A permanent challenge for societies (II)

It's a sad fact that about seven billion people living in this world also include a large quantity of idiots.

Some of these idiots reveal their depravity by being attention whores with no other skill suitable to gain attention than provocation. Such annoying people are petty, pitiable failures, but they, too, have human rights.
Some of them fit into the category of "trolls", others display "unpopular" political symbols to annoy others, some burn crosses or books and finally, some of them go to the lengths of creating offensive videos.

These annoying people are representatives of the fallibility that's ingrained in mankind, not representatives of their country. No country should be blamed for its hardcore idiots as long as it does not empower them politically. That would be a most serious failure of the society, of course.

Annoying, potentially dangerous hardcore idiots are a permanent challenge and make alertness a necessity, but they are also a test of freedom.
A society or government could of course just get rid of these hardcore idiots - they're easy enough to identify. They could all be arrested, even executed for annoying others.
We don't do this.

If we did, we would empower our government to arrest annoying people. A highly problematic side effect of this would be that the government would arrest people who annoy the government. There would be political prisoners, and thus the society would not be free.

Countries which did burst the shackles of such a dictatorship only recently should be able to appraise the importance of not empowering their government to arrest annoying people. As a consequence, these countries should be able to appraise the need for tolerance the most.

Sadly, revolutions do not automatically create a great sense that freedom has a price. At first, it looks for free. It's not. Freedom requires tolerance, and the ability to bear that certain issues cannot be handled decisively without a restriction of freedom.

Everyone who lives in a free society should remember that his or her freedom is also the freedom of others, and when others lose freedom, so does he or she.

We should help Arabs to understand that we suffer from our hardcore idiots just as much as they do, but this suffering is the price of our freedom. To not pay this price means to drift back to tyranny. To demand that others stop being so tolerant equals demanding that they drift into tyranny.

I believe this is what needs to be communicated the most - to all free or freed societies. It's the talking point that should be applied, not primitive gut feelings about revenge or power fantasies.

So far all reactions of politicians to the recent events have been disappointing to me. These events are not about religious tolerance. they're about tolerance and freedom in general. The problem is one of majority vs. idiots, not of our societies against their societies. I wish some politicians of heavy foreign  political weight would address the real issue as above, probably with more polite words about the idiots to avoid that the media focuses only on obscenities.

related: A permanent challenge for societies


  1. When two close friends "curse" each other, they usually don't care and sometimes think it is kind of cute in a ironic way.

    When strangers curse each other there is usually confusion, "where did this come from?" and almost always some level of anger.

    When an enemy with a long track record of abuse against you including physically does anything negative against you, will you really give him the benefit of the doubt?

    Technically speaking you are probably right (I haven't researched every single case in detail so I cannot give any specific judgment on any specific case). However, how can you say they are merely independent idiots and not propaganda proxies supported indirectly by some government? Whether this is actually true or not for any specific case is irrelevant for the overall picture. Especially when there is proof that at least for some prominent cases the idiots are really funded by such governments and given a platform.

    Those with good reputations are forgiven their mistakes, while those with evil reputations will be mistrusted in their good deeds.

    When trust is lost, no amount of proof will be enough.

    < Everything above should not be understood as a prescriptive statement, "what you should do", but as a descriptive statement, "what just is".

    But I can give one point of advice: you must first make people trust you. And trust is earned by developing a good true reputation.
    (this is a general 'you', not specifically directed at anyone).

    You (S Ortmann) however are right about freedom meaning protecting speech you don't agree with. Sadly some idiots in charge are polluting the presentation of this idea by giving some extremists platforms and financial support.

  2. The door swings both ways, and Sven is spot on with his assessment. The vast majority of those "protesters" are young people without jobs and noyhing better to do than demolishing buildings and rampaging through the streets. This has very little to do with genuine hurt feelings, religion etc. A major thing in common in all these countries is a hefty amount of social and political instability. This in turn will always favour fanatics and populists, who like to instrumentalise public unrest for their own benefits. See the protests against Germany in Sudan, which have nothing whatsoever to do with lost trust.

    If Iran demands of the US to punish their idiots as a sign of sincere non-support, it just shows how much the Iranian government is driving their own ideological agenda and how much they despise such liberties of speech and opinion. I am no friend of American policy or many of their so-called cultural values, but whats happening at the moment is a travesty, wholly caused by issues in the Muslim countries themselves.

  3. "To demand that others stop being so tolerant equals demanding that they drift into tyranny."

    Very true, and well formulated.

    One could take the example of the decline of the Abbasid civilisation in Baghdad and how the exchange of knowledge, based on tolerance and a flexible mind, was smothered by a variety of idiots (both domestic and foreign).

    On a later date, the Ulugh Beg Observatory also is a moral tale : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulugh_Beg_Observatory

    Not only would we go back to tyranny, but typically idiots are the controlling forces in a tyranny.

    Also, let's not forget how the really important breakthrough of science in Europe was due to a handful of people, who worked with next to no means, and were opposed by almost everybody. (Galileo, Tycho Brahe etc.)

    A lot of idiots thump their chest with pride about the "intellectual superiority of the Europeans", not understanding they represent the same kind of idiocy that smothered science in the first place.