"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Intolerance–The Key To Social Progress

Tolerance is ‘in’; or so it would seem, for the tattoo of inclusivity, race, gender, and ethnicity is heard everywhere.  The  drumbeat of inclusivity is insistent, and those who march to it step rarely out of line.

Yet tolerance has never been a hallmark of successful civilizations. The Punic Wars, the War of the Roses, the Napoleonic Wars, and more civil wars than one can count were not about tolerance, but about victory over an enemy who had different values, different intentions, and different culture. 

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There was no desire for inclusivity when Genghis Khan swept out of the steppes to conquer most of the known world.  He wanted only domination, annihilation, or complete and abject submission.  The Crusaders were not sent out by the French king to convince Muslims to leave Jerusalem and to think seriously about Christianity.  Roland and Charlemagne at Roncesvalles fought against the Saracen invaders because they wanted to preserve Christian Europe from Islamic barbarism.  They were interested in preserving their territory, their culture, and their dominion.  Inclusivity was the farthest thing from their minds.

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The animal kingdom is no different.  Dog packs snap, snarl, and bite at those who probe the perimeter.  Wolves, lions, bees, ants, and viruses all fight the invader to keep their ground unsullied and pure.  War is common in the ant kingdom and society is organized around the principle of empire – queens, workers, soldiers, drones all have but one purpose, to protect, preserve, and expand.

Primitive human societies, scarcely removed from their animal past, were organized around the principle of survival, and inclusivity risked death and removal.  Fear and suspicion of The Other was part of the innate sense of self-preservation encoded in human DNA corroborated by brutal experience, and passed down from generation to generation.  Aggression was normal and necessary for survival.  If communities were organized only to defend, they would be destroyed quickly and summarily.  Territorial expansion through war and intimidation was equally justified in early human societies.  Life was not easy in the Pleistocene.

Competition within species is common in both the animal and human kingdoms; and if Darwin is to be believed, such competition is necessary for the survival of both.   The survival of the fittest has been a fundamental organic law since the first paramecia. 

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Attempts have been made by some anthropologists to debunk the theory of Social Darwinism – the application of the laws of survival from animal to man – but even the most amateur observer of human nature and events can only conclude that we are very little different from the apes.  We organize ourselves in homogeneous societies and we defend them with tooth and claw.  We are territorial, expansionist, and tenacious.  There is nothing we would not do to preserve family, tribe, or country.  The hydrogen bomb, poison gas, defoliants, terrifyingly powerful cannons, warplanes, and rockets are all part of our armory.  Not only have attempts to disarm proven fruitless;  most countries are desperate to arm themselves with ever increasingly powerful weapons.

It is, therefore, perfectly natural for formerly homogeneous societies or communities to be suspicious of the outsider, The Other.   Such communities have developed, applied, respected, and enforced amoral, ethical, and civic codes; and anyone who looks different, acts differently, and/or subscribes to unfamiliar codes is automatically repulsed and excluded.

However, once those interlopers have adopted the normative behavior of the majority, they are welcomed.   In the modern context, when African Americans can demonstrate to their white neighbors that they have rejected the ghetto, the street, and the dysfunctional behavior of the inner cities from which they have come, they will be accepted.

When gay men demonstrate to their straight neighbors that they have put aside extravagant behavior and sexual libertinage, they are welcomed.  As much as conservatives criticize gay marriage, it is just that acceptance of the majority norm which furthers gender integration.

It is intolerance of anti-social behavior which is the driving force of integration and racial and gender harmony.

Many progressives have condemned what they call enforced conformity to majority norms; and have insisted that diversity means acceptance of all culturally different behavior, regardless of its intent or outcome.   This, however, begs the question.  What civilization in recorded history has not valued honesty, integrity, courage, respect, honor, discipline, work, and faith?  Since the homogenizing process tends towards this historically successful norm, what could be bad?

Inclusivity and diversity have  been extended to other aspects of human society which were never tolerated before.  A woman of distinct beauty, for example, is likely a product of well-educated, wealthy, attractive parents.  Her beauty is a marker, a signifier of the more important attributes of health and well-being.  If all such distinctions are removed – that is if all levels of intelligence, physical ability, beauty (i.e. health, wealth) are considered equal – then normal, natural, and desirable social competition is removed.

Positive discrimination – favoring the most talented, the most gifted, the most physically fit, and the most intelligent – is the logical outcome of such a conclusion.   Care, compassion, and acceptance of those less socially able should always be a feature of  evolved societies; but dismissal of the crucial social relevance of high achievement, physical and mental prominence, and social status is self-defeating at best.

By setting such high standards, true social, racial, and ethnic integration can be accelerated.  Minorities will no longer be satisfied with a culturally low status quo enforced by multiculturalists.  Gay men and women will retain the most positive aspects of their subculture, but will reject claims to the ‘cultural exclusivity’ of the Castro or Bay-to-Breakers.  Overweight women will, like their French counterparts, aspire to an elegant, svelte norm and will thereby improve their health and social status.

Diversity per se has no value; but universal adherence to social and cultural norms does.  Joining the majority does not necessarily mean leaving all cultural identity behind.  It simply means accepting the same universal moral principles, high social standards, and competition necessary for excellence that have been prevalent since the formation of the first human communities.  The purpose of this type of majority rule is not only survival but preeminence.

Tolerance is a good thing when it comes to accepting those who cannot change.  It is a bad thing when it rejects the historical concept of social competition. It is in society’s interest to adhere to high intellectual, physical, moral, and social standards and to be ‘intolerant’ of those who refuse to adhere to them.  All successful civilizations from Greece, Rome, China, India, and Persia to the present have valued the same standards.  Ancient sculpture, painting, and literature have displayed nothing but a celebration of beauty, physical talent, and achievement.  Ancient Greek amphora, Roman frescoes, and Indian relief sculptures all attest to the fact.

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