Living in a pluralistic society such as ours, a keen spirit of tolerance is essential to ensure social harmony. In fact, our American republic is founded on the presumption of mutual tolerance, something we pride ourselves upon. Yet how easy it is through excess for human nature to turn a virtue into a vice. The philosopher Karl Popper shrewdly observed that unlimited tolerance eventually produces intolerance. Popper warned about pursuing tolerance to extremities, for when that happens the thing turns into its very opposite, and brings about a culture of intolerance.
This is what we are quite plainly seeing in our society today, rife with its “woke” cancel culture. There needs to be some natural limit to what people will tolerate because unchecked tolerance does not produce social peace and harmony. Instead it empowers the most intolerant factions to weaponize tolerance against the very same well-meaning individuals who are busy tolerating everything and everybody. For the intolerant, tolerance is always a one-way street, namely the obligation of you to tolerate whatever I may say, do, or think with no corresponding obligation on my part to be tolerant of your views.
A good example of this lopsided dynamic has been the infiltration of liberal democracies such as France by radical Islamists who have taken full advantage of the freedoms provided by that liberal democratic state to impose their very illiberal Shariah law upon certain neighborhoods around Paris and other large cities. And once control is seized by an intolerant minority any real semblance of toleration evaporates like the morning mist. In short, unlimited tolerance fails to provide a secure peace because it enables and shields the most intolerant factions to bully the more tolerant population into submission. Such feckless tolerance refuses to confront evil before it assumes tyrannical proportions. And any protest after the fact is too late, and too feeble, to restore the necessary balance.Continue reading