Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

If you tolerate this, your culture will be next

No names, no pack drill, no witch hunt and definitely no knock against the person I'm not naming here, but I was a little disappointed to read that one of my Friends was taking down photos of themselves involved in what I can best describe as an extremely geekycool project, simply because people involved on certain "it's cool to hate" sites were reposting the pictures purely for the purpose of mocking my Friend. It does seem to be a shame that a bunch of intolerant scum can force some creative, imaginitive, tolerant geekycoolness off the Web, but if it were my geekycoolness that were being mocked then I would spare myself unnecessary mockery, too. Sites referred to using the two letters at the left hand end of the second row of the keyboard are Not Cool in my book. Perhaps it's unkind to condemn a site based on the attitudes of its users, rather than its writers, but in this case I think it's called for.

There is a way in which this is a good sign. There will always be people who are intolerant of those different to themselves, but the Western world has made it clear that intolerance at large is not to be tolerated for the large majorities; while sexism, racism and homophobia still exist, I hope I'm not just convincing myself that they're much reduced from the way they were years ago. Kudos to those who have worked and continue to work against such prejudice. However, intolerance of people based on their pastimes and interests still pervades, and even some people who are firmly on the side of the angels when it comes to the most popular distinctions can be unduly snotty about some minor distinctions. I am proud to be a geek (as we used to say ten years ago, "say it out loud, I'm sad and proud" [1]) - it's just the way that the dice have fallen that I am a board game geek and a LJ geek rather than a sci-fi geek or a trainspotting geek. We're all geeks together, with more in common than distinct.

This all comes about because http://www.boingboing.net/ post a link to a video from a live-action role-playing game that has been doing the rounds and turned into music videos; sometimes the accompanying commentary is supportive, sometimes not. View the original first for the full effect, then the Bon Jovi remix, then the Slayer remix; you may have to search around for mirrors because bandwidth is tight, and this is why I'm not linking to a video of the original (and because nobody seems to have Coralized it yet, not that I fully understand this Coralizing malarky). I played a game like that at university with some highly imaginitive people and it was one of the finest games I ever played; were I to get the opportunity to play again in the future, in the right company (in the same company as before!) then I would love to do so again. Fellow FLRPers: anyone else at least partly impressed by the quality of some of the physical representations involved?

Geeks of other geekdoms don't really have a great deal of room to cast aspersions here. Yes, the Geek Hierarchy, ha ha, but in truth it ought to be flat, and anyone who perpetuates the hierarchy is guilty of intolerance. Intolerance against the high-profile minorities is bad, so intolerance against the low-profile ones is bad too.

This raises interesting, more general, issues as well. I regard myself as reasonably tolerant, but I know I'm not perfect; I also know that I often base first impressions at least in part on the quality of the English communicated to me. (If it isn't your first language and if you're not being paid to communicate clearly to me, you have a loooooooow bar to jump.) I also recognise that I'm not terribly sympathetic towards the travelling Romany community; however, as certain exciteable newspapers have vilified them recently, I'll probably find it easier to be inclined to favourably consider their cultural requirements. There is an ongoing backlash in the UK against political correctness, which I find sad on principle; while certainly there have been occasions where the letter of regulations concerning inclusion has been followed rather than the spirit, I would be inclined to blame this on a lack of common sense and flexibility rather than excessively slavish devotion to political correctness. The opposite of political correctness is bigotry.

It's also worth bearing firmly in mind that it's possible to be too tolerant to the point of tolerating destructive behaviour; without wishing to claim an opinion on one side or the other, the extremists at both ends of the animal rights / countryside pursuits lobby are capable of acting pretty vilely. It's also got to be OK to weigh up an issue and reject one side's conclusions; informed judgement is a good thing when prejudice isn't and a side whose view is rejected cannot claim prejudice blindly when there has been informed judgement. It's also true that some cultures have an established tradition of intolerance by our standards which really comes down to their informed judgement going another way after receiving the same facts. That's harder to cope with.

A lot of intolerance comes wrapped up in humour, which makes it particularly insidious; the Telegraph has a fantastic article about the pervasion of humour into British culture to an extent where humour seems to be the single most important characteristic in an entity, rather than fitness for purpose, which surely leads to inefficiency. The tangential mention in that article of creating a wellbeing measure is extremely interesting; I had a thought that reducing inequality in society would make people happier and so drive down crime, but the theory is raised that it is social envy that leads to decreased wellbeing and increased crime. That seems worryingly convincing to me and an area that I'm not sure a government can do much about, whatever their political affiliation. What sort of sea change in human nature is required to stop people being envious of their more advantaged peers simply when we have much better ways of finding out what the privileges of the privileged really are?

[1] Doesn't the Michaelmas 2004 term card look like a particularly strong line-up, by the way? Simon Singh, Sir Roger Penrose, Prof. Tom Körner, Sir Michael Atiyah, a play...

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