Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Progress Stunted

As a modern man, and a person living in our world I understand the need for tolerance, but of what should we be tolerant? And where should we draw the line?

Tolerance is along the same lines as endurance. There are many things which we must endure day-to-day, year-to-year, and through the generations.

When someone needs to live somewhere for a job or just because they can't get away (or wants to live there, but that is outside of this consideration) they must tolerate the weather. Snow, ice, cold, rain, heat, drought and many other conditions that we must live with. What do people do with the weather?

First they tolerate it and buy appropriate clothing, coats, hats, shorts, whatever would make walking through the weather more tolerable. This is a terribly important step that many animals don't have the luxury of, in fact it is why humans can survive in such varied conditions, even those who are acclimatized to Hawaii can make do with a few extra layers farther north.

We insulate ourselves and take other precautions in all ranges of weather. Sure there are those perfect days where clothing can be minimal, but for those of my translucent-skinned brethren we still apply a layer of sunblock. We could go to an extreme insulating ourselves by building shelters that we never have to leave, but there are so many problems that arise. Though those the problems have been mitigated via "happy-lights" and carefully choosing the winter crew for Antarctica, we are never truly insulated from our surroundings. Astronauts on spacewalk have air leaking out of joints in the gloves still, and space is far more hostile than any but the most severe weather event on earth.

Second they talk about it. Complain in fact. But what is the most boring conversation starter? "How about the weather?" Or something similar. When you run out of stuff you are comfortable talking about you fall back to the weather. Now that gets me thinking about how often I talk about the weather, maybe because I don't know people well enough to ask them about other things? Anyway, it is a mundane subject that is generally considered inoffensive because everyone is in the same boat. When farmers are hit by the drought, they talk about it. The news loves talking about extreme weather events...

Third they try to change it. Cloud seeders, I haven't seen any hard evidence that these are successful all the time, in fact in the past there may have been many frauds just trying to get farmer's dwindling money. The funny thing is that we are changing the climate every day. If in chaos theory it merely takes a butterfly flapping its wings half-way around the world to start a hurricane, than how much more air is each one of us moving by driving, or even shaking hands on a business deal?

So where am I going with this? Tolerance.

We can never shut out the weather completely, so we must tolerate it, and everyone has their own coping mechanisms from embracing to denying. But should we tolerate other things that make up our climate? And by climate I mean social climate. I am sure there are tens of thousands of blogs that call for tolerance for one thing or another, and many others that are specifically or generally intolerant.

It is also quite over-discussed in groups of geeky friends, philosophy classrooms, and governments (at least I hope). Tolerance is a buzzword in religion too, and should we be tolerant of other religions? Well let apply weather as an extended metaphor to social climate:

Let us say you have a social climate that you are most comfortable with, friends, family, and people you deal with often enough to know well and not feel anxious around. You also have a meteorological climate in which you feel most comfortable. Stick with me because we are going to dump both, you move to a new town with much different weather, and know absolutely no one. As a bonus this town is far enough away that all the things you might consider social norms are turned around and nothing seems to make sense.

I speak with some experience on this point, I moved from Wyoming to Hawaii, quite a contrast. So what do you do? Insulation, talk, and try to change it? Maybe, let's just say I have decent insulation, but not so much I don't know what's going on and can't talk to locals, however my closest friends tend to be more like me than like locals. I talk about the funny things I hear, with friends, but also with locals, we share a common experience. Have I tried to change it? Sure, I have helped introduce the sport of fencing to quite a few people on the island. So yes I have adapted to the climate as well as having a bit of impact on it.

Now here is a bigger leap, a deeper dig: Tolerance: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. So can I be a tolerant Christian, and moreover a tolerant Christian man? I just lost a whole bunch of nonexistent readers right there.

I believe the answer is a resounding "YES." There, hopefully some people who were about to leave stayed around. And now I am about to lose more: Christ said in reference to the Romans occupying Judea, that Christians must give up their cloaks, carry items, and turn the other cheek. Severe paraphrasing, either ask me or go look it up and correct me. In that age this was tolerating the Roman military who had the right to ask citizens for materials and labor, and could hand out minor corporal punishment on a whim.

So several thousand years later we have gone from being an oppressed minority to pressing our views on others. Personally I don't believe this is oppressing, not that we are killing about it much anymore, unlike some other religious groups I could name. However, we as the "Church" (big 'c' to indicate all Christians) are insistent on pressing our views on people via government laws and group social pressure. "Be like us and enjoy the fruits of our hypocritical actions." I am sure that someone is thinking that right now without the "hypocritical." But Christianity is not about the human institutions, despite nearly two millennia of human institutions "devoted" to Christ.

Tolerance isn't about institutions unless it comes to protecting someone from intolerance. There are many movements that I disagree with in today's social climate, and no, not all of them are considered socially liberal. I could list them and tell you why I disagree with them, but I do not write to change your mind about any particular movement, I write to change or reinforce your attitude about tolerance.

In fact, I urge you to tolerate any non-threatening movement. Now the other half of my non-existent audience are leaving. Tolerance is not agreeing, it isn't acquiescing. I have my morals and believe that some things are wrong and that other even-more-wrong-headed individuals will push things down slopes without friction.

But that is the thing, tolerating, not acquiescing. I am not about to go out in a Wyoming winter storm without proper gear, and I certainly won't acquiesce to the universe's insistence on normalizing temperature gradients to match the bitter cold of my surroundings, forget it. That's what irks me is the insistence of acquiescence from any side. "You must tolerate us!" But what those groups do, including my groups, is change the tone to imply that tolerance is no longer enough, tolerance now means to acquiesce to demands. And the real victories come when they are able to institutionalize it so that any stray word or thought can be persecuted.

It is based on individuals, not institutions. I know many people with different views. Do I tolerate their views? Yes, except where they are in danger of harming themselves or others, and generally a gentle explanation can straighten out obviously ridiculous views, unless they are in the fanatic camp. Should I insist they follow my views? Should they insist I follow their views? No, in most cases. But then how can I be a good Christian and convert those people I come in contact with? Isn't that the whole idea? Yes it is, but it isn't for me to push my views on you, I may express them and step out of participating in something that I have opposing views to. I believe that if you find my views to be better than yours for some reason that you will come talk to me, and I wish others would extend the same courtesy to others outside their own groups.

We should discuss, we should debate, we should listen, we should tolerate, but we should also be aware that tolerance is not acquiescence. I reserve the right to my views. In a previous post I recounted how my views on data changed, there are many other things I have negative views of that could in fact change, and I don't believe any of them are harmful to any individual, but I must strike down this pedestal before it gets too high.

So now the reason behind this epic: I believe the protesters blocking TMT groundbreaking are incorrect and too late. That is my opinion, I ask you tolerate it, but in this I would also love to go beyond just insulation and talk about it, and maybe even change the climate. I will leave it at that.

*updated November 2016 with mostly links

1 comment:

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