Thursday, 11 October 2012

The paradox of tolerance

One of the many characteristics of the various social movements that have emerged in Chile is that they call for more and better democracy, yet there is little consensus on what this actually means. I suspect that many emerging groups, from youth to environmental groups, have pretty deep misconceptions of democracy. As a result, it has become fashionable to 'take' public buildings as a form of protest. This basically involves invading public space, sometimes not allowing work to continue. The University of Chile's emblematic building was thus occupied for many months last year and for a short period this year. It was damaged from within and covered with graffiti from without.

Another form of protest is the 'funa' which may be a boycott or a form of public shaming. One student activist, counterintuitively thinking it would bolster Chilean democracy, called for a 'funa' of the upcoming municipal elections.

Funas were used in the past to protest the presence of human rights abusers, but more often than not is now used to impede academic or political discourse, and can sometimes turn violent. This was the case last week when a professor was hit in the face with a bottle filled with paint, suffering possibly permanent damage to the eye.

All this reminded me of Popper's Paradox of Tolerance, which I reflect upon here.

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