On “Tolerance”

The word “tolerance” gets thrown around a lot in many different circles.  Often, in debates, one side will call the other intolerant of their views, and vice versa.  In the United States, many people who subscribe to liberal views want to be viewed as tolerant of opposing views.  However, when they critique the views of conservatives, conservative people will try and identify a hypocrisy in liberal’s views, saying they aren’t truly tolerant because they don’t agree with their views.  I feel this whole dichotomy over-simplifies the use of “tolerance” when it comes to debate, and it’s time that is changed.

The most important thing I want people to realize is that blanket “tolerance” is not a virtue.  Some seem to think that being tolerant of something is synonymous with being good or being right, but that isn’t always the case.  There are obvious things that people should be intolerant of, like genocide, rape, exploitation of people, starvation, and poverty, among other things, but things get a little more nuanced when we talk about “culture war” issues or neurodiversity.

So, are there things I am intolerant of?  Yes, absolutely, and that’s not a bad thing.  There are a lot of things I am intolerant of.  A few examples: I am intolerant of the idea that religious beliefs should dictate public policy, I am intolerant of people who will blame rape victims for their rape, and I am intolerant of the idea that autistic individuals should spend their lives trying to act “normal” in order to appease society.  Intolerance is part of forming any argument of belief you may have.  You don’t have to be tolerant of everything in order to put yourself in the right.  A degree of intolerance provides evidence of applying critical thinking skills into forming your argument.  The important thing is striking the right balance of tolerance and intolerance.  When arguing, you must show enough tolerance to critique ideas, and not people.  Critiquing people and showing blanket intolerance for them does not get your point across and show a lack of critical thought on your part.  In short, do your research, know what you’re talking about, and solidify your position on an issue.

So, my final point is that intolerance is not something you should be afraid of.  It is a tool, but it is one that must be used carefully and with a lot of thought.

 

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”