Friday, March 23, 2012

Modern Bigotry

[Warning: I should state that the following is somewhat of a "rant" admittedly, compared to what I usually write, so the tone could perhaps stand to be adjusted somewhat. Still...]

One of the most manifest marks of bigotry and narrowness in the modern world appears to me to be this: that so many people today cannot distinguish between real bigotry on the one hand and someone merely disagreeing with their viewpoint on the other. If someone disagrees with them, such people are not content with acknowledging the possibility that their opponent is mistaken (which may very well be the case). Rather, they go further and automatically accuse their opponent of "bigotry", and that solely based on the fact of such disagreement. Indeed, such people are so dogmatic (in the negative sense of that word) that they do not even realize that their own far from self-evident principles can be disputed in good faith by other intelligent people. As a result, if someone does disagree with them, they with unthinking hostility accuse their opponents of unthinking hostility. Instead of recognizing any possibility that there could be a case (even granted for the sake of argument it ultimately turns out to be erroneous) for a different viewpoint from their own, such modern bigots are so narrow as not to even conceive how someone could honestly (even if mistakenly) come to a different conclusion from their own. If someone does dispute the modern bigot's conclusion (even assuming it is right), he assumes they are themselves bigoted instead of simply in error. The modern bigot is not broadminded enough to think his opponent mistaken. This is because he holds to a type of dogma which indeed is very dangerous: an unconscious dogma. And, as Chesterton noted, an unconscious dogma is the definition of a prejudice.

This has nothing to do with the essential truth or falsity of the dogma in question. The particular dogma may in fact be true, corresponding to reality. But it is still dogmatic in the sense that it is not a self-evident truth. It is something that, even if one comes to it as the conclusion of an argument, is not something that would instantly be recognized as obvious by anyone and everyone at the start. It is not something that the mere fact that someone disputes it shows them thereby to be either a fool or a person of ill will, blinded by prejudice. Yet the modern bigot who accuses others of bigotry will treat his dogmas as self-evident truths (and that even when such supposedly "self-evident truths" have been denied by the overwhelming majority of people throughout history!). It is the narrowness of his mind that prevents him from recognizing how other intelligent people could in good faith come to different conclusions from his own.

Of course, if he simply stated that his opponents were mistaken, that would be a different matter altogether. Obviously, anyone who reaches a particular conclusion as true would thereby think that any conclusion which was in opposition to the one he reached to be false. That is not bigotry; it is the law of non-contradiction. But if he was truly "broadminded" (as so many such people claim themselves to be), he would be broad enough to understand that his opponents could still have a case. Of course, he would think them to be wrong insofar as they contradicted what he held to be the truth. He may observe errors in their arguments. But he would not instantly and unthinkingly identify such mistakes with mere bigotry, since, after all, everybody makes mistakes.

I do not deny, of course, that sometimes accusations of bigotry against others are warranted. Given the contents of this very post itself I have written, to state otherwise would be, shall we say, paradoxical. But I think it remains true that far too often accusations of bigotry today are themselves marks of bigotry. Not always, but enough to give sufficient demonstration to me that such accusations of narrowness are themselves many times only examples of projection, and thereby to be taken with a grain of salt.