Intolerance May Be Morally Imperative Featured

‘It would be good if we were a little more intolerant’, a famous English divine once wrote. Why tolerate the intolerable? For example, why tolerate the fur industry? And fur-wearing persons? Those who kill animals, sentient beings, for the sake of fashion. For the pleasure of wearing their skin. Why put up with that? Top models once forswore wearing the hide of innocent animals.

But a Guardian article observes the gory backlash: ‘fur is back’. On the catwalks of New York, Paris, even London - Kate Moss, no less, was photographed with fur on. 69% of designers include fur into their collections. Although most English women are said to abjure fur, many, too many foreign ladies do not scruple to do the contrary. Take a stroll through the Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly, Mayfair, along Bond Street and…you will witness the sorry, intolerable scene with your own eyes.

The animal rights brigade, where are they? Do they now agree to tolerate cruelty, slaughter, immorality, the truly intolerable? Just for the sake of fashion…Why doesn’t anyone act? Consider the automobile industry, constantly churning out cars. As I look at the houses in my street, at the number of vehicles parked in their drives, I wonder: do they really need so many? Do they need to pollute the environment with their noxious emissions? (Road pollution is more deadly than traffic accident, a study says. Combustion exhaust causes thousands of British deaths.) Clogging up the traffic? Making people’s life a misery? Why don’t their owners take trains, the Tube, buses or even cycle to work, like less selfish, arrogant folks?


How many cars enter London every day, competing for a limited number of parking spaces? Despite the congestion charge. Resigned to suffer diabolical traffic wardens and their fines? Why do I tolerate such unsocial, immoral behaviour in my street? Should I not get a sledgehammer and start working those cars over? Smashing up their windscreens? Letting down their tires? Splashing paint over the bodywork? Why not? Why am I not a little less tolerant?

And the tobacco industry? Why is that tolerated? I recall a cartoon showing President G.W. Bush on TV swearing with passion: ‘We shall pursue those criminals, those mass murderers! We shall track them down, arrest them and bring them to justice!’ Two tobacco industry bosses are watching. One looks worried but the other reassures him: ‘Relax. He is talking about Islamist terrorists, not about us!’ A joke that told the truth.

The tobacco industry…those who grow, prepare for sale, ship and actually sell the death sticks. Tobacco manufacturers are global operators, they have 44 cigarette factories in 39 countries – I cull that from their own website. I spare you info about the dire effects of smoking – you know them already. And that lot don’t call themselves merchants of death. Funny that.

Why not a bit more intolerance towards those gentlemen? The poor priest cannot afford to be sued so I won’t say anything more but…you get my drift. And the arms trade? Huh! A deadly business – literally. Especially when it sells arms to tyrannical and oppressive regimes. Such the despotic ruler of the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain. Despite a current popular uprising, the British government supports the cabal in power. Small arms exports to the tune of £ 4.6 million exported to Bahrain in 2012. Don’t need super imagination to figure out what those arms have been used for. CAAT, the campaigns against arms trade, agitates against the intolerable, dirty business but…is that enough? Intolerance to the intolerable should go further, surely.

OK, these seem all impeccable PC, leftish causes but…. what about abortion? The left really loathes talking about it. It is ‘right wing’. Yet, methinks it is still morally right to oppose abortion. Something morally intolerable. Maybe a little less tolerance is required about killing innocent babies in the womb, too?

Why isn’t there a tad less tolerance of the intolerable? I surmise the answer is because doing anything ‘muscular’ might involve taking risks. Breaking the law of the land, for instance. With painful consequences for the activists. To put it plainly: it is down to personal timidity. Lack of courage. Pusillanimity, that’s it. Having the courage not to tolerate the intolerable is not for everybody. That is why righteous, brave militants are always a minority. But a minority if well-guided can quickly become a vanguard. And carry masses ahead with it, towards the goal, like Lenin did in 1917. You don’t like this example? It is the method that I am praising, not the cause, folks!

But…Disregarding the law? Violence? Isn’t that wrong? It depends. When slavery was legal, don’t people admire the slave who rose up and rebelled? Progressive-minded persons never cease to invoke the suffragettes. Women who threw bombs and caused public affrays because they no longer wished to tolerate what they saw as intolerable. Even when the majority of women way back did not give two hoots about voting. The vanguard carried them with it to victory, nevertheless.Therefore, could intolerance in some cases be a virtue? Be praiseworthy? Or be indeed morally imperative? The priest thinks so.

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 April 2017 13:17

Frank Gelli I am an Anglican priest and cultural critic and commentator. I have BA in Philosophy, MA in Christian Ethics, MA in Islamic Studies, PGCE in Religious Education and Oxford Certificate in Theology. I have been a journalist & drama critic in Italy and England.
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