This text of profesor from Kaunas Vytautas Magnum university was dedicated to the international conference in Vilnius "Totalitarianism and Tolerance. Challenges to Freedom".
The name of tolerance is popular, and it means that in today’s time of creative industries’ kingdom, glamorous behavior and exposure, and simulacrum (self)training there is created and realized a variety of civilizational possibilities related to tolerance, where in particular a variety of shapes of „the same“ farce, but not the open to entity understanding of substantial diversity spreads. Tolerance as farce emerges either in ideological shape, as are drawn own history‘s and culture‘s allegedly tolerant pictures, what is especially notable, for example, in depicting Grand Duchess of Lithuania, or there are created codes of simulation of tolerance: how one has to speak or act in public, depict without offending or minimally excluding, or there is created a whole industry of tolerance images, that virtually changes and destroys complex everyday recognition of one another.
An image creating cauldron deletes crucial features, destroys diversity, changing it with different pictures, different quantities of „the same“, at the same time allegedly creating tolerance among one-dimensional masks. From subsistence‘s standpoint, masks‘ tolerance for each other, that is multiplied by televisions and creative industries, has nothing in common with tolerance to unique entity of the Other: smell, body, behavior, time rhythmic, family relations, consumption style, inactivity, prayer, hygiene... However, masked tolerance ball appears to be ridiculously toothless and miserably weak when it has to make a stand against human rights persecution, wake of radical diversity and it‘s power. The ideology of tolerance today has become the same as what F. Nietzsche had attached to religion in the XIX c: sanctuary and means of inspontaneity to weak people, excuse for loss of special qualities, tastelessness and globalization.
From subsistence‘s standpoint, the concept of tolerance means entity‘s ability to preserve its fundamental qualities under the influence of hostile environment. When entity‘s and environment‘s qualities change, the extent of tolerance also changes. Every entity can be improved and developed in the way that it would be as friendly to environment as possible and able to preserve its special qualities in the ever-changing world. Such description of tolerance of entity can be applied to discuss tolerance of contemporary communities, societies, countries and civilizations. However, when explaining entity‘s per se and tolerance‘s relation to particularly reveal, to which subsistence philosophy we will refer in our reasoning and how we will substantially interpret chosen entities.
Every nation, race, religion, rituals, (individual‘s) (dis)ability, their individual cultural and civilizational education and choice, the new unique communities of taste and quality appear with their essential content not as an image, but as an act of reproduction of self and their culture and it‘s sustained follow-on. Anthropologists indicate that the question is not what you should answer if you like Caucasians or Romas, and not if you would like to live next to them for a long time, but if your community and their community will really be able to create everyday long-term relations in a way that you won‘t start to persecute one another, but will help each other? In other words, when asking about tolerance there has to be clearly separated various simulations, farces, industrial depiction from subsistence, i. e. from everyday Other as special and different life near me.
Philosophy has created many theories and narratives that support hegemonious or radical segregational systems. As K. Popper observes, there has been entire pleiades of thinkers that tried to justify advantages of totalitarian or authoritarian, fundamentalist or closed community. Today there are as many of such subservient philosophers as there were hundred years ago, when contemporary communism, nationalism or fascism was born. Therefore, to refer to them on entity‘s and tolerance‘s relation is dangerous. Nevertheless, social-political, critical philosophy, which supports ideas of human rights, tolerance, and openness, critical thinking, that is the main source of such reasoning, seeks to give certain principles of tolerant and therefore critical thinking. Considering the sad experience of the XX c., probably the most extreme and worst in Europe‘s history, new principles of critical, and not mannered tolerant, thinking were formulated by Hannah Arendt, Herbert Marcuse, E. Fromm, T. Adorno, J. Habermas, R. Rorty, N. Chomsky and many others thinking alike. Their main principle when thinking about entity‘s and tolerance‘s relation in the perspective of subsistence is to stay critical and open, and particularly when thinking about historical, national, religious, ideological statements and images multiplied by industries. After all dominant narratives (discourses), rituals practiced, local behavioral habits, history and literature textbooks, contemporary entertainment and creative industries determine the content of tolerance‘s essence and farce. In case of manipulation, invitation to be tolerant means to by no means accept some new government‘s programme, project, and not to form, express and develop their civil attitudes. In such case public conflict and long and painful discussion about problematic relations, e. g. interethnic, is better than recognition of simulacrum friendship. According to Stalin‘s project, in pursuance of people‘s relocation project, not forgetting Jew relocation to the Far East, there was speaking of people‘s friendship: is this an example of tolerance? And discussion during civil protest or communities‘ struggle for their rights is a real practice of tolerance and being close to each other.
Clearly, not only social-political or political-economic environment, influences expansion of tolerance greatly, but also education, ideologies, tradition, communicative actions and practices, and. In other words, democratic regime by itself, it‘s system related to principle of government division, multiparty system, elections, is not enough a condition for tolerance to expand. It is proven by many historical examples, when fascist, authoritarian, religious fundamentalist government were elected in democratical ways and a way of persecuting people of other nationality, religion or other minorities was chosen. Consequently, celebrating democracy for itself as a guarantee of tolerance is in a way inaccurate. Democracy can also be an assumption to persecute authoritarianism, racism, some forms of totalitarianism, and minorities. However, restriction to democracy or exaltation of international law and international decisions in order to enhance secular government‘s or certain experts’ groups‘ influence or improve relations with neighboring countries is only a temporary means to improve the situation compared to national political decisions and law. In this case, Habermas‘ theory of communicative action and it‘s attitudes, that only pursuit of the perfect dialogue is means to expand essential entity‘s (nation’s, religious groups’, race‘s...) tolerance, need to be followed. The perfect dialogue implies reciprocal understanding and formation and change of one another‘s fundamental attitude and intentions, and not only silent acceptance of each other. Silent tolerance is another mistake. However, precisely silent tolerance is the most comfortable for dominant hegemony, which chooses public farce of tolerance. The more tolerantly silent people there are and the more developed public depiction of tolerance is, the less communities are able to show their initiatives, fight for their rights. Russian government‘s demonstrative tolerance for Transcaucasia republics, bribery of their authoritarian regimes and formation of own observant and silent majority is a clear example of public farce and silent tolerance.
Speaking of development of society in the standpoint of tolerance capacities it is particularly important to critically and to discuss those paradigms of social essentialism or constructivism, which the society is following. Political essentialism most often refers to certain grand narratives or myths, legends, ideologies, which transform history in the direction that is needed for dominant circles in society. Political myth tells about a holy beginning, great savers of nation, historical enemies, and scapegoats – traitors and lessons given them and offers advice on how to treat your neighbors. Essentialism, referring to historical or, on a lesser extent, literary analogies, thinking, that fundamental characteristics of neighboring countries and nations are unchangeable, influences reasoning deeply. In such case it is said, that history has taught us to talk strict with these or other neighbors and to push them relentlessly. Or history has taught us, how to treat workers of different nationality. There are a lot of such examples in contemporary Russia, but there are also few essentialist clichés in Lithuania.
Every new political doctrine has tendency to prove itself with rather essentialist, than constructivist statements. For example, the new Russia’s as Eurasia vision is virtually essentialist, romantic visions of Grand Duchess of Lithuania also do not lack talks about essence of history, but narratives about Lithuania as a member of EU are mostly constructivist in nature and maybe because of that are less compelling, but much more dialogue like and there is open communicative action. Therefore, constructivist and not essentialist attitude to the meaning of political communication gives more chances to develop tolerance than essentialism. However, constructivism also hides its own dangers, that are related to a wish to invoke as much social engineering, manipulation, brainwash, forced education, i. e. personality construction as possible. Technical, most often cynical constructivist view to society often creates resistance towards itself from different parts of society. Nor EU, neither it‘s member countries lack such forced constructivism, ignoring the need of long-term and deep conversation. In such cases, ruling circles try to reduce society‘s pressure for wasting money, irrationality of projects underway, for war in the name of peace, bombardment, for freedom with conversations about tolerance…
Therefore, rhetoric about tolerance itself, does not show fundamental extent of tolerance, or the tendencies of its development. Contemporary ideology often tries to stratify tolerance in geopolitical, racial, national, devotional or other minorities‘ attitude and makes tolerance means of manipulation and propaganda. Whenever I hear public person speaking about tolerance, I tense: what new social project has been thought of, or what conflict has arisen, isn‘t it a preparation for ideological or military expansion? In many neighboring countries of Lithuania, including Belarus, the highest country officials talk similarly about laws, democracy and tolerance, but it is just new geopolitical, party or even clan vocabulary, of which critic today is more important than popularization of rather empty and often glamorous idea of tolerance. Today, to bitterly criticize the invisible ceiling and walls created for national minorities, other races and beliefs, bureaucratic sinking of free speech, stratification of tolerance and manipulation, political mythology, farce of image society is no less important than encouraging tolerance to that special Difference.