups that were fighting at the time. It was never a solution nor was it consider something virtuous, it was a “tool” used as strategy to contain a particular problem for a period of time while a solution was sought. There were no illusions as to what tolerance was; plainly said, it was a war strategy.
Tolerance is not what creates peace and harmony. Peace can only happen when we truly relate to others as equals. One cannot pick and choose when one is going to see the other person as equal. People who see themselves as tolerant yet associate with abusers and schemers have shown no desire to evolve from where they are. In many ways they are the greatest contributors to the illness in our society. The sad truth still remains those who see themselves as tolerant are the ones who understand others the least. More often than not if someone were to hurt the person who sees himself as tolerant, retaliation would be swift. The tolerant person will not stand by the rule of “forgive and forget” or “its okay, let it be”. It is easy then to believe oneself tolerant when one is not put in the position to be the tolerated or abused person.
A healthy society, a peaceful society, an evolved society isn’t achieve through the concept of tolerance. Peace and understanding can only arise when all things are dealt with openly and when we as a society finally learn to agree to disagree without hiding our real emotions.
When our society learns to focus more on people from a humane place versus seeing only profit or status, then we’ll start to heal. When we start to teach others that certain hurts are part of life and you have the choice to forgive or not in your own time but also the responsibility to deal with the consequences of the choices you make; then we will be teaching people to be humane, instead of imposing a fake idea of forgiveness where anger is simply repressed.
When we learn to differentiate those who made a mistake from those who like to hurt others for the sake of making themselves feel better, when we learn to say what we mean and mean what we say directly yet without impositions so as to treat our fellow men as equals, then we will be way on our way to a healthy society where we don’t all have to be equal in the way we think or our unique beliefs but we can all be equal in being people with a divine right to be different yet respectful of others; strong enough to recognize when it’s needed to stand up against real injustices regardless of race, faith or gender.
I now leave you with one of my many favorite quotes of Pasolini. Here when he refers to the “old world” he was referring to the old corrupt stagnant paradigms. I hope each and every one of us learns to look in and feed the rich cooling yet passionate fire that is our spirit so as to never lose our magick, our strength…. our real humanity.
“I find myself in a rage, like a youth who doesn’t know anything about himself except that he is new and rants against the “old world”, and like a youth without pity or modesty I don’t hide this state of mine”
Pier Paolo Pasolini 1922-1975