Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

TOLERANCE WATCH

More intolerance-of-intolerance...

The Belgians have banned the country's most popular party because it's "racist." Michael Totten offers this cryptic but cogent remark:

The center cannot hold if the state decrees the center doesn't exist, that the only choice is between left-wing fantasy and right-wing lunacy.


More from the Telegraph:

"This is an attack on democracy and free speech. Our political opponents have changed the racism laws six times in a campaign to have us condemned. What they have done today is shocking," he said.

The party leaders plan to relaunch it next week with a new name, Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Interest, and a manifesto extolling women's rights, the secular state and the rule of law.

Analysts say attempts to muzzle the group have invariably failed, adding to its mystique as the victim of a reviled establishment that has saddled Belgium with a huge national debt and some of the highest taxes in the world.

The Vlaams Blok has risen from murky neo-fascist roots to reinvent itself as a modern, free-market party and become the biggest in Dutch-speaking Flanders, the richest part of Belgium with 60 percent of the population.


My two cents: the prohibition of racism is actually more serious illustration of the paradox of toleration in modern democracies. Racist remarks and racist beliefs are unacceptable in many areas of our society. Not just socially unacceptable; it goes a bit beyond that; people in many walks of life could lose their jobs for a racist remark. I'm conflicted on this because I really like not having to listen to racism. At the same time I think the way we've purged ourselves of racism has left scars on the American intellect.

I remember a book a while back in which a woman was trying to catalog instances of racial violence against blacks, and she started quoting a scholar who argued that whites were on average smarter than blacks, based on some kind of sociobiological argument how survival of the fittest operated comparatively in Europe and Africa. At some point, it might even have been a private conversation, he made the remark, "Either bigger brains or a bigger penis, you can't have both." What's illustrative is that this quote served as her refutation of the argument. She didn't evaluate the guy's logic, or facts. It's as if it would scarcely have occurred to her to do so. Or maybe it would even have seemed racist to dignify his arguments with an argumentative rebuttal.

Anti-racist witch-hunting can spill over into suppression of critical thought. I am actually skeptical about whether those who disbelieve in the human soul can, reasonably and in good faith, be wholly non-racist. If you think IQ is genetic, then some families will be smarter than others-- why shouldn't some races be smarter than others? Indeed, wouldn't it be almost infinitely improbable, statistically, if some races were not smarter than others? (My own non-racism derives from a belief that intelligence is a function of the soul rather than the body.)

I think America has purged racism from our society, and I'm proud of it. At 26, I can say I have never, to my knowledge, met a racist American in my life. I have never heard a (white) American make a remark that is unambiguously racist, and very few that were even reasonably interpretable as racist. This is a phenomenal achievement. And I'm not sure we could have done it as quickly without the assistance of the PC thought police. And yet a sad consequence is that we are unable to recognize our triumph. Just as Soviet Russia kept seeing Trotskyists under the bed long after they had been exterminated or sent to the gulag, Americans remain haunted by the specter of racism.

This tidbit illustrates the disturbing phenomenon brilliantly:

One of the tracts, denouncing female circumcision in Islamic countries, was written by a Turkish-born woman member of the Vlaams Blok but the court ruled that the arguments were intended to foment anti-Muslim feeling.


From tolerance to relativism. From relativism to the suppression of moral judgment. And then the capacity for moral reasoning disintegrates. (Which, in turn, helps to explain why Europe opposed the Iraq war.)

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