No wonder middle Australia is keeping its head down. Once we were described as a tolerant bunch, but now we find out that the idea of simply tolerating someone or something is actually abhorrent. How could we have gotten that so wrong?
In a clear demonstration that the battle for language has now disappeared down the rabbit hole and is well on its way to a visit to Humpty Dumpty, a petitionary letter by former Fairfax journo, Ben Grubb, advocating a Safe Schools 2.0 program – a Safe Schools Lite if you will -, crashed and burned over the difference between the word “tolerance” and the word “acceptance”.
The result? A whole bunch of well meaning Australian celebs, such as actor Guy Pearce, and singer Missy Higgins, who had signed a petition calling for a program similar to Safe Schools, but that didn’t push so many conservative buttons, suddenly had to press rewind/throw car into reverse/issue huge mea culpas.
How foolish Pearce and Higgins must be feeling now, and how quickly things turned on them. Almost as quickly as it turned on Coopers and The Bible Society. Grubb now finds himself almost as grubby as the ACL is to the gay community.
Grubb issued a statement himself:
“One of the biggest mistakes I made— and it was made by me alone — was in the drafting of the letter, with the word ‘acceptance’ omitted from the framework proposed for teaching, and the letter referring to not seeking seeking ‘approval’ of the way certain members of our society live.
“Instead, the words ‘tolerance’ and ‘mutual respect’ were used.
“I made the decision to omit the word highlighted above. This is a decision I deeply regret and I am truly sorry for. I am sorry to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community, many of whom have told me that by doing this represented the letter pandering to conservative views.
I expect he will be crying into his beer for a few weeks yet. His reputation may never recover, although he was quick to use the term “pandering to conservative views’ to highlight how sinful (and I use the word advisedly) he had been. In sin and shame cultures such as the new modern secular frame, it’s always useful to have a “I once was blind, but now I see” moment to fall back on.
Once the backlash had begun on Twitter on the use of the toe-curling word “tolerance”, celebrities who had signed the letter, suddenly decided that their signatures were in actual fact the product of fake news, attributable to Russia or Trump or whatever, and dived for cover quicker than an Italian gangster in a Scorcese movie.
Hey, Australian news even made the BBC, so we must be important, right? And it wasn’t even about kangaroos or outback serial killers and stuff.
You can see how complicated this thing is getting, and Eternity News did a good job of overviewing the issue.
Tolerance is now seen as bad. That’s right. Bad! And I spend the 80s at school and university being told how good it was as an idea. Turns out, once again, that the children of the revolution are getting chewed up and spat out by their children.
Tolerance is now a sniffy word that indicates a disdain of something, but a resigned decision to put up with it. And that’s not going to be enough. Acceptance it must be. Acceptance is a positive word, and implies, nay demands, approval. Or else.
Perhaps it’s the “or else” aspect of it that is most worrisome, And if positive advocates of LGBTI rights, such as Ben Grubb, are having to scramble to save their reputations, then what long term chance anyone who says “sorry, but tolerance is all you get.”
Me? Personally? I’ve always thought the word “tolerance” was useless. It’s a nothing word and always was. It was designed to make us all feel good about others. Let me backtrack. It was designed to make us feel good about ourselves. To show how progressive and forward thinking we were about difference.
Now? Now it’s done a complete 180 degrees and is the epitome of, in this push for Utopian progress, a Neanderthal term. But as I said, the children of the revolution will always find themselves up against the wall facing the firing squad eventually.
And the word “acceptance?” It’s acceptable. For now. But don’t hold your breath. It’s likely that before too long we’ll discover it contains all sorts of hidden nasties that we didn’t realise; nasties that don’t affirm those in need of constant affirmation by everyone all of the time.
I just hope some of that much vaunted acceptance spills over to Ben Grubb in the next few days, cos I’ve got a gut feeling he’s probably sitting at home self-loathing right now, or at least barely being able to tolerate himself. Cos in this superior world of “Acceptance “sinners have to work their way back in to the centre. They have to prove themselves all over again, climb a few ladders, avoid a few snakes. Then, if all goes well, he can go back cap in hand, having paid double for his sins.
With luck and karma (cos he’ll need both in that graceless space he occupies called the public square) he might be tolerated for a while, before being begrudgingly accepted back into the fold.