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Monday, 21 May 2007

Tolerate this!

It is a common view that -- especially when it comes to religious issues -- we have to have 'tolerance'. I'm not entirely against this, but the usual subsequent definition of tolerance is rather suspect.

To be 'tolerant', people say, one must accept that we all have our beliefs, and they all seem justified one way or another, but really, there's no way of telling who is right. If you do not accept this then you are intolerant, fundamentalist even. I must respectfully disagree.

Such 'tolerance' is impossible. It does not 'tolerate' the belief that we can discover some sort of truth about the issue. Of course, no-one is really advocating universal tolerance (almost nobody thinks that we should tolerate a religion that advocates ritual murder of unbelievers), but I think that those who advocate the kind of 'tolerance' outlined above are actually being less tolerant than they might be.

Tolerance does not imply the lack of an opinion, it merely implies allowing others to disagree. One can allow others to disagree without subscribing to the notion that all people are equally right. If you think there is no real evidence one way or the other for the existence of God, and that the appropriate reaction is to conclude that people can believe what they like, well, I'm willing to tolerate that belief. That is to say, I'm willing to allow you to hold it, and will not badger you about it outside of an argument on that particular subject. When I do hold arguments with you, I will endeavour to be civil. I will not claim that your viewpoint is evil purely because I disagree with it.

I will, however, continue to argue for my own position. And I still think you're wrong.

Can you tolerate that?

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Hate crimes

Has the president vetoed it yet? I'm not really up to speed on these things. Still, I've been thinking about why hate crimes deserve a harsher punishment. It's the sort of thing the president ought to understand, actually.

It's not because people deserve harsher penalties for "committing a crime and being homophobic at the same time." As one brought up in New Zealand's liberal-academic-middle-class, of course I understand the animosity people feel towards those who would deny civil liberties to others on trivial grounds such as race or sexual orientation. Still, the hatred that this can arouse in my own breast is just another indication of how easy it is for a child to hate those who break the moral ideals of her parents, and as such, should be resisted in favour of more logical thinking.

Look at it this way. Who deserves a harsher penalty? Someone who blows up a building, or someone who blows up a building under circumstances designed to strike fear into the hearts of those associated with something the building stands for?

I thought so.

Yes, that's right, folks, hate crimes are terrorism. A person who kills a man for being gay doesn't just commit a crime against that man and his family. A crime is also being committed against all gay people who live in that society, by informing them that they should be scared to be gay. A hate crime is simultaneously a crime and a threat -- just like terrorism.

So, should those who commit crimes of terror/hate face extra penalities? Should those who incite crimes of terror/hate also be punished? Of course they should.