Are we tolerant enough, yet? - Macleans.ca
 

Are we tolerant enough, yet?

Reflections on the art of hating.


 

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar writes this week that teaching tolerance is as important as arithmetic. It would be tedious to analyze every line of this platitudinous ramble (he assumes that religion necessarily equals wisdom, for example, which is a pretty big leap in my humble opinion). But I do worry every time I hear people preaching the unmitigated value of tolerance.

Elsewhere, I have expressed my concerns about the unwillingness of Canadians in general, and university students in particular, to take stands on difficult issues. Maybe the problem is the incessant preaching of tolerance in the peculiarly modern sense that Ravi Shankar means it. Read his article for yourself, but I am pretty sure by tolerance he doesn’t just mean tolerating something (whereby one could condemn a belief one tolerates). He means accepting it,valuing it, maybe even celebrating it. Thus Ravi Shankar:

It is time to kick-start enlightened imaginations. Societal renewal has to be a collaborative effort of honest politicians, businessmen with integrity, religious leaders with credibility, visionary educationalists and social workers.

Well that all sounds nice, but it has nothing to do with living in the world. After all, how would we know who the honest politicians are in a culture where politicians only spout meaningless babble and refuse to answer questions? How will we find the businessmen with integrity when the founding premise of modern business is profit before all else? And religious leaders with credibility? Name six. What if no religious leaders are credible?

You see where I’m going with this. It’s all well and good to wax eloquent about accepting everyone and everything, until we realize that not everything is acceptable. We all love peace and happiness but we are going to have to really have it out with each other before we can agree on what those things mean and how we are going to get there. And it’s going to take a lot of messy fights.

A favourite tactic of my students is what I call “giving away the farm.” At the end of an essay, the student will write something like, “Of course, this is just my opinion, and any other opinion could be just as good.” Really? Because if your opinion is based on factual evidence and clear reasoning, it’s already a lot better than most. And if it’s not, then why did you hand it in? The student, of course, is trying to be broad-minded, because she has been led to believe that calling someone else wrong is intolerant. And so she has lost the courage of her convictions. And maybe convictions altogether.

My point is that some people are wrong sometimes, and it is okay to say so. In fact, it is absolutely necessary. As the great Ogden Nash once wrote, “Any kiddy in school can love like a fool, / But hating, my boy, is an art.” I’m not saying we should teach kids to attack or resent others based on the colour of their skin or where they came from, but at some point we have to teach kids to be able to do some hating. Hate the political spin that is killing democracy; hate corporate greed; hate religious nonsense.

Hate me, if you want (some of you have a head start!). Tolerate only to the point where you are not blowing things up and shooting people. After that, we have some really important fights to have.

Follow The Hour Hand on Facebook!


 

Are we tolerant enough, yet?

  1. Good piece. Indeed there is a difference between tolerating something–particularly a religion–on the one hand and liking or embracing something on the other. Unfortunately that difference is blurred in some discourse.

    I can tolerate the fact that almost one in every two people on the planet have chosen to embrace one of several books emerging from the middle east during the first millenia of the common era as the word of god and a guide for a moral life. I won’t try to prevent them from ordering their lives in accordance with their beliefs. I’d go so far as to say that as long as they treat their fellow human beings humanely and don’t try to impose on others I can be polite and friendly (subject to what I’m about to say).

    But at the same time I reserve the right to say that it is ridiculous to believe that these books are actually the word of god, and that they contain a proper guide for a moral life. That doesn’t make me intolerant.

  2. So I am following you the whole way until you get to this point,

    “but at some point we have to teach kids to be able to do some hating. Hate the political spin that is killing democracy; hate corporate greed; hate religious nonsense.”

    So I strongly believe that tolerance to the extent that it means there is no strength to conviction is problematic-especially when the logic for such convictions are loony. But then the idea that you should *teach* kids to hate what you apprently hate is even more problematic (especially as far as religion is concerened). I say the best *argument* wins. I don’t care what you believe in, but if you can make a coherent argument for it, it should be given some consideration.

    One more thing. I wouldn’t be comfortable with you as my Professor. You seem like the kind of guy that would fail me because I put a capital ‘G’ when I write “god” in my paper. (It has actually happened to me before). Just saying.

  3. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
    Martin Luther King, Jr.

  4. “But they who love the greater love
    Lay down their life; they do not hate.”
    Wilfred Owen

    Todd seems to suggestion that it would be difficult to name 6 Christian leaders who score high in integrity. He’s mistaken. What a pity. I could list many, but here are a few (yet none are perfect):

    1. My own father
    2. Robert Pierce
    3. Corry Ten Boom
    4. Mother Theresa
    5. Billy Graham
    6. Gayle Williams
    7. Watchman Nee
    8. Dietrich Boenhoffer
    9. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    10. Charles Malik

    Todd said “name six” so there’s ten.

    So Todd, it appears that you’re interested in teaching students to “hate” something that is actually guaranteed in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why not rather get a nice cool wedge of summer watermelon and read the inspiring and positive story of one of these great human beings.

    Eaboyejii, you raise a fair point in your last paragraph. I’m sure Todd has heard of “reverential capitalization.” His response suggests that he missed the essence of your point, or chose to avoid it.

  5. Great piece; well said! I’ve been critical of some of your other posts, but credit where credit is due. My favorite bits include:

    “It’s all well and good to wax eloquent about accepting everyone and everything, until we realize that not everything is acceptable. We all love peace and happiness but we are going to have to really have it out with each other before we can agree on what those things mean and how we are going to get there. And it’s going to take a lot of messy fights.”

    And:

    “My point is that some people are wrong sometimes, and it is okay to say so. In fact, it is absolutely necessary.”

    Myron A. Penner
    Associate Professor of Philosophy
    Trinity Western University

  6. Okay, I’ll try to put a little bit of “hate” out there…

    -Sharia law is barbaric and should not be practiced anywhere in the world.

    -Contrary to Christian belief, life is NOT a “vale of tears”. Life is beautiful and should be enjoyed to the fullest (have safe sex). Pretending that life is an audition for the afterlife is dangerous. It devalues the environment and human life.

    -The Old Testament says I should kill homosexuals, adulterers, disobedient children, women how are not virgins on their wedding night, those who work on the Sabbath, and those who are accused of wickedness by at least 2 people. That’s a lot of killing I’ve got to do! Of course, Christians believe every word of the Old Testament (as Christ says, every “jot” and “tittle” of the Old Testament is true, as told in Matthew 5:17-9). It offends me that people actually believe this nonsense. Should it not? Am I way off base?

    -Jesus condones the killing of everyone who isn’t a Christian (see Luke 19:27)! He also doesn’t sound like the type of person you’d want to hang around with. If you wanted to become a disciple, you’d need to hate your family and your own life first (Luke 14:26, Matt 19:29). Jesus prefers war over peace (Matt 10:34). He cursed at a fig tree that didn’t bear fruit (Mark 11:12-4, 20-1). He also decided not to help a girl that was possessed by a demon, and then compared her to a dog (Matt 15:22-8).

    That felt good.