Offending the offenders

Stephen Conroy asked YouTube to take this down. NSW MLC, Shaoquett Moselmane wants to introduce religious anti vilification laws. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah insisted that whole world should enforce-ably respect his prophet. What should we do?

There are many things I could say, movies I could make, ideas I could propose that would even today cause an uproar. People would perhaps get angry, protest, call me names, try to discredit what I have said … and that is OK with me.

Historically speaking this has not always been the case. People have not always been free to speak their mind. They have been detained, “re-programmed”, threatened, beaten and even killed. There are places in the world were this is still the case.

Throughout history, many people have worked, argued, protested, used violent means and even died in order to move towards the freedoms we have in Australia today. Our culture has changed in line with this movement. There are things I could say today that fifty years ago would have caused great angst, which today people cheer. Even more so, when it does come to someone saying something offensive, it is generally met with little more aggression than a verballing.

This is why the violence over the weekend shocks us, but it probably shouldn’t. We should always be willing to accept that from time to time our freedom will be challenged and this challenge may in fact be violent. Some of us might even die. I am not saying this is a good thing, just a realistic thing to anticipate.

We should constantly work to mitigate this violence. We should work hard to prevent it from happening again. However, if we do this by protecting the offenders from being offended, we are deceiving ourselves. If we put the group that used violence against us beyond any form of scrutiny that may offend them, then we have weakened ourselves and we in no way honour the victims that lay on the bloody path that led us to the freedoms we do have.

A FEW ASIDES:

  • I do not like it very much when people say offensive things about Jesus. Sometimes I even speak out in his defence, there may even be anger in my voice, but never would I react in a violent way. Perhaps if Muslims around the world reacted in the same way this storm would still be in the tea-cup it belongs in.
  • I watched the film in question. Apart from  it being offensive in production quality, I can also accept that it is offensive toward the prophet Mohammed. If the person(s) who made it did so for the express purpose of offending then they are immoral and should themselves consider the withdrawal of the video clip from YouTube. If they are claiming that it is an attempt at depicting some sort of  historical truth then it is up to Islamic apologists to  rebut the video in a rational manner.
  • Even if the sole purpose of the video was to offend, then the maker of the video is still in no way responsible for the violent and deadly reaction against unrelated third-parties.

I’m intolerant of “intolerance of intolerance”

I have been accused of being intolerant on a few occasions. I’ll have to admit that it is true. It is good to be intolerant at times. There are things in this world that I don’t agree with and do not believe should be allowed to happen. There are also things that others may be ok with, that I personally do not tolerate in my own life.

In engineering terms, that which sits within the range of tolerance is that which is allowable and conducive to the integrity of the system. Any value outside of the range of tolerance is thus because it could be (or is) destructive to the system. Within the tolerance range is often an ideal or optimum subset which means that the system will perform at its peak.

As a member of the human race each of us needs be tolerant and intolerant. There is a time and a place for both. Whether you should be tolerant or intolerant on any point and how you express the choice you make is up to you, but it is an important one because it will affect the way in which you relate to others. The important difference between human tolerance and engineering tolerance is that the things we like, our ideals, we do not need to tolerate them. I don’t tolerate my first coffee every morning, I love it. I tolerate the traffic on the way to work and if I miss that first cup of coffee at home I tolerate the poor excuse for coffee that the machine spits out at work.

The problem is that some people in the community have adopted tolerance as some sort of virtue. It is as if being able to tick the “I am a tolerant person” box makes you a better person. It follows that if tolerance is good, then intolerance must be bad …. Ok let’s face it, it is downright immoral. Which means that if I am to be tolerant then I cannot abide with intolerance which means that I have to add an exception two the “intolerance is bad rule” which leads people like Catherine Deveny to say something  like “I’m intolerant of intolerance” on Q&A.

This is a bit difficult for me because I have a preference for being rational – but let us follow this a bit further now…..

I am personally intolerant of nuts, I just don’t like them. I have however tolerated nuts for the sake of others, like when they made something for me without knowing I don’t like them and they put nuts in it. I am tolerant of others eating nuts in my presence or extolling the virtues of nuts, except in my own house for the sake of my anaphylactic daughter.

You see tolerance in and of itself is neither a good nor bad thing. Yet for some it seems, it is acceptable to hijack the word “intolerant” and turn it into an negative association, an ad hominem for others that they are in fact intolerant of.

That is why I am calling for everyone to be intolerant of “intolerance of intolerance”.

UPDATE:

I did originally link this post directly to Catherine Deveny’s website. I have removed that link due to my intolerance! It is not so much her further comments against Peter Jensen referring to him as a “creepy ‘gentleman with manners'”, it is the public insinuations and degrading comments she makes about her own son that really get me.

Crossing and ticking life

Today in year 7 Science we were discussing the ethics of stem cell research and other life and death issues. Working at a faith based school, I had to provide (as information) the party line on the issue. I have a class that learns well, but they need significant support to do so, so I drew the graphic above. The idea was rather simple: which question marks would you replace with ticks and which would you replace with crosses. The trick was that I did not reveal the right hand quarter of the diagram until they had all made up their own minds. I did this to show them that it is not a straight forward issue.

The problem for me is I am constantly wavering on where I stand on this issue. I probably should do more research on it, but my diagram helps ….. I think ……

What do you think? Where do you put ticks and crosses? Why there and not somewhere else? Is this a useful image?