When I was just a callow youth, it seemed to me that the only thing we can legitimately be intolerant about is intolerance itself.
I was young and idealistic, so don’t be too hard on me. After all, which of us in our teens has not been all taken up with the things we read, by the ideas flooding in on top of us from all directions, by the notions we’re soaking up by the million from the books we’re reading and the conversations we’re having with our peers and by whatever interesting, educated mentors we can manage to corner and interrogate, like Pepe le Peu amorously grasping a cat?
It’s ok. That’s the way teenagers are, or at least those teenagers who care about ideas, and I’m delighted to see that thinking kids still give a shit about the things that matter.
But as the years have passed, that countless flood of years piling wrinkle upon wrinkle and disaster upon disaster, can I still stand over the assertion I made with pride to nobody in particular, since nobody, quite rightly, gave a flying toss what I was trying to say?
Was my intense nineteen-year-old long-haired nerdy self correct in suggesting that the only thing we can legitimately be intolerant about is intolerance itself?
Maybe. And then again maybe not. Nineteen-year-olds don’t do nuance, but I suspect I might have stumbled onto something by accident, the notion that extremism is not amenable to debate, and as time passed, I became more and more convinced that some people are simply not receptive to openness, tolerance, debatingness and general touch-feely come-on-in-and-we’ll-have-a-chatness.
Why? Because some people don’t give a flying fuck how tolerant you are. Some people are out to kill you or rob you no matter how many organic ethnic kaftans you’ve woven using the braided knee-hair of naturally-deceased bees from the Dalai Lama’s personal hive.
Some people are unthinking, murderous violent bastards who do not give one flying shit about you or anyone else.
Debate? They don’t care.
Discussion? They don’t care.
Reconciliation? Here. Have a bullet in the head.
We’ve seen these movements throughout history. We saw it in Cambodia. We saw it in Europe during the Forties. We saw it in Yugoslavia only twenty years ago. We saw it in Rwanda.
If you were a Palestinian, you might, with good reason, think that the Israeli government was such a movement and yet you’d be wrong. For all their faults and for all their violence, for all the murders they have inflicted on Gaza, they don’t come anywhere close to the demented, ideological, religiously-driven Islamic State, a movement that has attracted every maniac in the Middle East and from further afield.
These people represent the embodiment of intolerance, in my view. They don’t respect the right of anyone else to have an existence. They will never negotiate, they will never debate, they will never compromise, because these people are driven by an insanity deriving from religion and nationalism, the two worst infections that ever afflicted humanity.
They’ll kill you if you let them, and this brings me back to my teenaged assertion.
Should we tolerate people who don’t care what we think?
Yes, we should.
Should we tolerate people who have utter contempt for our beliefs, or our lack of belief?
Should we tolerate those who think we should be dead?
Should we tolerate people who set up an army, who try to exterminate everyone they feel contempt for and who have no interest in debate?
What we should do with such people is precisely what Colonel Kurtz, who led the same sort of group, recommended at the end of Apocalypse Now.
Drop the bomb. Kill them all.
I don’t say it with any sense of satisfaction or superiority. I don’t say it because I think religious ideologues need to be killed. I don’t say it because intolerant people need to be killed. I don’t say it because extreme people need to be killed.
I say it because killers need to be killed.
I say it because if these killers are not killed, they’ll go on killing.
Here’s the problem, of course, the overwhelming question. How can we possibly ask the Americans to do this after all we said about them?
The answer is easy. The answer is printed there on every display in every kitchen shop and every craft outlet:
If you break it, you own it.
It’s that simple.
Britain and the US broke Iraq. Their misguided invasion created ISIS and now they need to put down the wretched creature that their actions spawned. There’s no way out of this for the self-named Coalition of the Willing. Having stormed into Iraq and having awoken this monster, it falls to them to return it to its crypt, by extreme, overwhelming violence.
This time, there will be no free oil-fields for them to plunder. This time, they simply have to face the thing they created and put it down.
Sometimes, the only answer to intolerance is intolerance.