Wednesday, August 08, 2007

For freedom and serfdom! For God and slavery!

These were the slogans of the two warring parties in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Romulus the Great. (BTW, how come so few people here seem to read Dürrenmatt? He is quite good.)

These slogans somehow came into my mind when I was reading this.

The ministry of interior wants to make Finland "the safest and the most multivalue country in Europe". They are planning to do it by practicing zero tolerance towards racism.

WTF is a multivalue country? I sort of dimly remember multivalued functions from math, but I am sure it's not the same thing. I haven't find a proper definition for a multivalue country or society, but almost all the pages that I googled and looked at say that a multivalue society (moniarvoinen yhteiskunta) is a society most characterized by tolerance.

Wow. They are going to make Finland Europe's most tolerant country by practicing zero tolerance towards racism. For tolerance and zero tolerance, comrades!

(Sounds funny when you put it in English. In Finnish, of course, they would use two different words, suvaitsevaisuus for tolerance, nollatoleranssi for zero tolerance.)

"Tolerance" is, of course, an empty word of the kind that politicians use when they want votes. Along with "freedom", "equality", etc.- and, increasingly, "freedom of speech". We are all for tolerance, freedom, equality and freedom of speech. Almost everyone you ask will tell you that they are very tolerant of everything except the kinds of things that cannot be tolerated. It's what can and cannot be tolerated that people disagree on.

Hey, I am all for catching all the people who'd punch somebody in the nose for belonging to a wrong ethnic or religious group, and punishing them enough to make them decide not to do so again. It's just that I have a feeling (you may call this a prejudice if you wish) that the zero tolerance for racism won't stop there.

I suspect that "zero tolerance for racism" will mean that there will be some official truth about the races: "races don't exist, but they are equal in intelligence and all the other abilities, even though intelligence cannot be measured in any way anyway, and any statistical differences between ethnic or religious groups are either an illusion or society's fault anyway". I also suspect that "zero tolerance for racism" will mean that the people who publicly deviate from the official truth will be punished.

Rasism is a negative thing. But I just wish that anti-racism crusaders would clearly say what they are trying to do. What kinds of things do they want to make illegal, what kinds of things do they merely disapprove of? Do they want to outlaw racist violence? Discrimination? What counts as discrimination? Do they want affirmative action quotas? In what kind of places? Do they want ethnic jokes to be outlawed? What counts as an incitement against a group? Is it ok to say that group A is better than group B in some kind of things? Does the answer to the previous question depend on whether the statement is factually true?

Yeah, I know the answers vary, which is why I wish people made themselves clear. Or else we can just say that we are all for everything good and against everything bad, and leave it at that.

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