The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 30 Mar 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Intolerance

My stance on freedom was set out by Franklin Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union speech to Congress. They were drawn, quite, quite beautifully, by Norman Rockwell, who is unfairly derided as  an unwitting architect of kitsch. My favourite is the ‘Freedom of Speech’ illustration, which shows a young man, eyes fixed on some distant horizon, suddenly standing to speak at a town hall meeting, with the other characters turning around to look at this humble, rumpled fellow in his workwear who seems to stand as an everyman. Anyway. The ‘Four Freedoms’ are:

Freedom of speech
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear

They are eloquent in their simplicity and I think that the only possible addition could be in the shape of a fifth freedom that delineates the freedom to have any sexuality we choose. So much for freedom, then. But what happens when we meet someone who wants to tear those freedoms up? Someone like a terrorist who doesn’t believe in freedom of speech, wants to impose his religion on you and will use fear as a means to do that?

The answer is simple. I stand against them. For most of the time, I’m a big old mimsy left winger who is happy to tolerate pretty much anything provided it neither harms someone else or calls for them to be harmed. That harm can be physical, but also verbal and emotional, which is where the ‘freedom from fear’ thing kicks in. Make someone feel afraid, and that seems pretty unpleasant. So where harm is done or implied, I stop being tolerant. I want the people who would cause that harm punished to the fullest extent allowable by law.

I didn’t read ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and everything I’ve read of the magazine tells me that I was right not to bother. Equally, I didn’t declaim ‘Je suis Charlie’ because it’d be the height of hypocrisy. Should, heaven forfend, someone go into the offices of a magazine I hated and kill people, I wouldn’t then feel the urge to proclaim ‘I am (the title of the magazine I hate).’ But I also have no time for the people who would kill someone who did a drawing. In fact, I wish that anyone who sought to cause harm to them ended his days in solitary, in a prison cell. That’s if they lay down their arms. If they don’t, I care more for the safety of the police officers than them.

My friend was killed, eleven years ago, on the bus in Tavistock Square. While I understand that her killer was almost certainly motivated by Britain’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, actions that I happen to abhor as well, this isn’t anything like an excuse. Had he been taken alive, I’d have wanted him prosecuted. Now that he is dead, I have to trust that the God who made him, whose judgment is a zillion times wiser than mine will ever be, will know what to do with him. When, in the days after, would be copycat bombers were arrested, I achieved a grim kind of satisfaction.

What you must never, ever do is to mistake tolerance for weakness. Tolerance comes from a place of great strength and conviction that your ideas are better, are a more certain way towards the advancement of humanity than, in this case, those held by the man who wants to push gay people off tall buildings. If I wasn’t sure of my ideas, I’d be full of piss and wind. Nigel Farage is a silly, angry man because he thinks people might disagree with him. Donald Trump is a minimally intelligent man who has worked out that shouting untrue simplicities loudly excites idiots. Instead, I’m quietly certain that my values are immeasurably superior to cheap, reactionary hatreds that would see others suffer for a supposed moral purity, based partly on religion but also on misogyny.

I don’t, ultimately, care what motivates the beheaders and gay killers. But it’d be a foolish person indeed that didn’t see in their subjugation of women, and reduction of them to a subordinate social position a deep, deep fear of the female that has a more close alliance with the right wing in this country than they might care to admit. How much distance is there between some idiot telling women to clean under the fridge, or obsessing about their periods, and making them walk behind you at a respectful distance? Perhaps not as great as those politicians might like to think.

Tolerance of intolerance is a motley virtue. Instead, I’m intolerant of anything that looks or smells like intolerance. From the idiots at the student bodies who would rather share a platform with people who would explain away stoning adulterers rather than look racist, to the utter fuckwits in Islamic State, by way of the white supremacists who live with their mums and try to blow up their local mosque and including people like that vile man Anders Breivik, I’m opposed to all of it. I don’t want contorted excuses as to why it can be explained away just as I don’t, for that matter, want to see people with dissenting views no platformed. Argue with them and be seen to argue with them, otherwise you look weak.

We need to take a stand against this tidal wave of shit before it carries us away, from the foul bastardry of people like Islamic State and the white supremacists to the fools and knaves who would seek to explain it airily away. I will always, always say ‘refugees welcome’ as European nations are the absolute best place where they can enjoy Roosevelt’s four freedoms, but for the people they are fleeing from, or the people who would cause carnage in European cities, may justice catch up with them soon and may it be terrible and swift.

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