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Intolerable Tolerance

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Tolerance is a relatively modern idea. Those with tolerance are able to accept and respect those who are different from themselves. This is unambiguously a good thing, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Some people use "tolerance" to take advantage of basic decency and give themselves free rein to act like jerks, or to make themselves blameless for acting like jerks because that's something they're entitled to or it supposedly isn't their fault for whatever reason. And if someone tells them that they're being a jerk, they can deftly turn the tables by saying The Complainer Is Always Wrong, so they aren't required to change their ways. These sorts of characters pretend to be Holier Than Thou and have higher views of themselves than those who aren't as "tolerant" and "progressive", but truthfully they are nothing more than common jerks who uses "tolerance" and "progressiveness" as a cover to act like It's All About Me and expect special treatment beyond what they actually need or deserve.


According to Merriam-Webster, there are multiple definitions of "tolerance":

1. capacity to endure pain or hardship
2. sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own; the act of allowing something
3. the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
4. 1) : the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure ; also : the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2) : relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor

Intolerable tolerance plays with all of these senses of the word. Frequently, people engaging in this behaviour do not appear to have tolerance in the second sense. Also, for them, there is no such thing as tolerance in the third sense, yet they expect it in that accepting sense from their victims. Often, they aren't willing to brook any response from their victims to the contrary. It's also true that many such people don't seem to see that their hostility might be problematic; instead they describe the need for their victims to endure such treatment (sense one) and seem to assume that everyone around them has the capacity to thrive in such a toxic environment (the last sense).


These people may use the warped definitions to say "I'm different from you. Even if what makes me different from you is that I prefer to murder my enemies. I'm disadvantaged and/or supporting the disadvantaged. I have every right to kick you in the head and demand what I want because you have more and can afford it. Even if my demands means calling you names and forcing you to buy me a free lunch with no compensation in return. You must comply with it. If you raise a fuss, you're acting like an intolerant bigot and you probably deserved to be kicked in the head."

It could be that an Unacceptable Target is using their status to pick on Acceptable Targets, or Once Acceptable Targets using their former abused status to accrue guilt from others. Or that Underdogs Never Lose... because that would hurt their feelings, and we can't have that. Or the jerk understands in full that a Double Standard exists, and they use this to their advantage whenever possible. In essence, it's when Moral Myopia exists, but no one dares to call it out. In especially absurd cases, this scenario will veer straight into Logic Bomb territory if the perpetrator uses the idea of tolerance as a justification for intolerance: I can't stand you, and I'm allowed to hate you because you can't make me respect you if I don't feel like it. That would be intolerant.


The person demanding the tolerance may tell others to Turn the Other Cheek, only to laugh as they gleefully brand the next one, knowing they can continue getting away with it and never get punished. This person would also expect to be Easily Forgiven for any of their transgressions, but heaven forbid you say anything bad to them. They'll never forgive you until after you've thoroughly humiliated yourself apologizing, and then respond with "See? I was right all along. You are a bigot."

This can lead to some very unfortunate and awkward situations where it is clear that one party is being wronged, but circumstances make them unable to defend themselves without being Made Out to Be a Jerkass.

People with this kind of tolerance are also apt to say "We're happy to accept other people's points of long as they agree with us." They'll reject those that don't agree, often by using verbal dodges and occasionally with violence that they expect not to be penalized for. Or they will tolerate people who disagree with them, allowing them to voice a divergent point of view - and then kill them. Don't expect them to acknowledge the hypocrisy. Instead, expect such people to say things like, "This is a free country!"

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