Welcome to the Stifyn Emrys blog. Visit this site to stay updated on the latest news and releases from author Stifyn Emrys, along with serious, silly and occasionally sarcastic observations about the world around us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sometimes, You Gotta Be Intolerant

Sometimes, tolerance breeds tolerance. That's the rule of reciprocity. We humans don't like to feel indebted, so we've been known to bend over backward to pay our debts - to scratch the back of the person who scratched ours.

It's this sort of reciprocity that's behind the Golden Rule, some concepts of Karma, the Wiccan three-fold law and so forth. It's also at the root of monetary systems all the way from barter to capitalism. And the idea of "giving back."

But sometimes, it doesn't work that way. Sometimes, tolerance breeds intolerance. This usually occurs for one of two reasons:

  1. Someone sees everyone else obeying this rule of reciprocity and decides to "get ahead' by violating it. 
  2. Someone views something else as more important than observing the rule.
If you're in the first class, you're a thief of sorts. If you're in the second, you're a zealot - someone who thinks your philosophy is more important than maintaining social norms. 

Sometimes, they'll resort to a form of psychological trickery. They'll scratch your back - even though you didn't have an itch and never asked for it - in order to put you in debt and wrangle some favor out of you in return.

This is the kind of stuff that produces Facebook memes extolling the virtues of honesty and straightforward behavior. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone practiced those virtues? But they don't. No matter how badly we'd like to believe it, we can't simply go waltzing down the primrose path of reciprocity without keeping our eyes open for ne'er-do-wells who lie in wait.

Certainly, we don't want to become so jaded that we write everybody off based on labels and prejudice. What we do want to do is keep our eyes open for certain warning signs.

Thieves, for instance, may promise something that's too good to be true. They're advertising a false reciprocity - you'll give up a lot more than you get if you believe them. Zealots, on the other hand, put dogma ahead of principle. They tend to be fundamentalists of one ilk or another. 

They may violate the Golden Rule for the sake of "salvation" and "overcoming the devil." They may overlook the karma for the sake of revenge.   Or they may put conversion to their cause - religious, economic, political or whatever - ahead of the principles they claim to espouse. This is how Soviet fascists used an egalitarian philosophy (communism) to support a decidedly unequal state of affairs. 

Simply behaving with tolerance toward thieves will accomplish two things: leave you poorer and leave the thieves free to rob someone else. Behaving with tolerance toward zealots will also accomplish two things: leave you oppressed and leave them free to oppress others.

It may not be politically correct to say so, but sometimes, intolerance is the only noble course of action.

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