Repressive Tolerance

We experience a ruptured existence in our country. The rupture is harsh and decisive. Our silence seems to have become repressive tolerance. It appears that we are immersed in a intensely consecrated moment which manifests our heartless coldness as Indians. There is heinous violence around us brewed by a politics of hate and fear. Unfortunately, it appears that some of us are taking pride in the current state of affairs that are haunting us. Our tolerance, opinions and attitudes about what is being unjustly outlawed appears to serve the cause of oppression. And ruins our country. Hence, we may have to say that our tolerance is far from liberating tolerance. Hence, it important to examine the notion of repressive tolerance of Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse a critical theorist of the Frankfurt school has scrutinized repressive tolerance. His work may illumine our condition today. Our practice of repressive tolerance seems to have pushed us into a kind of unrecognition of society that we have come to be. We have submitted before powers that be without resistance and are tolerating their excesses against the poor, innocent, women, dalit and tribal. Things appear worse as our democracy has merged with authoritarianism. This kind of tolerance unfortunately strengthens the tyranny of the majority.

In such a condition of tolerance, Marcuse aptly says that tolerance has been turned from active to passive state that moves from practice to non-practice. This unfortunately leads to tolerance of that which is radically evil leading to systematic moronization of our people. Such a toleration minimizes our alternative ways of being humans and Indians and is married to the neo-liberal economy. Perhaps, we may have to hesitatingly agree that our civilization has become delinquent. Our repressive tolerance, therefore, is fast transforming us into an oppressive and repressive society. We seem to need liberative or emancipative tolerance that is intolerant to oppressive hegemonies and imperialisms that are growing around us. Our toleration of the movement of aggression rather than the movements of peace is indeed an indicator of the level at which we as a society have fallen. When national security and nationalism become an ideology as Slavoj Zizek tells us that our tolerance of oppression and exploitation grows by bounds. Good of the nation becomes indistinguishable from the promotion of vested interest. We than tolerate violence and injustice against the innocent as we see it as necessary for the immunity of our nation. We thus, become subjected to what Byung-Chul Han calls immunological thinking.

Charles Baudelaire talks of the dangers of destructive tolerance, particularly in the context of benevolent neutrality towards art. We receive all forms of art with great enthusiasm that provides a friendly receptacle in which radical art or protesting art is swallowed up. There is no open censorship of art, but real art that show mirror to the society is castrated. Truth, also has a history of being persecuted. This is so because often truth is welcome by the powers that be. But history has a way of correcting the past errors. The correction does not help the victims as it comes quite late. But it does not absolve the tyrants even long after they have breathed their last. Meanwhile, our ability to tolerate evil, oppression and exploitation multiplies the victims and impedes liberation. But the paradox is that we do not merely tolerate oppression and repression, we suffer it. Besides, we have reached a point that our tolerance and silence is produced by the sword of Damocles that is dangled over our heads. When we fall silent and become passive, the minority that does the dissenting work is also rendered harmless and inconsequential. Thus, our toleration of nonsense, propaganda and even lies only ends up subverting our democracy. This subversion is accelerated by the monopolistic media that choose to toe the line of the rulers. But the human and national costs of these choices of the media and our toleration of the same is destroying our democracy with every passing day.

We have the imperative, therefore, to re-examine the kind of tolerance that prevails in our society. We have the challenge to scrutinize the costs of our silence and passive inaction. Perhaps, our toleration has crossed all limits and it is high time that we learn to be intolerant to our tolerance that has become repressive. Napoleon Bonaparte has succinctly said, ‘the world suffers a lot, not because of violence of the bad people but because of the silence of the good people’. We may have to discern whether we stand on the side of the silent majority. It is indeed time that we embrace liberative or emancipative tolerance. Emancipative tolerance cannot tolerate oppression, exploitation and injustice especially to the poor, the weak and the subaltern. We, therefore, have to give up our regressive repressive tolerance for the love our country. It is this very love that will move us to fight for the poor and the exploited. Repressive tolerance is not neutral it has chosen its sides. Emancipative tolerance that we wish to embrace does not come naturally. We have to make a deliberate discerning decision. This is why emancipative tolerance may begin to appear intolerance. To come to this genuine tolerance, we have the challenge to give up or step away from the toleration of the so-called ruling class. But we have to note that the forces of emancipation cannot be identified by a class or caste. We have this challenge of discernment to choose emancipation and reject repression and oppression. Emancipative tolerance has deep respect to every human being and has dissent as it constituting element. Perhaps, we have to choose to follow the Freudian Ego and not the Id or the Super Ego of our society. Both capitalism, fascism / the politics of the right wing gives great importance id and super ego respectively. Choosing the way of the Ego will enable us to bring a peaceful, prosperous and harmonious India for all.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao