I don't know Happy. I'm not such a fan of the word "tolerance." It has sort of condescending connotations, at least to me. It's kind of like you're saying, "You have different beliefs than I do, and though I do not agree with you, I will tolerate (put up with) your presence in my life." It's an icky word. I know this is not your intent, but to say you "tolerate" another person's beliefs is to imply that you think your own beliefs are better. Of course, you DO think that, otherwise you wouldn't hold the beliefs you have in the first place. This may be what non-Liberal people (conservatives?) find objectionable.

I would argue that you don't just want to "tolerate" people with different beliefs and backgrounds anyway. I'm not sure what the right word is, perhaps, "mutual understanding" or "respect" works better.

The Happy feminist

Well, that's a darn good point.

I would never say that I "tolerate" homosexuality or bisexuality, because these are actually things I endorse.

But I think to the extent one does find another person's customs or viewpoints off-putting, tolerance is an important baby-step. At the very least, one should be tolerant of those things that one finds off-putting if they don't hurt others. I used the term "tolerance" to include "mutual respect and understanding" but I think that "tolerance" short of that is the first step.

Joel Monka

The only problem I have with tolerance is that so many seem to confuse "tolerance" with "acceptance". Some people think that one is intolerant if one does not agree that their opinions are equally as true or valid as one's own. I have friends all along the political spectrum, for example, and I tolerate their views- but that doesn't mean I accept their views, or grant the validity of their views.


Another problem with extolling tolerance is the resultant bending, or abandonment, or standards. Clearly, as you point out, not all standards are targeted, and the most egregious and dispicable acts can still be condemned. However, the erosion of common cultural touchstones by the open armed embrace of "no standards" in the guise of tolerance, often leads to the dismantling of tolerance in action as tolerance in posture increases. Consider the case of Sweden, which made the principle of tolerance a national religion. They started with a homogeneous society in which there were high levels of generosity to fellow citizens and tolerance for deviation from cultural norms. These successful principles were then applied to diversifying the demography of Sweden and the results are dangerous levels of erosion for tolerance, for it's difficult to support the toleration of having to pay high taxes so the people you welcomed into the country can live off of your expense:

In some neighborhoods, children grow up without ever seeing someone who goes to work in the morning. Pockets of unemployment and social exclusion form, especially in areas with many non-European immigrants. When Swedes see that so many immigrants live off the government, their interest in contributing to the system fades.

The upshot here is that tolerance in Sweden was most successfully applied, and had the greatest levels of support, when the community to which it was targeted was more exclusionary.

This lesson, of course, goes beyond the case of Sweden, and there are numerous studies which indicate that support for social welfare spending decreases as the hetereogeneity of a population increases. The lesson for those who worship tolerance, is to limit the boundaries in which the worship is applied, for expanding those boundaries also weakens the foundation which supports the attractiveness of tolerance posturing.

The Happy Feminist

I don't think anyone is advocating "no standards," except maybe some kids who haven't really thought it through. Nor does my description of tolerance imply that "ONLY the most egregious and dispicable acts can still be condemned." The very simple and rather elementary point is that you don't condemn others JUST for being different. While it may seem that this is so basic a principle that it shouldn't even have to be said, history and current events prove otherwise.

I am really confused by your conflation of "social welfare" with "tolerance." The resentment of paying tax dollars to support other people strikes me as a quite a different issue than tolerance or intolerance of those who are different. I suppose preferring to support certain racial or cultural groups with social welfare rather than others derives in part from intolerance of difference, but there are other issues at play.

Good use of prejudicial rhetoric, but no one "worships" tolerance. We "value" it.


The very simple and rather elementary point is that you don't condemn others JUST for being different.

Your statement, I would argue, should be context dependent. For instance, the peoples of the Middle East are far removed from my daily life, and I'm extremely tolerant of their cultural practices for they don't impinge on my life whatsoever. However, when those cultural practices are transplanted to the West, then my tolerance for them decreases, for they negatively affect the society within which I live, and the tolerance for their cultural practices often erodes the institutions which were built upon foundations of different cultural traditions. To help illustrate this principle, consider the case of Muslim immigrants to the UK, specifically Pakistanis:

Britain's huge Pakistani community should be legally prevented from marrying first cousins, a Labour Party MP has declared, after new research showed Pakistani families produced an alarming 30% of the UK's genetically diseased children.

The research, conducted by the BBC and broadcast to a shocked nation on Tuesday, found that at least 55% of the community was married to a first cousin.

This is thought to be linked to the probability that a British Pakistani family is at least 13 times more likely than the general population to have children with recessive genetic disorders.

The research found that while British Pakistanis accounted for just 3.4% of all births, they had 30% of all British children with recessive disorders and a higher rate of infant mortality.

By tolerating this cultural tradition within the UK the strong family networks are maintained and when combined with coercive "diversity" legislation which mandates proportional workplace representation, we see, as reported in this weekend's papers, that:

A secret high-level Metropolitan police report has concluded that Muslim officers are more likely to become corrupt than white officers because of their cultural and family backgrounds. . . .

The main conclusions of the study, commissioned by the Directorate of Professional Standards and written by an Asian detective chief inspector, stated: "Asian officers and in particular Pakistani Muslim officers are under greater pressure from the family, the extended family ... and their community against that of their white colleagues to engage in activity that might lead to misconduct or criminality." . . .

The report argued that British Pakistanis live in a cash culture in which "assisting your extended family is considered a duty" and in an environment in which large amounts of money are loaned between relatives and friends.

So, I'm completely tolerant of diversity and disparate cultural traditions, so long as they don't affect my traditions. Whenever I have a hankering for a dose of diversity I can hop on a plane and within hours be immersed within it. I can tolerate the corruption that goes hand in hand with the strong family/tribe networks which use cousin marriage to cement family bonds for I do not have to bear the consequences of such open ended tolerance. However, when the consequences of eroded cultural traditions and their replacement with the cult of tolerance do have a negative impact upon a host society, and the lives of those who live within that society, then tolerance comes at too high a price.


My personal favorite illustration of the inanity of tolerance is the IKEA Affair. Actually, tied for first place are the tolerance arguments of social anthropology professor Uni Wikan. She argues that:

The article quoted a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo (who was described as having "lived for many years in Muslim countries") as saying that "Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes" because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative. One reason for the high number of rapes by Muslims, explained the professor, was that in their native countries "rape is scarcely punished," since Muslims "believe that it is women who are responsible for rape." The professor's conclusion was not that Muslim men living in the West needed to adjust to Western norms, but the exact opposite: "Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it."

To place the above into context, consider:

Two out of three charged with rape in Norway's capital are immigrants with a non-western background according to a police study. The number of rape cases is also rising steadily.The study is the first where the crime statistics have been analyzed according to ethnic origin. Of the 111 charged with rape in Oslo last year, 72 were of non-western ethnic origin, 25 are classified as Norwegian or western and 14 are listed as unknown.

Rape charges in the capital are spiraling upwards, 40 percent higher from 1999 to 2000 and up 13 percent so far this year.

Nine out of ten cases do not make it to prosecution, most of them because police do not believe the evidence is sufficient to reach a conviction.

Police Inspector Gunnar Larsen of Oslo's Vice, Robbery and Violent crime division says the statistics are surprising - the rising number of rape cases and the link to ethnic background are both clear trends. But Larsen does not want to speculate on the reasons behind the worrying developments.

While 65 percent of those charged with rape are classed as coming from a non-western background, this segment makes up only 14.3 percent of Oslo's population. Norwegian women were the victims in 80 percent of the cases, with 20 percent being women of foreign background.

Larsen said that since this was the initial study examining ethnic make-up there were no existing figures to put the numbers into context.

"Meanwhile, it is our general experience that this is an increasing tendency. We note this by the number of time we need to use interpreters in the course of an investigation," Larsen said.

The point is that you can't pick your tolerance from a buffet line and many times to be tolerant means to embrace the entirety of another culture. Further, to be tolerant of another, can sometimes result in the loss of freedom for oneself. Simply ask Norwegian women if they feel safer on the streets now, or 30 years ago.

The Happy Feminist

You have completely missed the point of my post.

You are buying into the notion that when liberals talk about tolerance, they mean "anything goes" if it's from another culture.

I said the precise opposite in my post. I am utterly tolerant of difference up to the point that it impinges on others. And I'll even go a step further than you. I will butt in and express my opinion on the standards in other countries like Saudi Arabia, even though they have no bearing on my life here in the U.S., because those standards deprive women in those countries of basic human rights.

h sofia

Well, the indigenous peoples of North America may have erred in tolerating the arrival of the Spanish, Portugese and British explorer/settlers. Then again, the explorer/settlers weren't doing much to reciprocate. Perhaps it helps when the tolerance is mutual.

But apart from that, I agree with you, Happy. Building better relations means rescinding some power and even offering it at times. Unfortunately, the desire to maintain one's upper hand makes tolerance difficult. Human beings, including liberals, do not have a good track record on this. I do believe we can learn how to do better, though.

The Happy Feminist

I will throw you a bone Tango Man. I will amend my statement that the "anything goes" mentality is really only prevalent among loopy college students. Apparently, it can be found among loopy Norwegian anthropology professors as well.

But I do think this is a fundamental understanding of "tolerance." The idea of "tolerance" has real value. Obviously, it is context dependent and we can argue about when someone else's very different lifestyles and practices impinge upon others and when they don't. But the value of "tolerance" remains, even if we may not always agree on what that means in practice.

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