As threatened last year, here is the continuation of my exegesis on tolerance. Our country’s founding document refers to”unalienable rights.” While only three were stated, it clearly indicated that there were more. In the almost quarter of a millennium since Jefferson’s Declaration the number of rights claimed by many has undergone an exponential expansion. Note that the three specified rights are free – no one has to pay for them. The seemingly infinite number of rights claimed by some or offered by politicians require payment. For example, the “right” to medical care. Even free medical is thought a right by many. Are the doctors, nurses, orderlies, ward clerks, etc expected to labor for nothing? Obviously, they expect to be paid. So “free” medical care really can’t be free, it requires payment. What those who espouse it have in mind is forcing some people to pay for the care of others. If they refuse to cough up the funds required they will lose one of Jefferson’s three original rights. It’s hard to consider something a right that risks the liberty of another. If I have a right to medical care while you have the obligation to pay for it my right obliterates yours. I don’t believe that anyone has a right to something that another person is forced to provide. Hard to see a gain of tolerance in the general plethora of rights demanded by social justice pugilists. If you’re not on the right side of “rights” a whole lot of intolerance is going to come your way. Society may decide to provide services to one segment at the expense of another. But such a service is not a right and can be revoked. Rights are irrevocable. Entitlements are not rights and accordingly are subject to change.
Education is another state mandate masquerading as a right. Accordingly, it’s a mess on every level. I’ll just comment on higher education where tolerance seems to have been banished in toto. To understand what has gone wrong in the academy “diversity” must be included here as well. “Diversity” as now used is Newspeak. It can be understood by examining another statement by its inventor, George Orwell. “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” The current definition of diversity is conformity. Everybody has to think and behave as required by the Mandarins of Diversity.
Consider the case of the renowned theater director Andrei Serban. He has worked all over the world to great acclaim. At the Met he has directed Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini and Gounod’s Faust. Until 2019 he was a tenured professor in the theater department at Columbia University. (Just in passing, the Ivy League school should change its name to something more woke.) A native of Romania, Serban resigned his position because the university is “on its way toward full blown communism.” He said this in a Romanian TV interview. The program’s host expressed incredulity at multiple points in the interview, seemingly shocked that the American higher education system is headed toward communism. Serban fled Romania 1969. He said in the interview that after a faculty member retired, the remaining professors in the department were called in to a meeting to discuss a replacement. It was at this meeting that the dean of the art school told them that there were “too many white professors, too many heterosexual men,” and that it would be best to hire a minority or a woman, or a gay man. The proverbial last straw was his unwillingness to consider casting a transgender student as Juliet in Shakespeare’s play. Serban having grown up in the most intolerant environment conceivable, knew its newest iteration without much effort.
At Columbia, as at most universities and colleges, total tolerance seems to be the same as it was in the bad old days; it’s just shifted to a previously unfavored group and away from what is now seen as an undeservedly privileged one. We appear to have great difficulty righting a wrong without creating a new one. Often the new approved behavior is worse than what it replaced. The current rigor with which diversity is enforced on the campus may explain the inverse relationship between critical thinking and the number of years spent in pursuit of university degrees. We live in a strange world where education enables ignorance rather than its opposite.
The God of Diversity is also worshipped at the corporate level. Diversity, in the Orwellian sense, has filled the vacuum left by the abandonment of traditional religion discussed in the first piece on this topic. Such is the faith in this God that the most innocent expression of a dissenting opinion can send the devient to the unemployment office. This inquisitional enforcement of a secular faith is understandable when you consider that most corporate boardrooms are filled with college graduates. Its occupants might not have learned much about Aeschylus, Milton, or Newton, but they learned their Diversity by heart. If you have an offspring with a truly advanced intellect, send him to a local college. Make him live at home. Otherwise send him to plumbing school or the like. If you become the target of a diversity Tarasque turning the other cheek, either pair will do, is the best practice. Bland tolerance accompanied by continuation of whatever misbehavior caught the dragon’s eye will drive him to self immolation. Thus, be tolerant of diversity monger, but eschew obedience. Remarkable is that many people are undone by a diversity bomb. In reality, it has no more effect than a bursting bubble. Tolerance in this instance equates to indifference. Of course, I’m considering the US; in some other countries failure to stay within the boundaries of diversity can get you killed.
Opposing views should, by definition, be part of the life a vigorous republic – especially one that has existed for almost 250 years and which is the most powerful state in the world. Yet, we seem to have reached a junction where opposing views are a casus belli. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” often misattributed to Voltaire, is currently a joke. The quotation is from Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s biography of the French philosoph. As currently practiced tolerance of opposing views would modify Ms Hall’s encapsulation of Voltaire’s view to “I hate what you say and will defend to your death the abolition of your right to say it.” Some people are so agitated that the content of a statement is a stimulus to outrage irrespective of the statement’s content. Using the wrong words or even the wrong word order can get one flamed – eg people of color (good) vs colored people (bad). Again, the best response is no response. The fire will burn itself out leaving no ash. Certainly don’t apologize. Doing so will only compound the abuse headed your way and will gain you nothing.
Polarization is a related subject to that just discussed. I’m not referring to the lands of white bears and Emperor Penguins, but to the purported widespread division of the American public into two divergent and widely separated camps regarding the key issues that confront the republic. My suspicion is that this gulf is more imaginary than real, that most Americans are too busy with the activities of daily living and too indifferent to the noise that comes from the antipodes to be even minimally engaged with the noisemakers. Much of what is said to be political discourse is the expression of unearned anger and outrage.
Consider the NY Times 1619 Project. It’s an attempt to depict all of American history through slavery. There’s nothing that the Times can say about slavery that hasn’t already been exhaustively been depicted and examined by armies of scholars and thinkers thousands of times over. The paper seems to think they have something new to say on the subject and that all of American history is derivative from slavery. Slavery was indigenous to virtually all parts of the inhabited globe. It is no mark of courage or enlightenment to be against it today. Anybody with a scintilla of decency is against American slavery and its legacy. I wonder what the position of the Time’s staff would be if they lived in Charleston SC in 1850. The project seems intended to polarize rather than enlighten. Moral preening also seems to play a role in the project.
To be continued…