Hans Bonfigt wrote a comment about my article on “Old White Men“ (Alte weiße Männer). To be sure, you can disagree about what he writes. However, for me, his article was an important impulse.

This picture was taken on October, 3rd, 2012 in the forest restaurant. I am wearing the cap I just imported from China (this is also my Twitter calling card picture).

When he said that “we tolerate everything except intolerance”, he really hit home. As I understood Hans, the important question in his article was: who exactly is allowed to define tolerance (or fascism, racism, colonialism)?

I believe there is an answer to this question. Let us first take a closer look at the terms:

Intolerance is the opposite of tolerance (Toleranz). Tolerance (forbearance) is a virtue, consequently, intolerance (the opposite of tolerance) is an anti-virtue, the opposite of a virtue.

”Fascism“, “Racism“, “Colonialism“ (Faschismus, Rassismus, Kolonialismus) are not virtues. They are systemic concepts of the world that describe ideologies and governments.

Ethically, “tolerance” is easy to define. If you want to judge if a statement or an attitude is tolerant or intolerant, you have to do a personal and independent weighing, following “ethically responsible values”. “Ethically responsible” means that the values you autonomously found must be in accord with the global community, for instance with the UNO Convention or the “Golden Rule” (Goldenen Regel).

Social systems depend on CLARITY. That is true both for enterprises (social systems with an economic goal) and parties (social systems with a political task). The problem is: what happens if the clarity becomes the collectively shared concept?

That is exactly what we want. We find it nice if the enterprise where we work or the party we give our vote emanates a “collective clarity“. “Collective clarity” is conformity. It is the small (subversive) sister of clarity. And conformity is a nice basis for “fascism”, “racism”, “colonialism” – just as it is also a good basis for “slavery” and “fiefdom”. That makes everything a little complicated.

I think we want to be careful. We need to see to it that the VALUES of our CLARITY are in accord with the world-wide consensus of values. That is also true for tolerance. And if and when the time comes that the world’s conformity will bring forth a world-wide fascism (no matter what kind of fascism), then the only thing that will probably help is resignation or resistance. Which will then trigger the interesting (ethical) question if such a resistance must be non-violent or if violence is the only way to make such a resistance a success.

Once in a while, I get the impression that this world-wide conformity is what we already have in the economic dimension.

Consumptionism and capitalism have spread throughout the world like a religion. Some also call it a predator capitalism that, by using its weapons marketing, lobbyism and corruption, has already conquered the world. And here, too, we again have the tricky situation that we must decide if non-violent resistance is enough.

I am convinced that the only way to counteract the upcoming world-wide conformity is diversity and variety.

Many thanks to Hans Bonfigt, who inspired me by sending his ideas.

(Translated by EG)

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