Or, as they say in English, "On Matters of Tolerance and Intolerance", assuming I've got the Latin right...
The story goes Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela spent 27 years in jail as a political prisoner/terrorist and came out as a man, president and icon of forgiveness, tolerance and inclusion after enduring together with others circumstances and injustices which have turned many people into justifiable burning beacons of hate and desire for retribution. How he did it is beyond my capacity to understand and emulate- and God/Yahweh/Allah etc. knows I’ve tried for decades.
Until DARPA’s invention went mainstream, space was the final frontier. These days, the internet is either a close second or an earthbound match, with its promises of Artificial Intelligence, crowd-funding, enabling of mass communication on a planetary scale, global trade, the 24 hour news cycle, access to porn of all kinds, nearly unrestricted access to knowledge previously held only by high-ranking specialists and an increased effect of rapidly spreading speech, which used to take years, diligent effort on the part of publishers and huge efforts to spread causes and stories.
Still, the internet is under increasing threat from those who would censor and control its content, and there are fewer and fewer platforms which those who use the internet can climb digital soap boxes like they do to this day in London’s Hyde Park Fools’ Corner. Most, if not all those who regularly surf ye olde interwebs know stories of people being banned from social media platforms for their remarks, of harassment and bullying, slander, torture, and lives destroyed to the point of suicide. Most, if not all of us, know it can happen for the best and worst, wisest and dumbest of reasons, something that undoubtedly weighs heavily on the minds of good people who could contribute to mankind’s base of knowledge and wisdom if only they didn’t have to fear for their lives and reputations whenever they step out of digital front doors like ghosts into an electronic fog, to paraphrase Counting Crows’ song Round Here.
The illustrious American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson once said “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it”. I believe he was right, but also that like myself, he left out something that ought to be self-evident, but when looking at what’s happening, is not, and that is “the use of freedom must not be in such a way as to wrongly paint with a malicious brush or attempt to oppress the opinions of those with whom we disagree, just because we disagree”. For my part, I left out of the “Thanksgiving South African Style” post that “comparing evil or hardship and always finding something worse or someone worse off than us, does not excuse us from constantly trying to improve our situation or those of whom we see suffering to a degree we find intolerable”. In other, less PC words, I was saying “just because there’s somebody worse off than you does not mean you should do nothing about sorting your shit out- reach for the stars, damn it!”
The parts (PC and otherwise) I left out are my own quotes and all those who read them are free to repeat them until their friends and readers get sick and tired, whether they give me credit or not, although credit would be nice...
Okay, so what happened? Leroy called my post another attempt at playing the “be glad” game, and I responded it was no game. Then Jeff Michka said something which prompted Michael B. to defend me (I was absent due to lack of data for my internet connection) and he went off on Jeff with everything from the literary equivalent of flechette rounds to Willie Pete that had Jeff’s surname mutilated rather badly. To make matters worse, Jeff retaliated with some arty of his own which implied Michael B. and I were Nazis. That got my batteries wet and bunched the G-string I don’t wear in quite a knot, so I told Jeff to kiss “the aperture to a tight, dark and smelly passage found in Michael B. and my nether regions”. It may have been witty and clean(er) use of language, but it was still uncool of me even though I had clear justification for it, because I aim to be above such behavior.
Every once in a while, though it seems like once a month, our doyenne, dungeon mistress, indulgent mother and gently chiding host publishes the complaint of a reader who decided to leave Writer Beat (or Beat a Writer as I lovingly call it) in a huff and puff of what I think of as thin-skinned and limp-wristed indignation. I say this because I am of the firm opinion that one ought to be willing to stand one’s ground and fight to the death for principles and views held so dear that dying would be preferable to living without them, especially after leaving with an outraged whimper the bare knuckle, unlimited mixed martial arts ring sans Marquis de Queensberry rules that is my social home on the internet.
Writer Beat-ers have seen controversial writers come and go, a few of whom lasted longer than others while even fewer are here today. I’d say of those who stuck around, Tom C. Purcell and Billy Roper are probably the most controversial after Ryan Messano stopped bugging the shiznit out of us all, and it’s fair to say they get the bulk of invective flying around. Of course, Michael B. frequently annoys the PC crowd with his irreverently funny posts and comments that if we’re honest, we can all admit to thinking or even having said at one point or another, so he might very well be the third most controversial on WB.
Look, like others, I often disagree with a lot of stuff in Tom Purcell’s posts and the same goes for Billy Roper. Nevertheless, I try to avoid engaging in what I called “Smite, smite, smite and repeat 22 more times” kind of dialogue because it shuts down the conversation and leaves physical or cyber warfare as very unpleasant and uninformative alternatives. Besides that, Billy and Tom do make very shrewd observations about the nature of humanity and its history, and that gives us all room to learn a few things as well as bring our arguments to the table and teach them something in return, like I often do by explaining to Billy what I know of the reality of race relations in pre- and post-apartheid South Africa, along with refutations of assertions regarding WW2 and explanations of what communism was like to Tom.
Not long ago, a Christian monument was built with taxpayer money in some American state, in contradiction to constitutional stipulations against this practice. Not to be outdone, the Satanists demanded the same and eventually built a temple (at own expense, not the taxpayers’ from what I know) in the face of strident and even violent Christian response, which by their uncharacteristic meekness and reasonable behavior, the Satanists managed to come through looking better than the supposed servants of God and followers of his/her/its/whatever’s Son.
Herein lies the rub. Those who see themselves as on the side of righteousness engage in unrighteous behavior so often that they discredit their beliefs and undermine claims to the moral high ground- a bad move, as any military man or woman who’s had to fight uphill can attest. Furthermore, they make followers, allies and fence-sitters take notice of this failure and causes them to ask “what the f$%^ am I doing following these idiots?”, and that ain’t good if you want Good to triumph over Evil.
A lot of people have called Billy and Tom Nazis, denialist of the Holocaust, liars, and worse, when these guys did nothing of the sort to them. Can anyone call that smart or effective dialogue? Hardly, and I certainly don’t.
It seems counterintuitive to engage in civilized dialogue with those we often disagree with to the point at which we want to strangle them, but very often history has examples of deadly enemies sitting across a table to work out a deal and become known as peace makers, among them Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Itzhak Rabin and Rahman al Qudwa (aka Yasser Arafat), Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, and so on. Renowned physicist (who wouldn’t have survived the Nazis) Stephen Hawking said once “For millions of years, men had lived just like the animals, then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination- we learned to talk”.
Ryan Messano once exceeded my (until then) sorely tried tolerance level and I blasted him for it in ways that were unworthy of the ideals of civilized discourse, and greatly though I regreted having stooped down to his level, he deserved it.
Michael B. stood up to defend my point of view and I applaud him for it. He used some strong language which hurt Jeff Michka’s feelings and I asked him to tone down a little, then dished out some of my own to Jeff, admittedly more “refined” insults- but insults nonetheless. Tom and Billy discuss topics guaranteed to generate heated debate, yet in spite of a lot of abuse, respond with calm politeness while those who are in the right undermine the ground upon which the truth of their arguments rest.
Ain’t none of us candidates for sainthood here, but hasn’t the time come to acknowledge that being correct does not confer the right to be assholes at the slightest provocation, instead only after a veeeery long fuse has been lit? I think we need to look at our behavior and find more constructive ways to deal with those who provoke our anger, and we had better do it soon. What do all my fellow Writer Beat-ers think? Bring on the words, sticks and stones.