Diversity and Tolerance

The fact that the “benefits of diversity” have acquired a theological status in the religion of our enemies should not blind us to the fact that there are, potentially, genuine benefits, as well as costs, of diversity. Some of the arguments are valid.

Those with exceptional contributions to make in society are often exceptional in other ways. They may be self-aggrandising, or alternatively abnormally introverted and unsociable. Their unusual abilities might be related to unusual tastes, those who break through barriers of what is considered achievable may also break barriers of what is considered acceptable. All that whether we are talking about aliens to the culture, from outside, or eccentrics produced by the culture who might as well be aliens.

The social attitude that is conducive to obtaining the benefits of diversity, while not
abandoning the idea of cultural standards, is called Tolerance.

Tolerance is never an absolute. It is not an abdication of judgement, it is a balancing of judgement. Tolerance avoids conflict, gains the benefits of diversity, but risks undermining norms.

If the norms of a society are under threat, tolerance is likely to decline, and necessarily so. If a society is strong and healthy, it can become more tolerant.

Also, those who actually do make oustanding contributions can be rewarded with tolerance of their eccentricities, without those same eccentricities developing into virulent subcultures of their own.

Our society has become much more accepting of diversity, particularly over the last few decades. But that is not a result of increasing tolerance; rather, society has become much less tolerant of any kind of dissent from its norms. Instead of being tolerant of deviance from norms, many norms have been abandoned entirely, and in place of the virtue of tolerance we have the law of equality, identified with justice.

The idea of equality does not have the flexibility and balance that the old idea of tolerance had. If one class of behaviour is equal to another, then there is nothing to
tolerate. In the short run, this looked to be equivalent to a surge of tolerance, but while one can tolerate anything, to a greater or lesser degree, one cannot treat everything as equal. Some norms are found to be essential, and breaking those norms cannot be permitted. Since the language of tolerance has been lost, replaced by the language of equality, the remaining norms get enforced with a pitiless severity. One action will be celebrated as the exercise of equal rights, while another almost identical will be condemned as a crime; there can be no middle ground. Showing people smoking on television is encouraging unhealthy behaviour and must be banned, but showing fat people eating is encouraging unhealthy behaviour, and must be held up as an ideal.

In practical terms, the concept of equality for aliens and deviants has to go. But it should not be replaced with hatred or censoriousness, but with a limited, conditional, and flexible tolerance.

For fun: a Google Ngram of inequality vs intolerance. The same pattern is not seen for equality vs tolerance, but I feel that using the negative words implies that the concepts are the standards: if people are talking more about equality, that doesn’t necessarily mean that equality has a higher status, but if people are talking more about inequality, that implies that equality is seen more as the normal or correct thing.

For more fun: Milo on why being tolerated is better than being equal.

 

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