Tolerance is a peace treaty, not a moral imperative


Yonatan Zunger discusses the tolerance red herring so frequently deployed by supremacists of various stripes. It’s a load of bunk.

The title of this essay should disturb you. We have been brought up to believe that tolerating other people is one of the things you do if you’re a nice person — whether we learned this in kindergarten or from Biblical maxims like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “do unto others.”

But if you have ever tried to live your life this way, you will have seen it fail: “Why won’t you tolerate my intolerance?” This comes in all sorts of forms: accepting a person’s actively antisocial behavior because it’s just part of being an accepting group of friends; being told that prejudice against Nazis is the same as prejudice against Black people; watching people try to give “equal time” to a religious (or irreligious) group whose guiding principle is that everyone must join them or else.

Every one of these examples should raise your suspicions that something isn’t right; that tolerance be damned, one of these things is not like the other. But if you were raised with an intense version of “tolerance is a moral requirement,” then you may feel that this is a thought you should fight off.

It isn’t.

Tolerance is not a moral absolute; it is a peace treaty. Tolerance is a social norm because it allows different people to live side-by-side without being at each other’s throats. It means that we accept that people may be different from us, in their customs, in their behavior, in their dress, in their sex lives, and that if this doesn’t directly affect our lives, it is none of our business. But the model of a peace treaty differs from the model of a moral precept in one simple way: the protection of a peace treaty only extends to those willing to abide by its terms. It is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.

I am sadly unaware of any tool to get rid of the Medium users’ highlighting (they’ve effectively highlighted the entire article which is just SO MUCH SIGH) but try to tolerate it here. (see what i did therr)

-Shiv

 

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