bad turtle

so writing bad turtle poetry not withstanding (I devoted an hour to rewriting that little ditty to see just how awful I could get it but no way am I posting that)

the exposure to turtle info has proved to be strangely metaphorical. Especially the bit about the shells having nerve endings.

I am on day 4 of my committment to “change my diet.” It is funny how I can see that everything about me is just jumping at this opportunity, but when I grow tired or overwhelmed I fall back into my prior “junk food” eats.

One of the things that has come up recently in my life is a discussion of what “tolerance” is.

It is such an unusual term because it is defined in so many ways. I tried to google around and see if I could find a succint definition and while yes, it technically does mean respecting the right of things you don’t agree with to exist; the application of it as an action is where everything falls apart.

I wound up searching and reading a lot of material about tolerance and criticism.

I think, most everyone will agree, with the statement that “being tolerant does not imply that you accept, approve or condone” what ever it is that has appeared that you don’t agree with or perceive as wrong.

Now…the perception of wrong. That is where there starts to be some real difficulty.

In the drive for political correctness, the concept of tolerance has evolved in a way that precludes the personal discernment of what is right and what is wrong.  Now, don’t even go on about there being no right and wrong – there is, for each person there is a very real sense of what is right and wrong or, that person is living in a very ambiguous state. Maybe it would be more palatable if I placed it in terms of “like and dislike” but that is not fair to the concept of what we are talking about which is a sense of morality and ethics.

Morality and ethics are complicated because there are multiple layers of them involved.

I am going to give you a definition of “morality and ethics” to apply to what I am going to say so my intent remains clear. The terms can be understood in many different ways but for the purpose of right here and now, this is the definition I am working from.

Morality and ethics are the standards we accept for deciding if something is harmful or not towards living, both independently and interactively within a community.

The first layer is personal. Where you develop a standard that is for your life and no one else’s. It is where one’s sense of personal belief and convictions come from. Sometimes people don’t develop this and this can lead to a mess of trouble and of feeling…disconnected or lost. They jump immediately to the next layer which is intimate and interpersonal, where you form a relationship (friendship, family, intimate) with another person in which you share the majority of your personal standards. It doesn’t necessarily have to be all of them, but even where you differ, the differences are kind of…balanced by the fact that they share the same branch on the family tree, so to speak. Your differences are in harmony and understandable to each of you. Your tolerance of each others differences comes from that harmony and respect grows from this.

Next you turn outward and towards your immediate community. This community is part of your social identification. It could be a church, a school, a trend (goth, punk, prep, yuppie, country whatever) and so on. The community identity (which is  sort of psuedo-person) has enough similarites in their standards to your personal ones that it is easy to feel welcomed, accepted and like you fit in. There may be larger differences in some areas of your standards, but not so opposite as to cause a feeling of betrayal to your personal convictions. You are tolerant of each other because your convictions about how to live life and what is good/bad meld together to support a social environment.

From there you spin outwards to the sense of a governing community. Here is where culture, government, state and nation come in. There is more discord between the larger body of standards and your own personal standards. However, one of the core standards you agree upon is that as a group, there are things that can be unacceptable on a personal level but that you recognize do not harm to a great degree your standard of living but increase or meet the needs of others within that group. The governing communities standards must allow for more differences and discord while preserving the harmony within those differences. The tolerance is at a greater degree whereas both the individual and the larger community must balance between respecting the right for differences to exist and, preserving the well-being of the group. This can lead to some individuals or sub-groups not being tolerated because their outward effect is evaluated as being in contradiction to the standards of the larger community (while at the same time being perfectly fine for the individual involved and their created sub-group or social identity).

One of the odd/difficult things is that part of the standards of the governing community (most often) is to ensure that the indivdual ability to create and live by individual standards is preserved whereas in the smaller social-identity community the standard towards the individual may actual be less tolerant of differences to the point of being intolerant.

Now….

What does it mean to be intolerant? To be intolerant on any level is to judge someone by a set of standards (any) and to decide that this someone (which could be a community) has no right to exist and to actively pursue the removal of their presence/existence as defined by the standards that they have adopted.

What does it mean to be tolerant? To be tolerant on any level is to judge someone by a set of standards (any) and to decides that this someone (which could be a community) does not meet your standards and to actively pursue stating, teaching or otherwise presenting why you believe this to be true and what alternatives you see to their standards while not interfering with their right to exist according to their standards.

Criticism is not intolerance. Saying that you think something is wrong is not intolerance. Railing against someone else’s beliefs is not intolerance. It can be…ineffective if you offer no alternative. All of that is a part of living by your convictions.

Silent acceptance of the existence of something that you ajudge to be “wrong” according to your standards can become contrary to your convictions and set up a world of hurt in your own world.

They say that the strength of a person’s committment to their beliefs and convictions lies not in their ability to defend themselves or to attack others, but in their ability to withstand criticism and to evaluate its veracity. Those who seek to prevent criticism of themselves or their group create a situation of harm through intolerance (because it is a form of denying another’s right to existence).

Everyone has the right to say what they want to say, do what they want to do etc and so forth. However, there are two key things that come into play here – one is, everyone also has the right to pronounce their judgements on the rightness or wrongness of what you are doing. Everything that is said or done within nested communities must be weighed for the harm or good it causes as is defined by the largest communities standards on down. Which is how laws come into play and the idea of what constitutes harm. The nature of laws and the definition of harm allow for a socially approved intolerance to exist that cannot deny the right to exist of any contrary standards but can close off the right for certain actions to be taken or words spoken that are deemed a threat to the existence of others right to exist.

What is harm for me may not be harm for you. What is defined as harm for both of us within the larger community we both exist in will be the same.

It is not intolerant to fight to sway people away from supporting something or participating in its existence, it is intolerant to fight to remove the right for people to try and sway other people, that is closing off a part of existence. It is not intolerant to stand on a rooftop and yell “All people in white t-shirts are evil and wrong don’t buy things from them.” It is intolerant to seek to pass laws that say that people in white t-shirts cannot sell things.

Get the difference?

complicated all this, but then again, not really.

c.2010. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.

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About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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