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.
How is your “truth meter” doing these days? Do you feel like it may need a bit of re-calibration after a year of being dragged through a baseless impeachment, questionable health crisis, and disturbing irregularities in a presidential election? “Don’t get excited,” because the media assures us that it’s all for the good (“Nothing behind that curtain!”). We are quickly becoming a society that has lost its appetite for the truth; content to apathetically look the other way regardless of of any egregious outrage unwinding under our very noses.Has a half century of legalized abortion deadened our communal conscience so completely to seeing the truth? I would say that our “truth meters” have been desensitized to the point off accepting any proffered illusion as a verifiable truth.
Perhaps the problem is that Americans by and large have too long accustomed themselves to equating knowledge with truth, with hardly distinction drawn between them. Living in a science driven culture it becomes easy, and all to common, for us to make this mental switch. But in fact, there are many different kinds of knowledge, not all of them true. There is the knowledge of the trickster which is meant to deceive, create illusions, or even cheat others. The job of a propagandist is to make us believe some version of events or reality that may not be quite objective or accurate. For if truth itself were self-evident there would be little demand for rhetoric or the art of propaganda. Bread lines would be swollen with journalists and lawyers. Continue reading
If you’ve ever seen pictures of a Chinese festival you no doubt recall those huge dragons which can snake for several blocks as they wind through city streets. A closer look reveals hundreds of human feet underneath which propel the paper dragon along its course. (Sure, I know it’s really silk but we live in “virtual” times.) The people belonging to those feet remain hidden and anonymous so that all the spectators and frightened children see only see the dragon’s ferocious features.
The world today is being treated to another kind of paper dragon in the form of a coronavirus pandemic. This dragon is being contorted, manipulated, and directed by an unseen hoard of faceless bureaucrats and journalists whose sole aim seems to be capitalizing on the public’s fear and panic. Accompanying them is an administrative deep state which has by now become so entrenched that political leaders unquestioningly impose whatever draconian measures these mysterious figures may demand. It seems utterly surreal to watch formerly free societies buckle under their arbitrary, and often harmful, diktats like a bunch of new recruits in boot camp. Somehow I must have blinked when we adopted the North Korean rule of law but here we are, six months into a global boot camp with no end in sight. Continue reading
We live today in a relativistic world where truth, right and wrong are no longer considered absolutes but matters of personal choice. This approach can create troubling consequences, however. Take the example of married love. While a personal choice is initially exercised in deciding who to marry, total commitment is presumably part of one’s choice. Would you marry someone whose love for you was only ‘relative?’ True love is total and unconditional, not partial or circumstantial. It does not depend upon someone’s status, current mood, or credit rating but rather it accepts the other person in toto.
Truth, like nuptial love, is also not intended as a relative value. Love, in fact, depends on truthfulness in the form of trust. So, would you marry someone who was untrustworthy or less than truthful? Yet the high rate of broken marriages today suggests that such has quietly become the norm. Relativism has placed truth on very shifting sands by subjecting it to each person’s interpretation, which is to say an opinion. It therefore transforms truth from concrete, tangible reality into a matter of opinion. Continue reading
Today marks the 25th anniversary of my father’s death. Dad was a person of sterling integrity as well as tremendous love for my mother and their eight children. But the real legacy he left us was a deep respect for, and the unwavering pursuit of, truth. For dad the eternal verities were dearer than life itself. Perhaps I did not fully appreciate his true genius in my younger days, but time has a way of changing our perspectives. What astounds me today is that a quarter of a century has passed away which, in retrospect, feels like a year at best.
Back when my father was just a small child, Albert Einstein discovered the truth that time is not a constant but rather a variable. True, because for us time feels like something that becomes more compressed the longer we measure it. It behaves like those layers of silt and debris which settle and are flattened into geologic formations so that one inch of sandstone might represent 10,000 years of earth’s history. Continue reading
I am not a particular fan of Sigmund Freud’s theory of man which devolves around his so-called ‘Oedipus Complex’ and purports to explain some of man’s deepest primal drives. Nevertheless, the agnostic Freud clearly recognized a seemingly hard-wired cultural trait that repeatedly emerged among virtually every tribe, ethnic group, and civilization, namely the impulse to offer sacrifice. But what was one to make of this mysterious activity which made little sense to an enlightened ‘man of science?’ Hoping to distance this stubbornly recurrent phenomenon from its more natural psycho-spiritual moorings, the good doctor constructed an elaborate thesis to explain man’s predilection for sacrifice in psycho-sexual terms, Freud’s favorite home turf. He treats the subject extensively in his classic work Totem and Taboo which, despite its erroneous conclusions, does provide us with a compelling explanation of the causes and meaning of sacrifice. Continue reading
Fact: We inhabit a world filled with danger. Many of those dangers are remote or small enough that we can easily take precautions against them ourselves. Locking a car door or exercising care when crossing a busy intersection are obvious examples. But other dangers lie beyond our ability to personally control: criminal acts, cancer, or invasion by an enemy force. That is why societies maintain police, hospitals, and a standing military. We rely on doctors and pharmacists to protect us from diseases that we ourselves cannot even understand much less control.
If there were no threats to our life, security, and happiness such professions would have no reason to exist. But life, as we well understand the older we get, is beset by many dangers, both hidden and visible. Some dangers we can reasonably control, either personally or as a community, but what about those dangers over which we have no plausible control? To whom shall we turn for protection when a particular danger is so grave or overwhelming that no human power is adequate to deal with it? Continue reading
The unprecedented ascendancy of a Donald Trump in the American political equation raises some very interesting questions about the unfolding culture divide, namely that abyss between the ordinary people and a new ruling class comprised of intellectuals, tech wizards, and politicians which has widened into an insurmountable gulf. One of the more telling fault lines demarcating that growing schism involves the belief, or lack thereof, in a Divine Creator. In fact, religious skepticism has become a widely accepted creed among political elites and academics, many of whom who have adopted philosophical materialism, the belief that the only reality is material reality. That materialist philosophy is primarily buttressed by Darwinian macro-evolution, a corrosive philosophy that has been taught as a scientific certainty in virtually every public school and university in our country for decades. Continue reading
Historians recently discovered that Georgetown University had sold off a number of slaves back in 1838 in order to raise capital needed to insure the school’s survival. This revelation has apparently plunged its present day administrators into paroxysms of guilt-laden remorse and penitential self-flagellation. And while I agree that it is necessary to honestly own up to the events of history, including its more unsavory aspects, too many academic culture warriors of today seem more than willing to dismiss offhand the social context in which those past events occurred.
Today’s historical revisionists seem to expect that what people did in the past ought always to be judged by current-day social and cultural standards. The hypocrisy in this approach lies in the fact that we pretend to remove the speck in our ancestor’s eye while ignoring the beam in our own. Continue reading