#88 Making a Case for Intolerance

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

U.S. citizens are probably the most persecuted group of humans in the history of the world.  Every once of us is a member of some kind of minority.  If we're not, we pick a hobby that makes us a minority.  If we're the ruling majority, we make a law that classifies us as a minority and we run with it.  Whatever group we belong to, no matter how small or weird, we expect that group to be honored as a minority and to be respected as if we are making a valuable contribution to the culture.

One of my hobbies is motorcycling.  Less than 0.5% of U.S. citizens own motorcycles.  Probably half of that group owns a Harley that is mostly unridden, either because it's broken or because its owner is investing a small fortune in customizing the bike and it hasn't been completely assembled since the early years of the Vietnam War.  So, an optimistic estimate of motorcyclists on the road, paying license taxes, contributing to air and noise pollution, amount to a measly one in four hundred citizens.  That's a serious minority.

I live a few hundred feet from a freeway.  I know that's not smart, but it's something I've mostly come to terms with.  I can safely say that a disproportionate contribution to my neighborhood's noise pollution comes from motorcycles.  The blast of motorcycle exhaust noise often overwhelms the blat of semis, the boom of rolling ghetto blaster pickups, and the other 399 of 400 vehicles on the road.

You'd think that noise pollution, alone, would make motorcyclists a bit apprehensive about their status in the vehicle culture.  Because of our minority status, we seem to be more arrogant about our social standing, if anything.  We have successfully overturned noise pollution requirements, helmet laws, emission standards, and common sense through political action and a lot of whining. 

That appears to the standard practice for all sorts of minorities.

Christians represent 5% of the religious world, but that doesn't keep one sect of Christians from acting like the Pope is the true ruler of the universe or another sect from believing that their favorite wild-eyed evangelist is God's only direct spokesman.  Christianity isn't alone in this sort of "my universe, love it or leave it" fantasy.  In fact, it's hard to find a dominant religion on this planet that isn't similarly deluded.  Taken individually, every one of these religions and sects of religions are a minority but they have taken their minority status and turned it into a political advantage, in their own minds.  Combining martyrdom, fanaticism, terrorism, and secular nationalism into a frenzy of self-delusion, the world's minorities create pockets of majority status for themselves. 

Like US motorcyclists, this sort of deluded outlook often gets run off of the road by reality.  Combining nationalism with religious minority paranoia is scary stuff, though.  That throws what Mr. Bush calls "weaponsh of mash disrushon" and a higher power's justification to use those weapons into the mix.  We're now operating at the intellectual level of "my god is tougher than your god." 

Another country operated on this level of paranoia in 1936 and their national delusion became a reality a few years later when all of the folks they imagined hating them really did hate them.  Germany followed a nutball, paranoid, I'm-doing-God's-will wacko all the way into World War II, under the justification that they were a picked-on VIP minority.  Crazy people are specially noxious when they collect in large groups and begin sharing their fantasies.  Sane people tend to want to put walls around them, isolate them, and remove their access to weapons and pointy objects.  Or blow them up.  If we don't find a way to police our crazy people, the rest of the world is going to start wondering if they need to do it for us.

August 2004

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