It was all going so well. A comedian tweeted his viewpoint regarding lockdown protesters. A pundit retweeted it, adding his viewpoint. The first two sentences comprised a valid argument. Then came the third sentence.
“We can’t all be wealthy overrated comedians.”
It took a hard turn from a valid argument straight into a personal attack. No longer was it about the comedian’s viewpoint; it was about the comedian. And it was nasty.
Many people — especially those who were not already of the same opinion as the pundit — just got turned off and then tuned out. Argument lost. Pundit ignored.
Classical tolerance wins the argument
Classical tolerance (unlike today’s twisted sense of tolerance) separates the person from the person’s opinions, ideas, and beliefs. It shows equality toward people and elitism toward ideas: “I respect you, but I don’t respect your viewpoint on this.”
If the pundit had attacked only the comedian’s viewpoint and not the comedian himself, he could have been far more persuasive with those who don’t share his (the pundit’s) opinion. The way the retweet stands now, he’s probably only emboldened people who share his opinion. Get all sides of the argument doing that, and you end up with dogmatic mobs. That seriously sounds like no fun.
Classical tolerance is something that we can develop through practice:
- Step 1: Make a distinction between the person and the person’s viewpoint, idea, or belief.
- Step 2: Realize that it’s possible to respect (and even love) a person but disrespect (and even hate) a viewpoint, idea, or belief that person has.
Classical tolerance simply makes life better. Let’s tweet others the way we want to be tweeted. Let’s tolerate classically and — as always — live thoughtfully.