a little bit on tolerance

there’s some fandom stuff happening right now that I don’t really want to get into because it makes me tired and I’ve honestly been through it all so many times and that’s not what I fan for. and yet I find myself always having opinions…I’m going to jot just a few thoughts down here, but MIND YOU: this is not a comprehensive review of my thoughts on the matter. just a couple extraneous thoughts, brought to you by the following combination:

  1. fandom outrage
  2. my lifelong lived experience
  3. this tumblr post, my tags (see them?) and my further thoughts on the post and those tags:

on tolerance

Here’s the thing. People on this post are asking stuff like “yeah, but where’s the line?” And I’ll tell you where I think it is: it has to do with the magnitude of the intolerance combined with how well you know the person. Oooh, this should be a graph. Maybe I’ll make a graph.

[note to self: make a graph and insert it here]

Basically, the better you know a person, the more familiar you are with the context in which they’ll do something insensitive, and the more familiar you are with their history of bias and their history of growth, the better you are able to judge a person’s “growth.”* With this context, you are much better able to tell how a person’s actions indicate their intentions.**

Conversely, the less well you actually know a person personally, the less familiar you are with the context of their actions, and therefore you are much less able to judge their intent by their actions. ***

So here are my rules:

  1. you may (nay, in some cases you must!) call out insensitivity or outright intolerance when you see it.
  2. the degree to which you are allowed to righteously express outrage at the action versus the person making the action must be tempered by the above (the magnitude of intolerance versus how well you know the person).

“Growth” is a subjective, value-laden concept. Each of us has a subjective concept of what constitutes “growth,” and it literally just follows our own experience of self-growth. But we all start from different places and have different growth-related goals, as revealed by our past mistakes, among other things…. WE MUST NEVER ASSUME THAT ANYONE’S GROWTH JOURNEY PARALLELS OUR OWN, and WE MUST NEVER JUDGE ANYONE’S ACTIONS BY WHERE THOSE ACTIONS FALL ON OUR OWN GROWTH JOURNEY. (Also, simplifying things like this assumes that once we Learn A Lesson, we have Grown and we will never make that same mistake again. We will. AND we’ll make similar mistakes that will be perceived by others as the same mistake.)

** Not to mention the fact that the effectiveness that any criticism you level at a person will be directly impacted by how well you know (or do not know) that person. If your best friend gives you a bitter truth, you’re going to receive it much better than if it came from your random co-worker. Or, you know, a complete stranger.

*** Okay I wasn’t actually going to say anything specific to the Stephen Amell debacle here because I really don’t care but to illustrate my point I’m going to give this as an example:

People are generally decrying Stephen Amell’s insensitive post regarding the Hagia Sophia: okay. People are also generally decrying his response for calling a fan “stupid”: also okay. BUT. People are losing their shit over it based on the presumption that they have a more righteous idea of how to be tolerant: NOT OKAY.

That really wasn’t clear, so let me try to explain. The root of all this fury seems to be that Stephen Amell is not appropriately reverent over a religion (Islam).

They are equating this to religious intolerance (intolerance against Muslims).


(And honestly, I think this is why Stephen Amell was mad and called people stupid. I also would be mad if someone mistook my lack of reverence for a religion as an attack on people who follow that religion.****)

A person is not required to feel religious reverence on another person’s behalf. And if, as happened in this case, a person feels the need to explain why they think something is insensitive toward practitioners of a religion, they absolutely have that right. But they DO NOT have the right to expect that someone else is going to agree with them. Obviously, the Hagia Sophia is religiously significant to many people. Just as obviously, it’s not to Stephen Amell. Was it insensitive of him to post what he did? Yes. Did people have a right to explain why they felt it was insensitive? Yes. Was it kind of jerkish, and definitely ill-advised, for him to call someone a jerk (especially when the reason for calling that person a jerk is misunderstood)? Yes. BUT WAS IT PROOF THAT STEPHEN AMELL IS AN INTOLERANT ANTI-MUSLIM ASSHOLE DESERVING TO BE SHUNNED AND NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN? No. Absolutely not.

**** I am an anti-religon activist. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE REALIZE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING ANTI-RELIGION and BEING ANTI-PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW A RELIGION. And yet hardly anyone seems able to comprehend that difference. The difference is this:

  • Being anti-religion means recognizing that religiosity is not necessary for, nor does it even have anything to do with, being moral, and recognizing therefore that religion’s net impact on the world***** and on humanity****** is negative
    • any good we do in the world in the name of religion can also be done without religion
    • there are a lot of horrible things that can, and have, and continue to be done solely because of religion
    • therefore the absence of religion is not detrimental, but the presence of it is uniquely detrimental
  • Being anti-religion but not anti-people who follow a religion also logically follows from the above because people can do good things in the name of religion; it’s just that religion is not necessary for them to do good.

When I talk about wanting religion to disappear from the world, it should be obvious that I mean I would prefer it if religion simply did not exist. And what I would like to have happen, ideally, is for every single person who ascribes to religious beliefs to examine their own beliefs, and ultimately to come to the above conclusion (that morality and goodness do not require religion. That there is literally nothing you can do in the name of religion that you cannot do without religion except discriminate based on religion).

And of course, anyone who knows me – who actually knows me – would never ever assume that me being anti-religion would mean I was anti-religious people. That absolutely does not jive with who I am, my examined life-stance, my values and ideology and principles, at all. (Not to mention that many people I love do identify as belonging to some religion, including most of my family, or that I was raised to be a devout Catholic and I consciously struggled for at least 10 years to come to my current beliefs).

But, no matter how untrue it would be, I can kind of understand how, on the surface, someone who doesn’t know me well might conflate those two things and assume that because I’m anti-religion, I’m also anti-religious people – simply because the idea is not common. It’s not the sort of thing that most people have thought about (unfortunately).

But I admit that if someone got mad at me based on this assumption, if they went around proclaiming that I was a bad person because of it, I would be pissed. I mean the appropriate thing would be for us to have a conversation about it. For me to have a chance to explain the difference. But, since this hypothetical person doesn’t actually know me, I bet they wouldn’t reach out. They’d just add me to their list of “types of intolerant people!” – they’d be intolerant in the name of intolerance. (And yeah, just so we’re clear, I’m aware of the paradox of tolerance, but, if you see my explanation above, that absolutely does not apply here because I am not intolerant of people, but rather an idea. And to be fair, I’m not even actually intolerant of religion – I just would like it to diminish in importance and eventually disappear because human society and information has evolved beyond the point where it was a force for good). And while that would suck – I don’t like it when people don’t like me, and I really don’t like it when people add to their Sanctimonious Toolbelts – it really wouldn’t make a big difference in the grand scheme of things. I am not famous, and I don’t have a platform for my ideas.

Now, if I were famous and someone got mad at me based on this assumption, I would probably be even more pissed. Because I would assume, being a Well Known Person, that other people would know that I’m a Good Person. And for someone to call me a bad person based on something that, to me, very obviously shouldn’t make me a bad person, would hurt. Would be annoying. Would honestly just fucking ruin my day and probably damage my ego a bit. And while the Right Thing to do in that moment would be to explain why my position doesn’t make me a Bad Person, I might be too irritated to do so. I might be too tired. I might be too lazy. I might just not care to take the time to explain something that should be (according to me) so obvious.

In other words, in this hypothetical scenario, just because I have a platform and I had an opportunity to use it wisely doesn’t mean I’m always going to do so. Because I’m also fucking human.

***** Anthropocentrism being a) a bad thing, and b) absolutely encouraged throughout human history, and into today, by the major monotheistic religions.

****** See Patriarchy, Holy Wars and other horrible things carried out in the name of religion, the continuing battle over reproductive rights (and, by extension, the chokehold that issues has on the American political system), anti-queer attitudes, etc.


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