The Dilemma of Toleration (or: Intolerance as a Strategic Political Tool)
Indeed, if by another’s word someone is inferior, then oneself also comes to be of inferior understanding. Then again, if by one’s own account one is a realizer of Truth, a wise man, then among philosophers no one is a fool.
“Those who proclaim a philosophy other than this have failed at purity and are imperfect”—Just so do sectarians severally claim; truly, they are impassioned with passion for their own views.
“Only here is purity”—thus they argue; they say purity is not in other philosophies. Just so are sectarians severally entrenched, steadfastly proclaiming their own method.
But steadfastly proclaiming his own method, what other person here should he hold to be the fool? Even he himself would bring about conflict, declaring another to be a fool with an impure philosophy.
Standing in discrimination, having measured himself up, he comes to further contention in the world. But having left behind all discriminations a person makes no conflict in the world.
—from the Small Discourse on Deployment (Cūlaviyūha Sutta), of the Sutta Nipāta
I read an interesting article in The Federalist recently, discussing how intolerance is one of the main factors fueling the west’s gradual and continual slide towards the left. The theory goes that intolerance is politically and economically stronger in some ways than tolerance; and leftists tend to be more intolerant than mainstream rightists, especially lately. Consequently, if some corporation, say, does something perceived as favoring the right, or Christianity, or traditional conservative values, or some such, leftist activists may protest vindictively and mass boycott that corporation, which causes corporations, being money-making ventures, to be very hesitant to offend the chronically offended. Conservatives and libertarians on the right, however, are more tolerant, and are more willing to buy something from a left-leaning corporation polluting its product and/or its advertising with leftist political correctness. Likewise with the arch-leftist nation of the earth, communist China, which coerces ideological compliance of multinational corporations with economic ultimatums, causing any corporation wishing to make money from China’s vast commercial markets and cheap labor force to essentially kiss the ass of the Chinese Communist Party and its totalitarian leader, Xi “Winnie the Pooh” Jinping.
To give just a few examples: Not so long ago representatives of the American National Basketball Association rapidly began backpedaling and apologizing to the CCP because another person associated with the NBA actually expressed support for the protesters in Hong Kong. Disney and other ostensibly American movie studios have censored their own movies to favor China in order to satisfy the political demands of said Communist Party. More recently, the leftist corporate media has repeatedly taken the side of China against the USA with regard to the whole Wuhangate scandal, accepting the CCP’s obviously deceptive claims as fact while bashing away with hammer and tongs at the American federal government, particularly its leader, President Trump. A few news outlets that actually dared to suggest some of the Chinese government’s egregious incompetence, corruption, deception, and outrageous human rights violations were promptly expelled from that country, thereby punishing them for actually attempting to do their job and not simply be propaganda mouthpieces for the Chinese government. Meanwhile, the CCP is heavily invested in some western media outlets, like NBC, CNN, and the New York Times, resulting in further intolerant compulsion (as though any more were needed) to be far more willing to attack the USA than to attack communist China. What is wrong with this picture?
(Before totally leaving the Federalist article behind, I would like to digress wildly by observing that articles in The Federalist have some of the most toxic, mind-polluting comments sections on the Internet, despite the quality of the content and the intelligent comments that may be found there also. I’m not sure why, but really hateful leftist trolls accumulate there, doing their worst to muddy any discussion by injecting as much vulgar invective and contemptuous sneering as they can manage. But as I say, I digress.)
Another, classic example of intolerance winning a political and cultural struggle is the case of early Christianity. Classical paganism was fairly tolerant, allowing for a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices. Polytheism and Greek-inspired philosophical and theological debate allowed for new systems to be assimilated into the broad corpus of religion, and it prospered…up until the advent of a rather hysterical and often vehemently intolerant new cult, the Nazarenes. Early Christians insisted that anyone not a Christian would certainly burn in hell forever for their evil sin, declaring all pagan gods to be devils if not purely imaginary lies. Once they gained power they immediately began persecuting the Pagans much more viciously than they had suffered under anti-Christian Emperors like Decius and Diocletian. And after they drove Paganism to near extinction they began persecuting each other, with utterly intolerant demands over, say, whether the Holy Spirit emanates directly from the Father, or indirectly though the Son; or whether Jesus had one nature or two, human and divine; or whether consecrated bread should be leavened or unleavened. Blood flowed in the streets over these arguments. Edward Gibbon in his monumental The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, observed that the wisest and most reasonable sects of Christianity were not the ones that won the ideological war over the Church in the end, but the most fanatically irrational ones, which further demonstrates my point. But that very intolerance ensured a Christian victory in the west; and today all indigenous European spiritual systems of antiquity are as extinct as the dodo bird. (In a spirit of fairness I will add, though, that it certainly wasn’t only Christianity’s intolerance that resulted in the entire west worshiping a deified Jewish carpenter turned miracle rabbi—I suppose Christianity did display some kind of moral superiority over Pagan cults more interested in simply appeasing deities with ceremonial rituals. But still it’s a pity that not even one European Pagan tradition survived in anything resembling its ancient form.)
I may as well completely blow off any uppity literary posturing here by digressing yet again: Both systems aforementioned, woke ultraliberal neo-Marxism and Christianity, are essentially offshoots of the same cultural system, that is Judaism. It may be that a Hebrew-inspired ideology is more likely to be intolerant and unwilling to assimilate with those beyond the “tribe.” The Hebrews themselves have been remarkably intolerant at times, especially with traditional refusals to assimilate. But we needn’t go down that particular rabbit hole here.
Both Marxism and the various forms of small-f fascism evidently insist upon a one-party political system, government-controlled propaganda regulating the opinions of the masses, and the punishment of dissent and expressions of ideological heresy (which is not so different from hysterical premodern Christianity in these respects). This pretty much always leads to a repressive dystopia—if not like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, then at best like Huxley’s Brave New World.
This is a major reason why I would never choose to be a fascist as my first choice, and to hell with Marxism, and with socialism in general. I can see that a diversity of opinions and ideas is the healthiest state from a philosophical perspective, within reason, and I assume it is often best from a cultural and political perspective as well. (My personal perspective is so weird and unorthodox that it is unrealistic to assume that even five percent of the human population would see eye to eye with me regarding the world and reality, so endorsing freedom of thought and expression is to my advantage, as well as to the advantage of just about anyone else who isn’t a conformist normie.)
Toleration of a variety of opinions and philosophies is much more conducive to creativity and a natural, positive evolution of society and culture towards something genuinely better. Thus I wouldn’t want to shut down the Democrat Party in the USA even if I could, though it would be highly entertaining to watch it crash as the result of its own dishonesty, incompetence, hysteria, and intolerant hatred of non-Democrat infidels. But some new Party would have to arise to take its place (preferably a saner one), because a diversity of beliefs and opinions is preferable to a uniform mental straightjacket.
But if it is true, as that article in The Federalist suggests, that even greater reactionary intolerance on the right may be required to counter the intolerance of the left, or at least an equal and opposing intolerance to keep it at bay, then I suppose I would have to submit to some sort of hard rightism in America, maybe even fascism, rather than drink the toxic Kool-Aid of culturally castrated leftism. If I subsequently became martyred as a political heretic or whatever for my insufficiently orthodox views, then so be it, I’d have to take one for the team, because I’d rather die honorably as a fascist than live as a Marxist sheep.
This may represent yet another case in which true morality and integrity require a drastic renunciation of worldly life, opting out of the system altogether, which is what radical fundamentalist Buddhism (and, ironically, early Christianity) is all about. As I realized long ago, what is right from a political point of view is not necessarily what is right from an ethical point of view, and no amount of utopian idealism (especially if it’s Marxist) is going to change that.
Indeed, they say their own philosophy is complete, while they say the philosophy of another is deficient. And thus having taken up a position they contend, each saying his own convention is the truth.
If by being scorned by another one were deficient, then among philosophies none would be outstanding. Indeed, they severally claim the other’s philosophy to be inferior, while steadfastly proclaiming their own.
And just as they praise their own methods, even so is their veneration of their own philosophies. Even all arguments would be correct; indeed, their purity is only subjective.
—from the Great Discourse on Deployment (Mahāviyūha Sutta), also of the Sutta Nipāta