Like most right-thinking people, I want to come from a country where intolerance is tolerated. Live and let others not let live, that’s what I say. If tolerance means anything, it’s allowing others not to be tolerant, providing of course that I’m not the one who’s not being tolerated. If there’s one thing that’s worse than intolerance of intolerance, it’s intolerance of intolerance of intolerance of intolerance. Seriously, that’s just intolerable (providing it’s not intolerant of me to say so).
According to Simon Jenkins, writing in today’s Guardian about the vote on equal marriage, “the true test of tolerance lies in its treatment of intolerance – and we failed that test”. That’s rather damning, isn’t it? I’m not exactly sure what he’s referring to – has the Daily Mail now been outlawed in an effort to pacify the raging bigotryphobes? – but it all sounds pretty serious. Surely we want everyone to feel included, even those who won’t feel included unless other people are excluded. Of course, this then means that we can’t include everyone, hence it makes sense to include only the intolerant people. The only alternative would to include those who are intolerant of intolerance (what used to be known as being “tolerant”) and that wouldn’t be right. After all, intolerance of intolerance is intolerance squared, or at least I think that’s how it works.
Like Jenkins, I’m extremely tolerant of things I don’t agree with. It’s part of how I was raised (by a Catholic mother who hates feminism and abortion, and a white father who once blacked up in shoe polish to look like Idi Amin). Despite being a card-carrying liberal feminist militant secularist shouty person, I haven’t yet demanded that my parents be locked up. I’ve tended to think this is because I feel beliefs that are wrong and harm others don’t necessarily arise from people being evil (in other words, I’ve always patronized my parents, because they still love me and I love them). In actual fact, though, my tolerance of my parents probably stems not from love and a degree of mutual understanding, but from the fact that I am ace. Like Simon Jenkins, I am über-tolerant. I might not agree with what you say, but I’d defend with my life your right to prevent others having access to the same choices as you.
Jenkins writes that to the opponents of equal marriage “marriage is a bond of husband and wife, underpinning the family, stabilising the upbringing of children and forming the bedrock of society”:
“Anything that distorts this narrative is seen as socially disruptive, as liberals see welfare cuts or selective schools as disruptive. We all have our culprits for society’s ills.”
Fair’s fair, eh? Although, to be honest, all this smacks of the dreaded moral relativism. We can’t all have an equally valid point, can we? Plus, I can’t help thinking that social disruption in the name of enabling inclusion is of a different order to social disruption in the name of perpetuating exclusion (traces of my own latent bigotryphobia seeping through, no doubt).
Still, Jenkins accepts that it’s not as though we have equality yet:
“The real breakthrough may come only when gay people cease to demand the exceptionalism of a “victimised” group, when they can shrug off the intolerance of a few, having won the acceptance of the many.”
In short, all you gay people, now it looks likely you’ll be allowed to marry, it’s time to check your privilege. It’s not easy being a self-serving, deluded, self-pitying bigot with no concept of his or her own advantage (or rather, it is, but a bigot’s inability to realise this makes it feel as though it isn’t). So come on, everyone – let’s all try to be nice to the fuckers.