I perceive that our culture is collectively holding its breath. This has formed a disconcerting niggling in my mind as it implies a release of air is coming; perhaps it will be a bellowing cry indicating our culture’s capacity to take many more breaths; perhaps it will be a pitiful wheezing indicating the last breath has already been taken. Either way it implies that we stand at a precipice. Waiting.
By ‘we’ I mean in the vaguest terms possible the Western World. Quite literally those nations that are situated in a North-Westerly direction on the map, who share common political values. Within this motley crew of nations a civil war is raging. The war is causing increasing polarization between the left and the right, and straining bonds of co-existence, by employing demonizing language to dehumanize its targets. As the lines in this war crystallize, it is clear that the main players are Militant Tolerance vs. Free Thought.
Indulge me for a moment, and allow me to explain. I do not think these two abstractions are mutually exclusive nor are they usually opposed. Tolerance is necessary for creating an environment where free thought can flourish, and is a pillar upon which any successful democracy is built. The Western World’s history can be viewed as a struggle towards achieving a tolerant society, and we have gotten rather good at it. Militant Tolerance, however, is a very different beast. One of the virtues of the Western World is its attempt to walk the line between the extremes of tolerance and free thought, without falling into authoritarianism on the one hand or anarchy on the other.
How is it possible that tolerance could slip into authoritarianism? Remember when Montesquieu stumbles upon this irony in explaining his ideal state? He argues that all religions and beliefs should be tolerated, as long as they do not preach intolerance towards other religions and beliefs. If not adhered to too rigidly this principle works in our society; you are free to believe anything, as long as you act within the boundaries of civil law.
Continue to follow the line of reasoning, however, and matters become fuzzy, because a diversity of beliefs and opinions necessitates that disagreements will be common place. Where is the boundary between disagreement and intolerance? What happens when a group or individual voices a disagreement, and the other side screams persecution? Militant Tolerance occurs when any opinion that steps on someone’s toes is banned from the public forum. If this form of tolerance becomes the ultimate good of society, embracing multiple religious beliefs and moral structures is anathema to this goal. The only perfectly tolerant society is one with uniformity of thought and belief. How is this achieved? A perfectly tolerant authoritarian regime.
Militant Tolerance is the aggressor in our cultural civil war. This side almost religiously and ironically attempts to silence anyone who disagrees with its precepts, mainly by discrediting them with the words homophobic, racist, and sexist. Twitter is a fantastic place to witness this hypocrisy. Chelsea Handler, one of the soldiers of Militant Tolerance, tweeted after the outcome of the US election, “when 47% of women vote against Hilary Clinton, we don’t only have a fight with some men in this country. Women have a fight with women.” Her other tweets about women range from encouraging women to support each other to insulting the intelligence of Sarah Palin and Ivanka Trump. So you are only a feminist as long as other women agree with you? If they profess a different opinion, do they no longer deserve your respect? Unfortunately, such examples are common place.
The thought process it requires to profess love and equality while viciously lashing out at those who disagree with you sounds awfully familiar to the thought process George Orwell describes in 1984. Doublethink. This is described as the ability to accept two contradictory opinions or beliefs as simultaneously true. Sound familiar? To University students this is all probably very familiar. Many Universities attain to be perfectly tolerant of all thoughts and opinions. Unless your thoughts and opinions cause someone to feel offended, uncomfortable or even unsure of themselves. Beware of attempting to have a rational argument, you might be the next to be labelled as homophobic, racist and sexist.
Orwell’s doublethink in 1984 is only possible with indoctrination, because the thought process is so irrational that it requires constant training and attention to maintain. Militant Tolerance also requires a certain level of indoctrination to maintain its pretty facade, and keep people from noticing its dirty under-belly. Who is doing this indoctrination? I do not think the trend to blame our society’s ‘elites’ is far from the truth. When I say elite, however, I do not mean individuals who are successful, individuals of a certain colour, or individuals who have ‘easy lives’. I mean those individuals who make it their business to tell others how they should think, not through rational argument, but through discrediting and ostracizing any who dare to think differently. Nowhere are these individuals more prevalent than in our TVs; they run newsrooms; they are the vast majority of the media; they control Hollywood. They are the unelected voices of authority in our society. The Leonardo Dicaprio’s who decry climate change in front of the UN one day, and spend the next vacationing on a diesel run 450 ft yacht.
I often feel that these voices we hear so much from are out of touch with reality. We do live in a world after all where Barak Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for giving a few speeches and Saudi Arabia just got re-elected to the UN human rights council after bombing Yemen off the map for the last year. For a long time I feared that these voices of Militant Tolerance were systematically and successfully destroying the voices of Free Thought.
Then Donald J. Trump was elected as the President of the USA. No matter what you think of his politics or of Hilary Clinton’s, no matter how liberal or how conservative you are, it is impossible to deny that Hollywood and the media did their very best to scream homophobe, racist and sexist louder than ever in an attempt to destroy Donald Trump. Who suffered most? Ironically, Hilary Clinton. I was so sure she would win. How could she not win, with Hollywood on her side, the media running story after story attacking Trump, and the massive cash advantage of her campaign? Of course Americans would be convinced, but they surprised everyone and voted contrary to the way they were being told to vote by the social elites.
How can this outcome be explained? If you agree with Militant Tolerance, the explanation seems to be that either Russia succeeded in a mass brain washing of the American population, or half of American’s are homophobic, racist and sexist. How else could Hilary Clinton, who spoke the language of Militant Tolerance perfectly, lose? Let us adhere to the principle of Occam’s razor and accept the simplest solution. No, Russia did not magically gain the capacity to remotely control people on voting day. No, half of the population of one of the most democratic, tolerant and diverse nations on earth are not homophobic, racist and sexist. Quite simply the American people decided to stop listening to what was being forced down their throats and think for themselves. A victory for the forces of Free Thought.
This was not about Republican vs. Democrat. If Bernie Saunders was allowed by the decision makers in the Democratic party to win the nomination, this election would probably have turned out very differently, because Bernie spoke the language of the average American. Instead it was left up to Hilary Clinton to win over the American people, but she and her proponents spoke a language only a few people could understand. As she bemoaned white privilege, white voters in the rust belt who struggle to provide for their families had no idea what she was talking about. As she demanded that it was time for a female president, American voters were more worried about their sky rocketing health care premiums than the sex of their president. Hilary Clinton spoke the language of Militant Tolerance perfectly, and the American people saw through her hypocrisy.
Hilary’s campaign, and her fans in the media and Hollywood, should have trusted the American people enough to address their concerns. They should have openly addressed the scandals of the Clinton Foundation, of Benghazi and of her private email server, instead of trying to sweep them under the carpet and then calling anyone who had legitimate concerns anti-women, anti-equality, anti-immigration and every other derogatory term in their play-book.
No matter how afraid you are of Donald Trump’s politics, this election was a victory for Free Thought. The American’s not only voted against Hilary Clinton, they also voted against the social elites who run Hollywood and the Media. The battle was won, but the war between Militant Tolerance and Free Thought continues. If Militant Tolerance wins, the current culture of the Western World will have breathed its last breath, because Free Thought is necessary for the continuation of a healthy democracy. If Free Thought wins, the Western World will continue to struggle down its current path, fighting for democracy, for equal opportunity and for freedom of belief.
How do we ensure that Free Thought comes out on top? The only aspect that can truly be controlled is one’s own reactions. When faced with beliefs contrary to your own, think, use reason to win others over to your cause, refuse to lash out with hateful language. Nothing will make the opinions of those who disagree with you harden more than yelling expletives in their faces. The more passionate about a cause you are, the more willing you should be to engage with your detractors, because that is the only way to gain their support.
Learn to recognize the language of Militant Tolerance and refuse to use it. Robert Heinlein wrote “Obscurity is the refuge of incompetence”. Remember this. The more one uses the obscure language of Militant Tolerance, the more one’s own argument looks incompetent. If you can only win by yelling offensive words, then do not enter the fight.
By: Chelsea Kaluzny