The delicate task of criticizing Tolerance

When I was in LA a couple weeks ago I went to the Museum of Tolerance. What is the Museum of Tolerance you ask? Well it turns out that it's mainly about learning to tolerate Jews and not kill 6 million of them. But it also comes out against all kinds of intolerance, from ethnic strife to homophobia to class hatred.

Hold on! Class hatred? A significant fraction of the time I spend talking with people is spent subtly encouraging class hatred, thru the insinuated disparagings of "rich people", "fancy shit", "bourgeois taste", "fatcat semi-fascist bastards, blood-suckers of the working class", and the like.

Sure it's nice to have little slogans telling the kids that "hatred is bad". But it's one thing to accept cultural diversity, quite another to tolerate Nazis and slaveowners and bosses - and I'm not uncomfortable grouping the last one in with the other two.

There was a sense of vacuity about the whole the place, of empty moralizing against "hatred" with little to no explanation of what causes hatred or how we can end it. Might intolerance have to do with struggles over control of resources or the state, or with politicians looking for a mass base to support their rise? Might all the different supremacies - based in race, gender, class, culture, or species - be fundamental parts of individuals' identities, structuring how people see the world and allowing them to accept all the many other ways it crushes them underfoot? If so, what structural social changes should we make, what strategies should we pursue, who are our allies and who our enemies?

Who knows? But I did learn this: Hatred is bad.

No comments: