While our contemporary world has become consumed with screens of diverse shapes and sizes, they have one thing in common. Words. Language. Videos have become huge but wouldn’t have much value without language. Even given the penchant for emojis and other cute (yes, that is a relative term) symbols, language is the ultimate medium. In fact those emojis only have meaning because they represent words or phrases.
So, we should recognize and admit that language is important. Which exposes why we have so much trouble in our public discourse. Aside from antagonistic attitudes and a slew of other problems, our lack of basic language skills contributes to our cultural chaos. Another major problem is the Orwellian corruption of language.
Positive and Negative Tolerance
Consider the use of certain buzzwords so popular, especially from the social justice contingent. Like “tolerance.” We should all be tolerant, or so we are told. But, as is always the case, we need to be clear about what we mean by that. Invariably, the word will have considerably different definitions depending on one’s perspective and tribal tendencies.
For instance, we so often hear perhaps the loudest exclamations of how critical tolerance is from those who themselves display blatant intolerance. If we fail to bow down in unalloyed worship of an idea or class of people we are not just criticized. We are excoriated, vilified, even driven to professional and financial ruin. All in the name of tolerance.
There is certainly room for a range of connotations for a word, but when it comes to mean the exact opposite of its traditional interpretation, we’ve got problems. A word like tolerance can have a negative and positive sense. What it can’t have is a meaning completely contrary to its inherent concept.We should all be tolerant, or so we are told. But, we need to be clear about what we mean by that. Invariably, the word will have considerably different definitions depending on one's perspective and tribal tendencies. Click To Tweet
Tolerance versus Intolerance
Here’s what we mean. In conventional usage, we may think of tolerance as accepting, being nice, acting cordially toward others. That’s the positive side. The negative sense, and more accurate, is to bear with something. I may not like you or your position on a topic but I will tolerate you. That doesn’t mean I will be happy about it, or even that I won’t share my difference of opinion. But, I will at least allow you some semblance of respect and the same right to an opinion as I have.
What I won’t do is attack you, prevent you from speaking or acting, deny that you even have a right to your opinion. That is not tolerance, that is intolerance. See the difference?
There are times when intolerance is actually justified. If we abhor certain actions in a civil society then we must be prepared to be intolerant of them. For instance, robbery or rape or murder. Does anyone really believe we should exercise tolerance in the face of such acts? Let’s be intolerant and call it that.
But, in any other situation, if tolerance is the proper response then let’s act accordingly. Either way let’s be clear on the difference between tolerance and intolerance. There’s another aspect worth exploring, along the lines of the negative sense we mentioned above. More on that next time.