For the last few days I have been thinking about a comment someone made to me. We had been arguing over msn about my lifestyle, and he said I should respect his intolerant point of view because ”it was his culture”. At one and the same time, this struck me as both pathetically stupid and philosophically interesting.
I am well aware of a paradox in liberalism. It is, basically, that liberalism means respecting all beliefs but the belief which says you shouldn’t respect other’s beliefs. I like to think I’m a pretty open minded sort of guy. Indeed, I have recently modified my attitude to faith after a comment by my father made me realise that, just as faith can inspire great ill, it can also inspire great kindness. This made me realise that maybe religion isn’t such a bad thing; maybe there’s something to it. As Tony Blair recently commented, religion can be used for both good and ill, and by and large I think it is a force for good. But I digress.
The point is, should I, then, respect intolerance? It may well be cultural, transmitted to parent to child like any other belief system. Yet it runs counter to liberality, to the foundations of culture. I also think that what in liberalism is a paradox in conservatism is a hypocrisy: he expects me to respect his views, yet refuses, by the very nature of those views, to respect mine. What in liberalism means respecting all beliefs but the belief which says you shouldn’t respect other’s beliefs, in conservatism means demanding people respect your beliefs while refusing to respect theirs. Frankly, a paradox is an interesting anomaly perhaps leading to the avoidance of certain subjects when talking to certain people, while a hypocrisy, in this case, is just plain dumb.