Tagged tolerance

Only the Weak Are Cruel *

Possibly the only political/non-parenting post I will do.

This is not going to relate to any specific events, but to something that I have noticed before and noticed again over the past week. That is the insinuation made by many that to be on the ‘left’ is to be weak, cowardly, ineffective, even a threat to security.

I say the ‘left’, and certainly those who make these claims tend to make them saying they are referring to the (‘loony’) left. Nonetheless, it is not really my intention to be too rigid or bogged down in the terminology and classifications of political allegiances here. It would be true to say that the views referred to as evidence of this ‘weakness’ and ‘danger’ tend to be more associated with left wing politics. However, it is, of course, the views themselves that are really under attack, regardless of whether those who hold them would class themselves as politically left wing.

The views being vilified as evidence of weakness, cowardice and threat to security are those supporting pacifism and use of non-violent methods where possible, equality and inclusion, multiculturalism, and greater social justice. Those who classify these traits as weak and dangerous tend to be those who themselves express views leaning, to a greater or lesser extent, towards nationalism, militarism, border controls, homogenous societies, and either ‘each for himself’ or ‘protect your own’ views on welfare and social justice.

This is what I find interesting. To me, a coward would be someone whose response to fear is to want to hide, protect themselves, and abandon others who are more afraid and in more danger because they are ‘not my problem’. To me, weakness is when someone feels so threatened by anyone different to them, so unable to understand experiences unlike their own, that they want to be surrounded only by people just like them. Weakness is when hatred and fear lead a person to consider it justifiable to spread ignorance and lies just to support their own prejudices. Resorting to violence and promoting division is not to me an effective policy, or one that is in the interests of security. Scapegoating of innocent people, and reliance on the spread of misinformation through propaganda, do not make safer societies.

By contrast, what of those who will fight for greater equality and justice; stand up for the vulnerable; and show compassion, tolerance and calm, rational consideration in the face of hatred, discrimination and hysteria? Well, I would call them strong people. I would say it takes less courage to face your opponents with bigger weapons than they have and gun them down, than to be willing to try to face them with reason and understanding and attempt to talk them down. Of course, this is not always possible, and few would argue it is. However, maintaining that diplomacy should always be the first aim, that violence and force should not go beyond that which is absolutely necessary, and that justice through the law should be preferred to summary execution when practical, is not cowardice. It is having the strength not to succumb to panic, and the conviction that our societies and our civilisation are worth fighting for, which means protecting the importance of core tenets like the Rule of Law. It is not allowing anger to make you become no better than those you would oppose and condemn.

I would like to briefly mention the specific case of Jeremy Corbyn. A man who has principles he will stand up for, no matter how unpopular. A man who will respond with what he feels is right from a rational, fair and evidence based perspective, even though many want instead an hysterical, disproportionate response. A man who is personally attacked and ridiculed for the stance he takes by many in the public, the media and his political opponents, but does not lower himself to making similar personal attacks in response. Now, I don’t really consider it relevant whether you happen to agree with his policies and beliefs or not, but I think you have to be extremely misguided to think that he is a weak character. Even more so to think that he is the weak person in comparison to someone like David Cameron. Corbyn may be quiet, he may be peaceful, his views may seem unusual in this political day and age, but he is not weak, he is not cowardly, he is not a threat.

Finally, it is worth considering some of those who have been known for their fights for equality, for their commitment (where possible) to non-violence, for their promotion of religious and racial tolerance, or for their efforts to create fairer societies: Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Malala Yousafzai, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Can any of these people be called weak, cowardly, ineffective, a threat? How about some well known proponents of nationalism, elitism, persecution, militarism, religious and racial prejudice, or closed borders? Hitler, Nick Griffin, Donald Trump, Oswald Mosley, Enoch Powell? What would we call them? More importantly, when the evidence is considered, can we say that those who have pursued peace, equality and tolerance are the ones who have failed to make a difference, to do good for the safety and stability of the world? No? Well, then those who expound those ideologies probably aren’t a threat to security, are they? They may even be sensible, rational and – shock – right.

But, of course, those who make these allegations about the ‘lefties’ and the ‘bleeding hearts’ and the pacifists know all of this, don’t they? They know that far from being weak, these people are stronger than they are. They are simply trying to undermine those who pose a threat to their fragile world view, their pursuit of their prejudices.

It is well to remember that, for all the popularity Hitler’s views once held with many, in the cold light of day, we recognise and admire the tolerance, compassion and pacifism of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

(*’Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.’ – Leo Buscaglia)