176. The tolerance conundrum, or paradox

Karl Popper, introduced in entry 170, had very topical thoughts on tolerance, informed by living in Austria in the 30s, the time of the Anschluss. ‘Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance to even those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them’. This warning, issued in the politically dark 30s, is worryingly apt to today’s social and political trends. Tribalism, populism, aggression against the other and refusal of alternative ideas are the order of the day, fuelled by politicians and so called leaders with short term aims and Machiavelli’s ‘the end justifies the means’ as their mantra. We would do well to see, in Russia, China, Trump’s US and Brexit Britain the same attitudes to tolerance apparent in Germany, Italy and Spain in the 30s, and to be vigilant. When tolerance dies, democracy follows 

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