. . . I'm reluctant to say that tolerance needs defending more than intolerance.
The Muslim world is intolerant of many things that should be tolerated, such as 'paganism' and atheism. But then, the Muslim world is also rightly intolerant of all the worst things about our culture. They don't tolerate blasphemy-for-the-sake-of-blasphemy. If halfwits with 'education' degrees want to teach their young children that it's great to be 'gay' or 'trans', and maybe they should try it out, Muslims will not stand for it. They don't tolerate rape and murder just because stopping it would have 'disparate impact' across races. Don't we want to defend their intolerance in these respects?
[. . .]
I basically agree with Jacques although the penultimate sentence of the above quotation needs to be toned down and qualified. But it is certainly true that "the Muslim world is also rightly intolerant of all the worst things about our culture." I have argued this myself:
Thursday, February 10, 2011
What Do We Have to Teach the Muslim World? Reflections Occasioned by the Death of Maria Schneider
I was one of those who saw "Last Tango in Paris" when it was first released, in 1972. I haven't seen it since and I don't remember anything specific about it except one scene, the scene you remember too, the 'butter scene,' in which the Marlon Brando character sodomizes the Maria Schneider character. Maria Schneider died last week at 58 and indications are that her exploitation by Brando and Bertolucci scarred her for life.
Islamic culture is in many ways benighted and backward, fanatical and anti-Enlightenment, but our trash culture is not much better. Suppose you are a Muslim and you look to the West. What do you see? Decadence. And an opportunity to bury the West.
If Muslims think that our decadent culture is what Western values are all about, and something we are trying to impose on them, then we are in trouble. They do and we are.
Militant Islam's deadly hatred of us should not be discounted as the ravings of lunatics or psychologized away as a reflex of envy at our fabulous success. For there is a kernel of insight in it that we do well to heed. Sayyid Qutb , theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood, who visited the USA at the end of the '40s, writes in Milestones (1965):
Humanity today is living in a large brothel! One has only to glance
at its press, films, fashion shows, beauty contests, ballrooms,
wine bars and broadcasting stations! Or observe its mad lust for
naked flesh, provocative pictures, and sick, suggestive statements
in literature, the arts, and mass media! And add to all this the
system of usury which fuels man's voracity for money and engenders
vile methods for its accumulation and investment, in addition to
fraud, trickery, and blackmail dressed up in the garb of law.
A wild exaggeration in 1965, the above statement is much less of an exaggeration today. But setting aside the hyperbole, we are in several ways a sick and decadent society getting worse day by day. On this score, if on no other, we can learn something from our Islamist critics. The fact that a man wants to chop your head off does not mean that he has nothing to teach you. We often learn more from our enemies than from our friends. Our friends often will spare us hard truths.
Companion post: What Ever Happened to Linda Lovelace?
Jacques' challenge to me I take to be the following: Why do you defend tolerance and not intolerance when, as ought to be obvious to any sensible person, there are things that we ought to tolerate and things that we ought not tolerate? Equivalently, why is tolerance in general better than intolerance in general? An anonymous commenter adds support to Jacques' challenge:
All sides can say "it is important that the right kinds of things are tolerated and important that the wrong kinds of things are not tolerated". Isn't that the only sense in which you, or anyone, is a proponent of "tolerance"?
I don't think so. In order to determine what is tolerable and what is not we must inquire, we must examine, we must canvass various options. For this we need the help of others. We need to read their writings and hear their voices. We need access to a broad base of historical and other knowledge. We ought therefore to tolerate a wide variety of views in order to understand the issues and possibly arrive at the truth about them.
We don't know what all to tolerate and what all not to tolerate. Should we allow (tolerate) immigration from Muslim lands at the present time? That is a serious question. The answer is not obvious. If you claim to know the answer you are blustering. This is a legitimate topic of open inquiry. Among the conditions of the possibility of open inquiry is toleration of opposing points of view.
So, even to get clear about what toleration is and is not, to get clear about its limits, to get clear about how it gears into other values, to get clear about what our first-order moral commitments ought to be, we need a space in which there is the free exchange of ideas, a space that is possible only under the aegis of toleration, and not in the precincts of Islamic fundamentalism or Leftism.
Suppose you say to me, "Look, free exchange of ideas is just one more thing that we ought to tolerate; but that is not a reason to defend tolerance in general rather than intolerance." Well, I think it is. For how do you know that free exchange of ideas ought to be tolerated? That is something that needs to be investigated. Tolerance is the space within which alone these questions can be addressed and possibly resolved (though I am not sanguine about resolutions); as such, tolerance and its conditions are not just further things that ought to be tolerated.