Why you can say goodbye to tolerance

Goodbye to toleranceIs this the end for tolerance?

On the evening of 13 November 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks, consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and hostage-taking, occurred in Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Three suicide bombers exploded outside the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, along with another suicide bombing and mass shootings at four locations. In total, 129 people died and more than 305 people were injured.

The attacks were the deadliest on France since World War II, and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004. 

The political reaction swung towards military intervention, although not everyone expressed outright condemnation for what had happened. For example, the tweet below provides a link to an article (now deleted) from the Stop The War Coalition:

Instead of condemning it, the pressure group’s former leader, Jeremy Corbyn, suggested that:

Britain and the West were to blame for rise of ISIS fanatics in Syria.

Was he correct and how should we react?

Tolerance is not limitless

A Stoic sage would have an attitude of indifference towards ISIS, no matter how terrible their behaviour. But the sage would also act against them in whatever way possible. Stoics must try to behave virtuously. So, we must do everything we can to stop evil; why? It’s the virtuous thing to do! Be indifferent about if you actually can succeed or not. After the Paris attack we should acknowledge that tolerance is not limitless. We can’t extend it to fundamentalist groups who will themselves not tolerate other people’s cultures.


In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher. – Dalai Lama

Also, I believe that its a common misconception to mix-up the meaning of tolerance with acceptance. Tolerance isn’t the same as acceptance. One definition of tolerance is:

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own;freedom from bigotry.

In other words, you may perceive another person’s opinions and beliefs as incorrect but you decide to take no action. Contrast this with the definition of acceptance:

the act of taking or receiving something offered.

So with acceptance, you agree with the position someone is taking. There is no decision making process involved.

The alternative to not acting with virtue will be to accept the consequences of military action or to surrender our liberty to the state. We abandon all objections to activities such as 24 hour surveillance. The French already have the Investigatory Powers Bill, which provides the sort of mass snooping powers our Government wants. Sadly, it never done them much good.

So let’s not sacrifice our liberty, and our virtue, to meet the need to “do something”.

Agree, disagree? Leave a comment below:

Photo credits:
naughton321 / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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