This year marks the 10th year that I’ve been involved with LDS blogging. TEN YEARS! Back then it was all new. Nobody knew if you were a dog. I was a guest blogger at the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog. Me!
Since then I have attracted a few Internet antagonists and I have written things that have antagonized others.
While I do not regret my honest, though sometimes clumsy, efforts to stand up for what I believe online, 10 years of watching LDS Internet battles has saddened me.
Between the effects of cyber-disinhibition, which lead people to say things online that they would never say in a face-to-face conversation, and the tendency of Internet discussion to super-size Wiio’s Laws of Communication, we have managed to dehumanize and demean each other in all kinds of ways.
Our online foes are often not real people to us but human-shaped containers into which we have poured all of our Internet-distorted perceptions and disagreements.
And that is why I am inviting you all to the 1st Semiannual LDS Friends & Foes Rendezvous. Continue reading →
I saw a comment on the Internet about how there was a male dancer at BYU that had been reprimanded because he did his dancing try out not matching BYU honor code standards, specifically showing up with no shirt and in shorts.
A number of people (practicing but not believing Mormons) were commenting. Comments included the idea that the LDS Church had an immature attitude towards the human body and that it was dangerous and hurtful. Further, comments mentioned that there was a great inconsistency between being concerned about a violation of the honor code on a dance try out and then not being concerned over a man wearing a swim suit at the pool – which obviously covers just as much. One commenter (same one that claimed Mormons had an immature attitude about the body, I think.) mentioned that there was real danger in having an institutionalized inconsistency like this.
If I had a dime for every set of comments I see like this on the Bloggernacle or Facebook, I’d be a very rich man.
This is a summary version of my last post, plus thoughts for a serious discussion on what ‘tolerance’ really is. I would really ask that people try to look at this ‘proposed definition of tolerance’ and criticize the heck out of it. However, remember the primary rule of rationality. Rationality is to advance a counter explanation, not to shoot holes in someone else’s.
Legal Tolerance is More Important Than “Everyday Tolerance”
When we speak of ‘tolerance’ there are really two kinds or degrees. The first is the more important: we must never make laws (or break laws) to force people to believe in ways we prefer. This is the single most important aspect of tolerance.  This form of ‘intolerance’ is therefore about violence or threat of violence, either in the illegal or legal variety.
Everyday Tolerance: Being Respectful in Disagreements
But legal tolerance is not what we generally mean when we speak of tolerance. If it was, then skin-heads that don’t break the law would be as tolerant as anyone else. So I would suggest that when we speak of “tolerance” we generally mean civility in non-violent conflict. This being the case, then I suggest the following “rules of tolerant behavior” for your consideration:
Tolerance Does Not Mock Other People’s Beliefs
Tolerance Does Not Misrepresent, Lie, of be Deceptive about Other People’s Beliefs
Tolerance is Being Respectful and Civil in Your Communication to People of Another Belief
Tolerance Does Not Use Stereotypes
Tolerance Allows People to State their Own Beliefs; It Does Not State it For Them
Another reprint from Mormon Matters. This post was particularly important to me because I was (am) still struggling to take the concept of tolerance and change it from the weapon of intolerance it is generally used as to be the real deal. So, unfortunately, this post became long and unwieldy as I thought it all through with detailed examples and tried to find my own position. Unfortunately, even after doing all that, I continue to feel that there is something wrong – missing – in my attempt to define tolerance. I admit this near the end where I am forced to admit that tolerance must not always be a virtue. This bothers me that there isn’t a clearer definition between when it is and when it isn’t a virtue to be tolerance. For those disinterested in reading a long article like this, I will post a ‘summary’ version shortly, so I’m not going to open comments on this post. If you have comments on it, put them into the next post.
I would like to try to come up with a good working definition of the word “tolerance” to use as a way of guiding my interactions with those I disagree (and sometimes strongly disagree) with. But this definition shouldn’t just be a warm fuzzy. It should be a substantive and, as much as possible, objective basis for determining what is or isn’t tolerance.
But what is tolerance?
Tolerance means literally “to tolerate” something. This directly implies that the belief system (i.e. “religion”) being tolerated is one that a person, by definition, disagrees with and perhaps even dislikes. This might ease the burdens of tolerance to realize that it in no way implies you have to pretend to like something you don’t like or pretend to accept things you truly believe to be wrong.
So let’s start with this as the basis for our definition: Tolerance is to literally “tolerate” something, not to accept it or like it. In fact, as far as I can tell “tolerance” in no way implies not fighting against something you disagree with; it simply defines what fighting techniques are legitimate, fair, or just by asking you to treat others how you want to be treated as well.
This is another reprint from Mormon Matters. For those of you that bristle at the very mention of “Political Correctness” please don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what I am referring to without reading the article. This article is advocating a well defined form of political correctness in use of language (particularly with gender) and seeks hard limits to political correctness, namely that you have to still say what you mean and mean what you say, even if it hurts someone’s feelings.
When I started attending school at BYU, political correctness was still recently taking hold in American culture. In high school my English teacher, Mrs. Summers, specifically taught us that if the gender was unknown, we were to use “he” or “his” as the pronoun as these signified both genders. For example:
“Each student in the class opened his book to the page specified.”
And back then we spoke of mailmen, chairmen, policemen, garbage men, etc. A person with a below average IQ was “mentally retarded” and someone that was overweight was “fat.” It was just the way things were.
Old habits die hard.
My initial introduction to politically correct English were somewhat negative. For example, I remember reading an Editorial in The Daily Universe talking about how horrible politically correct English was with all its meaning deficient words like: “horizontally challenged,” “special,” and “mail person.”
My view changed when I took a Technical Writing course from a self proclaimed “radical feminist.” I remember her being very quirky and often hypocritical; and I have my doubts about many of the technical writing principles she taught. But she did an incredible job of explaining the need to avoid “gender biased language” and by extension sold me on political correctness.