The philosopher Karl Popper is famous for a lot of things, but one of the things he is famous for is the “Paradox of Intolerance.” The paradox is that if a society is tolerant of intolerance, the intolerant will eventually destroy the tolerant society.
Some people will say we are losing our democracy. But that’s not what I think. What I think is that the rotten foundation (genocide, stolen land, stolen labor) that we built an edifice of democracy and civil rights upon are finally crumbling, and people who never believed in democracy and civil rights in the first place have, through a variety of means, started winning.
There is a big conversation happening right now about “civility.” Civility is, in a normal democratic political system, a norm worth maintaining. But we don’t live there anymore – we have to simply admit that. Everyone who isn’t white, cis, straight, male, and Christian are fighting for our very lives.
Civility isn’t going to save us if we are going to survive. As much as I love Michelle Obama, “Going high when they go low” isn’t going to get us out of this mess. It’s already proven itself to be futile. People who don’t care about your life and rights definitely don’t care about how you say something. They will just use whatever you say to their advantage somehow.
So be uncivil. Say “Fuck you” to intolerance and intolerant people. They shouldn’t be able to eat, or sleep, walk down the street in peace, or work. We have to stop being tolerant of intolerance, or, like Popper said, we are well and truly doomed.
I’m still deeply struggling with where the practice of lovingkindness and “Love thy neighbor as thyself” fits in. I know I don’t want to feed hatred. But I also know that I want a tolerant, loving society, and it’s not going to happen with intolerant, hateful people given free reign. It’s a narrow path to follow, and I wish I had better ways of thinking about it. Please comment if you’ve found some ways to walk this path.