The only thing of which we should be intolerant is intolerance itself. Tolerance, compassion, kindness and patience should be our watchwords.
“London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance.”*
To be intolerant of intolerance. This should be our aim as tensions mount and
in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote and the USA’s election of Donald Trump.**
The first domino to fall?
Trump’s victory is no typical presidential election outcome. “This is not business as usual,” writes Anthony Hilton in London’s Evening Standard:
we are seeing is a yawning gulf between the haves and have-nots, those
embracing change and those suffering from it, the young versus the old,
the educated versus the uneducated, the skilled versus the unskilled,
the nationalists versus the immigrants, the winners versus the losers
from globalisation and international trade. The result is that, what we
have, alarmingly, is the elevation of politicians who promise simply to
break the system at the expense of those who seek to repair it.”
It is possible that the Brexit vote will prove to have been the first in a long line of falling dominoes. Populist nationalist candidates are waiting in the wings in many other countries, ready to ride a wave of popular fury, frustration and misdirected rage.
The rage is often misdirected
The anger and sense of betrayal felt by many of those who elected Trump is real.
But the rage is often misdirected. Channeling and exploiting this rage, the scapegoating and simplistic solutions offered by Trump in his campaign (and by Farage before him) are not the answer. The true roots of this rage are decades of complex economic, technological and political change that go far deeper than the foundations of any notional wall to cut off the USA from Mexico.***
The reasons for this anger, frustration and sense of betrayal need to be unpicked, investigated and understood. Meaningful solutions must be identified and action taken. Tolerance, compassion, kindness and patience should be our watchwords.
Trust, belonging and safety
Tolerance is the most urgently pressing need right now. You only have to glance at social media to see depressing reports of a
spike in racist incidents in the US over recent days**** – just as happened in the
UK following the referendum.
Over in Australia, my friend Sarah Miller is deeply worried by what she sees happening.*****
everyone has the privilege of just ‘moving on’, this political climate
doesn’t allow lots of people to just keep their head down and power
“This political climate enters your psyche of trust,
belonging and safety. The resounding message is if you are different,
you can trust no one, don’t belong in the mainstream society and that
your safety is at risk even with those tasked to protect you.
yes, we need to grapple with this post Hanson, Brexit, Trump world – but
let’s be compassionate in how we move out of our state of shock. Let’s
not compound the message of privilege and ignorance by just ‘moving
In 2016, trust, belonging and safety really should be a given for all of us. Intolerance corrodes these most basic foundations of modern life.
It’s *never* over
"The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is […] a triumph for
the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny,
and racism,” argues David Remnick in The New Yorker.
That such forces should not only still be present but resurgent in 2016 is depressing. But this is no time to admit defeat.
I tweeted to my friend Laurie Ruettimann in
the early hours of Thursday 9 November 2016, before the election was
called but as the inevitability of Trump’s win was swiftly becoming apparent:
Remnick’s New Yorker article concludes:
is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle
honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals – that is what is
left to do. That is all there is to do.”
This rise in intolerance cannot be tolerated.
The only thing of which we should be intolerant is intolerance itself.*****
Update 1 (Saturday 12 November 2016): Abuse builds nothing
I came across a tweet from @RJonesUX this morning which chimes perfectly with what I have attempted to say in this post, and which expresses what I wanted to say better and more clearly than I could. My thanks to @RJonesUX for permitting me to quote it here:
"We must talk. Listen. Accept others have a view, and seek to persuade. Abuse builds nothing. Echoes create nothing. Talk, don’t block.”
* Believe it or not,
this declaration of an intolerance for intolerance came from then London Mayor, subsequent Brexit
campaigner, and now Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson back in April 2012.
If you write the date in the English manner rather than the American,
the date of Donald Trump’s election victory – Wednesday 9 November 2016 –
is 9/11. I sincerely hope that I will be the only person ever to remark
on this, and that this date in 2016 will never take on infamous
*** This wall may well remain notional, as Trump would appear to be following the Brexit campaigners’ example of immediate post-victory backpedalling on key campaign pledges.
**** Click on this sentence for just one miserable example.
***** My thanks to Sarah for her very kind permission to reproduce her words here.
****** To adapt the words of an earlier US president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
- Image: From the post for DW Griffith’s Intolerance.