Monday 27 October 2014

De toleratio

I've written the title in Latin for the same reason that Sir Richard Burton [L looking louche] wrote the hotter (phew!) parts of his treatise on pederasty  and chunks of his 'translation' of Arabian Nights in Latin - so that those of delicate spirit won't be upset. But I'm not going further on the love that dares not speak, this is about tolerance and how bloody difficult that is. When The Boy was tiny, we smugly said we'd be fine however he turned out: gay would be okay, marrying a black girl would be grand, we could handle it even if he went to be a lawyer. But we were not sufficiently self-delusional as to avoid the possibility that he might grow up to be a mugger; and our airy tolerance was then challenged. I've written about tolerance and compassion on The Blob before but I've never been able to articulate the issues as well as "Scott Alexander", a doctor who blogs, has done in his recent essay about Tolerance and the Outgroup.  It's nearly 9.000 words long and it may be unsettling but you should plough through to the end because it will help you to a better place. That's a big ask for people trained on the 600 word sound-bytes here so I'll give two excerpts as an executive summary:

The Emperor summons before him Bodhidharma and asks: “Master, I have been tolerant of innumerable gays, lesbians, bisexuals, asexuals, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, transgender people, and Jews. How many Tolerance Points have I earned for my meritorious deeds?”
Bodhidharma answers: “None at all”.
The Emperor, somewhat put out, demands to know why not.
Bodhidharma asks: “Well, what do you think of gay people?”
The Emperor answers: “What do you think I am, some kind of homophobic bigot? Of course I have nothing against gay people!”
And Bodhidharma answers: “Thus do you gain no merit by tolerating them!”
But the best thing that could happen to this post is that it makes a lot of people, especially myself, figure out how to be more tolerant. Not in the “of course I’m tolerant, why shouldn’t I be?” sense of the Emperor in Part I. But in the sense of “being tolerant makes me see red, makes me sweat blood, but darn it I am going to be tolerant anyway.”

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