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Meesa gonna kill you!

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tolerance and Otherness

On a ridiculous video on religious tolerance which says that you should never critique anyone's religious beliefs (and which someone pointed out is Scientologist Propaganda):

"Tolerance is a terrible cornerstone on which to establish human relations. Tolerance or intolerance, they both imply a fundamental opposition. Tolerance doesn't help establish human relation -- in fact it does exactly the opposite. To be "tolerant" is to bury your hostilities under a smiling veneer of politeness, to wave away all the differences and pretend to get along. "Oh those funny foreigners, they're so weird, but let's try not to let them know how weird we think they are. Let's tolerate them. Let's shuffle them into a corner so that their weirdness doesn't bother us so much." Should the teacher in this video merely "tolerate" his Hindu student? Or should he, y'know, try to find a point of understanding?

The problem with a doctrine of tolerance is that it does not encourage any kind of introspection. A person who is tolerant does not resolve his own hostility. He maintains that barrier of otherness which just perpetuates the marginalisation. He rationalises that if he is bothered by the strangeness of the Other, why, that's just a function of the Other's kooky foreign ways. He effectively places all the blame on the Other for being so different. But that's okay. He's going to tolerate the Other. He's going to suffer the Other's strangeness for a little while longer. Does that sound to you like a good cornerstone on which to build a relationship?

It's frustrating to me that a video that's so well-made can so stunningly fail to grasp its own subject matter. It condenses the very real, very pressing issue of marginalisation into an overly-simplistic moralisation about not mocking other cultures, and all the while it indulges in the very same kind of generalisation that CREATES the marginalisation in the first place. Here, all atheists are typified by the wrinkle-faced white teacher who takes out his frustration with the unknown by directing a laser pointer at the head of a Hindu student. Because apparently the fact of not buying into someone's culture automatically means you're going to laugh at it.

The implication here is that all differences automatically lead to hostility, so "Let's just try to hide our hostility as best we can." How very depressing."

My (shorter) comment:

"Wow I did not realise that disagreeing with someone meant I was intolerant and it would lead to war and death. I will never disagree with anybody again!"
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