Tolerance: Fundamentally intolerable
We are very much becoming an impolite, uncivil society. And all in the name of tolerance
It is a curious thing to watch this government as it wends its way into the second half of its doomed relationship – both with itself and with the people. Some of what it is doing is undoubtedly good – such as Michael Gove and Ian Duncan-Smith’s reforms. But in other areas you just have to shake your head.
So wedded is David Cameron to the idea of gay marriage that he is willing to push even more people into the welcoming arms of Ukip. But it makes no sense. Why is Dave doing this? Why remove the bedrock of his party? He is not going to win over those on the left, so why bother?
Some have said that this is his “Clause IV” moment where he takes on the backwoodsmen and women in his party; but that is a flawed proposition. There is no electoral gain to be had by his actions; indeed it could harm him even further. Really, then, it is nothing like Blair presenting Labour back to the political centre.
I don’t really care about gay marriage one way or another. If a couple want to marry in a civil arrangement that is up to them, whatever their sexual orientation. But Cameron’s pursuit has thrown religiosity and a strange corruption of tolerance into sharp relief.
Essentially, religion in this country has been quiet. Despite its constitutional set-up, Britain had treated religion as something that consenting people got up to in private. A system that has seen church bells become a soundtrack for a Sunday morning rather than an order to pray.
I think the reason for this is essentially a cultural memory of the upheavals of the Tudors, both Catholic and Protestant, and it is also why Elizabeth I was considered a great monarch because, in essence, she
believed that as long as there was no danger to the State, then it wasn’t the State’s role in dictating religious beliefs.
But this has changed. The demands of toleration have seen evangelism, be it religious or atheistic, reach a cacophony, with ‘leaders’ demanding equivalency – usually at the expense of others. Tolerance has led to those who shout loudest being heard the most, even though I suspect they represent the least. And it has demanded that we accept women being dressed head-to-foot in burqas in the name of religious belief but not that someone could wear a cross around their neck in the workplace.
‘They’ say a cross is not fundamental to Christian belief, and ‘they’ are right; it is not a requirement, it is a cultural issue. But guess what? So are hijabs or burqas. Islam requires only that men and women dress moderately. Everything else is an interpretation based on cultural practices.
Just as positive discrimination is discriminatory against another person, tolerance has led to intolerance of others.
Aside from the bend-the-knees, avoid-the-fees brigade, church attendance and Christian registrations are falling, something that is treated with delight from the left. And it’s glee at the drop in Christianity that is astonishing to behold. Like the sneerings of Richard Dawkins, tolerance has found a natural counterpart in its antagonism towards the established Church.
Whether by design or fear, the nasty little jokes – the aggression towards Christians – are growing. In a country that should be proud of its acceptance of immigrants over time, the integration of different peoples of the world, it is astonishing that this blatant intolerance of the bedrock of British life and law should be allowed to continue.
Don’t get me wrong. Just as interest groups demand the right to be offended, it is important in a free society to have the right to offend. But that has to be universal. What we are seeing is far from that. And, politically, this skewed tolerance will have consequences.
Just as most Christians want to just get on with their lives in a private manner, so do most British Muslims, blacks and gays. In its essence, Britain is a quiet nation. But this quiet is being
destroyed by an evangelicalism rousing in all corners of life; “what about me?” drowning out the needs of society.
What happens when so-called ‘community leaders’ manage to shout loud enough to afford special privileges for their interest groups? Eventually, the average bloke on the street will turn. We are already
seeing this in some small degree around the country. Once the majority feels that their needs are, rightly or wrongly, being ignored in the name of tolerance, then it will turn and unfortunately it will turn on those
minorities that want that very same quiet way of life.
The political consequences of this tolerance has been ignored by all mainstream parties which is why people are moving, and not just to Ukip but to more extreme parties, as they look at their own country and see themselves as strangers.
I was brought up to believe that each person is an individual, to be treated in equal manner when you came upon them; or, in other words, politeness and civility. To me it seems that we are very much becoming an impolite, uncivil society. And all in the name of tolerance.
Simon Miller is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator
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