So first off…what is toleration?
Having toleration and tolerating something according to Wikipedia (the final arbiter of all knowledge) are two different things. However for the purpose of this blog post I’ll say toleration is:
“the act of allowing the existence of some entity that one may dislike and is in power to do otherwise.”
For example, when I allow a particularly bad looking plant to stay on the front porch because my partner enjoys it while I do not. Here it’s toleration on the basis of someone else’s needs and not my own. The idea of toleration therefore seem to me to be pretty useful for any society that would like to flourish. If you want a multitude of ideas to exist in society and for them to compete you’re going to have to tolerate some without devaluing the autonomy of others.
However, I only think this should happen when the acts themselves are more benign then not. For example if you oppose wage labor in a truly freed society then you can simply tolerate the existence of it by stopping people physically. But you can also try to get people to do some alternatives such as work with their fellow workers in collectives, cooperatives and more. Here, the act of toleration is actually only toleration in the direct physical sense to you. While you won’t forcibly stop anyone from doing wage labor you’re working against the idea via bringing up alternatives ones you find more effective. If the other people don’t join you then you’ll just have to try harder or else just focus your energies elsewhere.
One of the biggest upsides to being tolerant is that it promotes more easily a sense of free thinking in a society. If people aren’t afraid of speaking their mind as much so long as it does not promote oppression of some sort then society may flourish on both the collective and individual level. Why? Well ideas will be more free roaming than they would have been otherwise. If we have a society based on people shutting down most of the other ideas the people in the higher social positions don’t like we won’t have a very innovative society will we?
One of the biggest downsides to toleration however is when toleration just becomes passivity. There’s a certain (and I think legitimate) concern about things like multiculturalism as being too ethically relativist and allowing oppression to exist for the sake of diversity. I think that this concern is pretty well backed up by allowing things like racial, ethnic, religious, economic, etc. divides in many countries getting out of hands on the basis of “well that’s how they exist” and not trying to promote other ways. In some ways toleration can sometimes just become sort of pacifying effect for thinking and people just stop questioning things on the basis of “diversity”.
You see this with a lot of laws congress dolls out in the name of “racial diversity” and so on. I think it also applies to people who say bad strategies like electoral politics for anarchists should be used because it allows multiple ways of attacking the state. This is of course question begging since it doesn’t even state whether we should sacrifice efficiency for diversity and why this is.
So I think toleration can be a great thing. For myself I think it just has to be done to the point of allowing possibly good ideas to thrive. And then the ideas that may lead to oppression and so on should be diverted as best as possible with the least amount of violence possible.