Monday, 17 June 2013

Bigotry

Placard, Sign, Protester, Silly, Bigot, Bigotry, Freedom of speech, Rights
Is this man a bigot? Or just someone with a different opinion? Hmm.

BIGOTRY

Noun. Late 17th century.
[French, of unknown origin; partly through French bigoterie.]

Obstinate and unreasonable adherence to a religious or other opinion;
narrow-minded intolerance; an instance of this. 


"The mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract."
Oliver Wendell Holmes Snr.

Bigotry: there can be few uglier words in English than this. It's misshapen ungainliness of form and clumsy disjointed phonemes well match the ramshackle and ill-informed mind of the bigot. Bigotry tries to stand tall as a word, puffed out in the barrel-chested B and sweeping G, but it diminishes quickly, sloping away like the bigot himself to reveal a character that's pathetic, miserable and above all frightened. 

The problem with bigotry is that it provokes such righteous indignation, such heaving revulsion, that it's nigh on impossible to retain any sense of objectivity when it's encountered. Far worse, a liberal and egalitarian mind will suffer the onset of this revulsion at the mere whiff of bigotry, at the mere suspicion of it, and therein lies the problem: once one has mentally labelled a person a bigot, even a potential bigot, there is an automatic shutting off to any argument that's put forward. Any concession or common ground is rejected outright for fear that we might be betraying our higher morality, somehow sharing in their bigotry.

Such a reaction is understandable. Bigotry thrives on profoundly emotive and divisive human issues: racism, politics, religion, to name but a few. Opposite opinions in these spheres might not just be unpalatable to us but downright loathsome. However, liberally tossing out the slur 'bigot' with little or no engagement is narrow-minded, counter-productive and, ironically, rather bigoted in itself. Whatever bigotry is, it certainly is not someone that merely has a different, even radically different, opinion to us, nor is it someone that is different to us.

That's not to say, of course, that there aren't bigots and there isn't bigotry. It exists, and it should be countered wherever it is found with the cold light of reason and objectivity. Slurs, insults and name-calling are the refuge of bigotry; reasoned discussion and debate is its enemy. Ultimately, if we find someone that resolutely fits that ugly definition - intractably obstinate and unreasonable, showing narrow-minded intolerance, someone that's not interested in reason or truth or evidence - we can at least refuse to be drawn down with the bigot into his bigoted ways, into the language of fear-mongering, intolerance and sweeping generalisations. Bigotry is an ugly word and an infectious mindset, a path along which one must fight not to be drawn.

A member of the English Defense League gets a chance to explains his concerns

Please do leave any comments below. 

14 comments:

  1. The biggest problem with the bigot isn't just his/her stupidity. It's that they're rather short-tempered when met with non-bigot people. They're not up for rational reasoning, hence they have to resort to a different kind of communication. It's rather sad, actually. It's a vicious cycle the bigot's unable to exit.

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    1. That's true Bibi - but it's a problem that runs both ways. There's a tendency for people who are opposed to bigotry to display a similar anger (I'm guilty of this myself), which immediately shuts down any dialogue that might resolve such hateful views and runs the risk of two people just shouting slurs at each other: "Bleeding-heart leftie!" "Bigot!" "Communist!" "Fascist!" etc. etc.

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    2. So there's no way we'll ever come to a mutual understanding? That's even more sad :/

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    3. Of course there is: reasoned discussion on the issues involved with voices kept down : o )

      Of course, there will always be those that refuse that (the true bigot) and there's not much one can personally do about those, but one needn't become a bigot in the process.

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  2. I do hope today's post wasn't intended to target Nick Number.

    By the way, I hear the OED has some new additions including 'tweet' and 'dad-dancing.'

    -clueless.

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    1. Nick Number? Should that mean something? One of these so-called "bloggers", is he?

      I can't believe it's taken tweet this long to get into the OED.

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    2. It seems to me that the term bigot would be far more appropriately applied to a person who espouses the exclusive study of one work (let's say, for the sake of example, a trifling thing such as a dictionary) while blithely ignoring the merits of far superior ones (such as the all-glorious Wikipedia).

      One given to this sort of bloody-minded obstinance will cast aspersions on the contributors to other projects, without deigning to mention that the object of his own obsequious scrutiny was constructed in large part by a madman who was, even more scandalously, an American.

      How can any right-thinking person take such ravings seriously?

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    3. Umm ... Nick? I don't mean to be a damp squid but I think you'll find it's 'casting NASTURTIAMS' ... sheesh ... some people.

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    4. Bibi, Evi, Kara etc, take cover - I think we have a dictionary-off! My money's on Ed.

      -clueless

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    5. Hmm, I had wondered what this little fruit was doing in my just desserts. I was about to remark that it seemed like quite a caper.

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    6. A "Dictionary-off"! Perhaps that term deserves official word-status as well haha!

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    7. Yes I'm warming to the idea of a dictionary-off!

      We could set up a league, with regional, national and international competitions. It will be bigger than hip-hop; parents across the world will be banning their kids from reading dictionaries.

      This could be big guys! Well ... umm ... not big ... colossal (yes that's better), commodious, titanic ... umm ... gargantuan, a behemoth ... wow this is tiring. I'm going for a lie down : o /

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  3. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I clicked on this post perhaps, especially after your selection of image. As a Christian, I wondered what the post might entail, but I was not disappointed. (Though perhaps highlighting Christians as bigots was quite saddening.)

    Your statement, "However, liberally tossing out the slur 'bigot' with little or no engagement is narrow-minded, counter-productive and, ironically, rather bigoted in itself. Whatever bigotry is, it certainly is not someone that merely has a different, even radically different, opinion to us, nor is it someone that is different to us."
    I appreciated this statement for its clear denouncing of labeling a specific group as bigots. I am a Christian. I am not a bigot. I can be someone whose beliefs are often at odds with others without being a bigot or labeling someone else a bigot.
    Reasoned, but impassioned, discussion - yes.

    Thanks Ed.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Kara.

      It certainly wasn't my intention to sweepingly paint all Christians as bigots. I picked the picture and the video that I did because they represent areas (politics and religion) where there is both a problem with bigotry existing and also with bigotry being perceived just because someone has a different opinion or belief. Conviction in one's beliefs, too, can often be labelled as bigotry. Both the Christian and the EDL member are expressing themselves with conviction - readers can make up their own minds as to whether they're bigots or not, or whether indeed they would need to sit down with them for further discussion to know at all : o )

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