Friday, 8 September 2017

Tolerance & Statues

Been reading a biography of Frederick the Great and this jumped out at me:

"In society tolerance should allow everyone the liberty to believe in what he wants; but tolerance would not be extended to authorising outrageous behaviour or licensing young scatterbrains to rudely insult the things that others revere. These are my views, which suit the maintenance of liberty and public security, which is the first object behind all legislation."

Analyse and discuss.

What with all this argument over statues of one-time heroes from an imperialist or dubious past, it strikes me that the Indians and Pakistanis had the perfect solution - to merely move the statues to a backwater, allowing them to moulder away out of sight.

As an aside to the above, while the benefit of British imperialism is debatable in an age when there was a mad, European scramble for foreign soil to dominate and with which to trade, British rule was infinitely preferable to the alternative - French, or later German rule. When all is said and done, the Mughals were foreign imperialists too.


  1. - Just because something happened in the past, doesn't make it "right". But, modern peoples shouldn't be held responsible for the immoral acts of their ancestors; merely not tolerated to deny or normalise them without challenge.

    - Who gets to decide which are the "scatterbrains" and which are the moral reformers? Free-speech has to be "free", i.e. the set of speech that is "free" includes the set that is "rude".

    1. I agree with you on the first issue, but not necessarily on the 2nd. If someone has a weird opinion (and I'm the arbiter of that) and keeps it to themselves, then no problem. When they post it on FaceBook and have issues with me arguing against it, then I have a problem with their opinion and have every right to attack it - they're inviting a discussion.

    2. I think we would agree on this; I'm not saying you shouldn't have a problem with a weird idea (i.e. challenge it!), but that we shouldn't be able to legislate against ideas you find "rude", i.e. prohibit them as the quote suggests.

    3. That's where the public security codicil comes in. If your free speech is likely to cause a danger to public security, then it should be curtailed. I see that as tantamount to hate speech.

    4. It's all about what constitutes "danger" and to whom (who decides?) For example do you agree that some bloke from North Wales got 12 months in jail this week for tweeting that "all Muslims should be murdered" following the Manchester bombing. Whereas a Christian preacher shouting in the street that our children are going to burn in hell for eternity for reading Harry Potter, is just being religious? I can't see the difference.

    5. I can see a difference - one is incitement, the other is not.

    6. I would question why is this example is more serious than a bunch of Millwall fans threatening (in song) to kill the opposing fans? For me the key is credibility and statements of opinion or emotion (albeit imbecilic) like this aren't credible and shouldn't be treated as incitement.

      Also, and crucially, there are plenty of people (millions in fact) to whom religious scripture is exactly that, i.e. incitement to action, is religious hate speech somehow different from all other kinds?

    7. But saying your children will burn in hell is not something that's a) going to happen in the here and now, and b) is not likely to happen at all. It's not inciting anyone, except, perhaps, God, who you may or may not believe in.