The line between freedom and fear
Why I refuse to hold back my criticisms of bad systems
The culture of a time and place is far more potent than any other factor in shaping outcomes. In 2012, I worked as a police trainer in Afghanistan. In Kabul, we had to be hyper-aware of the consequences of our presence on the locals. One time someone threw away a piece of paper written in Dari. The next day a mob tried to storm our police compound because we had accidentally discarded some Islamic religious tract. We were called blasphemers and heretics, and the mob shouted that they would kill us. Had they successfully broken down the compound’s gates, they would have murdered us. That is how infidels deserve to end. That is intolerance of tolerance.
Intolerance of intolerance
My default position in life is to be intolerant of intolerance. Those who attempt to defend beliefs and cultures and nations that are intolerant of the other earn my utter intolerance. That is because they are a toxic danger to themselves and others. Intolerance can be born from many belief systems, but in my experience, fundamentalist and conservative viewpoints allow the least room for anyone who practices a different lifestyle from those fundamentalist/conservative ideals.
I practice a philosophy that does not tolerate sacred cows. I will not allow anyone to censor me. I will not acknowledge any religious honorifics. You are not a reverend, a father, your holiness, or any other title you and your friends agree on. I am not going to pretend to respect your particular god or gods. It is that simple. You don’t get to tell me what I can or cannot think and, most importantly, what I can or cannot criticize about what you are peddling. I do not have any boundaries on criticism of my own thoughts and written stories, poems, or essays. Please fire away as you feel emotions and ideas!
The bigger picture is to move past the kind of society where indoctrination into obviously wrong narratives is no longer possible. I’m willing to fight hard for that. In fact, I am willing to give my very existence to further that cause. The intolerant cause a great deal of pointless, unnecessary suffering. Humans don’t need to exist in varied states of pain and punishment. That god died a long time ago, but it clings to our brain stems, clawing and destroying like the parasite it is. Our imaginations are both our best friend and worst enemy.
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We simultaneously pretend that respect for bad ideas is required for civil society to function while we wring our hands and tut-tut when religious zealots attack and murder those who question the tenets of their faith. Islam is the religion of peace. Christianity does far more good than it does harm. Orthodox Jews should be free to live in insular communities where women and children are abused. The list of preventable tragedies we tolerate goes on and on. Allowing any type of rigid religious dogma to flourish always leads to extremes of intolerable behavior. This is why I argue that tolerance of intolerance is a red line for me.
Living in a world where anyone who questions the beliefs of a certain group can be subject to a blanket order permitting their murder is intolerable. Salman Rushdie lost an eye for doubting dogma. What are you willing to lose?
I am unafraid to criticize what I believe are harmful thought processes and power structures based on fantasies and made-up rules of conduct. Anyone who claims authority from a deity is suspect, and I will both dismiss and mock their beliefs as I see fit. Any entity or organization that cannot accept robust criticism deserves to be dismissed without deep scrutiny, as it invalidates its own claimed authority.
The phrase intolerance of intolerance is both ironic and apt.