One of the by-products of relativism is tolerance, political correctness' pretty little sister of skin-deep beauty. "The idea has been misused so often that it has become a vice", says the protagonist of this post, Greg Koukl, regular columnist at Townhall.com in his article titled "The Intolerance of Tolerance".
Greg Koukl is providing us with some very valuable insight into the workings and unfortunate by-products of the culture of relativism. I can specifically recommend reading it entirely, thereafter printing and framing it and hang it over the bed, to be read each night before turning in, for the coming two decades or so. It is also very suited to children of all ages, to be read to as a bed time story or as didactic material. It is impossible to overstate the importance of his article. Greg Koukl unmasks relativism for what it is, at best fuzzy philosophy, at worst a lie pure and simple.
First and foremost relativism supports the absence of objective truth, while it goes on to assert two truths!
- The first is the contradiction in terms, namely the truth that there is no truth.Another contradiction lies in the intolerant imperative: Thou shalt be Tolerant. To which can be added tthe fact that if other people's viewpoints must be tolerated, that makes them at least potential truths, otherwise they wouldn't have to be tolerated, which in the classical sense of the word means: to allow others to express their opinion without fear of reprisal.
- And it implies the validity even of the view that relativism is false.
Greg Koukl continues his démasqué, by what he calls the "passive-aggressive Tolerance Trick", which supposes that every one's view has equal merit. No body's ideas are ever wrong and to say so, is considered the height of disrespect and intolerance, thereby proving the limit of tolerance. Tolerance is not absolute, apparently.
I came across an article on the website of Radio Netherlands, again about Ayaan Hirsi Ali (see how she shocked and riveted the nation!), which illustrates the confusion that is exacerbated by the Muslim culture that has declared large areas of religion sacrosanct and beyond reproach. The article shows just how it is resented that Ayaan had an opinion, and voiced it! Greg Koukl's point explains this supreme height of intolerance in the name of tolerance.
It brings to mind my complaint about the behavior of the Dutch who don't know how to deal with criticism; it is also related to the point explained above. Nobody is ever wrong in the culture of relativism, so queries are looked upon as if they were ice cubes in the desert.
This point also explains the lack of any real debate taking place, complete with sets of arguments that can be brought fore and against . It is why the discourse doesn't get beyond expletives and verbal abuse. More is the pity that we live in a time where the Internet provides all the space and opportunity we might want to voice our opinion: if we only had one. But it does raise the desperate question: Where is everybody? Where are the intellectuals and the writers, the thinkers ... and where are the debating societies?
Tolerance in the classical sense of the word is equal to respect and civility and is directed at the person, instead of his ideas and/or behavior, and that is exactly what is absent in the culture of tolerance, egalitarianism and relativism. The person and his ideas are being confused: we can disagree with his ideas and his behavior while at the same time, still respect his person. Mr Koukl explains how the modern definition of tolerance turns the classical meaning on its head: egalitarianism about ideas and elitism in relation to persons.
He puts it in other words: you cannot tolerate people you agree with; you tolerate people with whom you disagree, because it means you allow him his opinion or behavior although you disagree with it, while still respecting the person! It's all elementary, really.
To which can be added that tolerance in the true sense requires two opinions, one on each side, in the absence of which, one is left with indifference instead. Now the modern sense of tolerance is dominant, the absence of true opinion on both ends is preferred as less likely to cause a messy debate, which is all the better if you're trying to appease assertive Muslims.
The same trick is played out in the matter of equality (égalité). It is the same contradiction which makes people say politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali is "the same" as soccer player Kalou. In the relativist book equality means identical, instead of its original meaning "equal before the law" (i..e.of equal value). This was to ensure there was no "class justice", one law for the poor and another for the aristocracy. The law is still in need of a human interpretation so as not to become a value onto itself, as opposed to Law is Law, Befehl ist Befehl, the interpretation Minister Verdonk is putting on it out of personal interest. But that is another matter.
Today's public discourse under influence of relativism and its ugly relatives is one huge witch's cauldron of confused ideas and fuzzy philosophy that constitutes a poisonous potion for Western society: terms are used improperly, ideas are confused, wrong definitions are given and there is the unawareness of the contradictions in terms, that makes relativism into an almost satanical philosophical parlor trick. It has by now touched millions of people and their capacity to think along the lines of logic.
Greg Koukl closes his argument with the remark that tolerance is in actual fact nothing else than intellectual cowardice and a fear of real engagement. Indeed, it is easier to hurl an insult: the commentary pages of the mass media are full of them, all equally disrespectful in tone, and content and empty of opinion.