The Causes of Human Rights Violations (43): Disgust

Disgust can be good or bad for human rights. It’s probably true that no amount of rational argument against torture, incest, cannibalism etc. is as strong as the feelings of disgust produced by such actions. Some, such as Leon Kass, have therefore conceptualized disgust as a kind of moral wisdom: wisdom which can’t necessarily articulate itself or reason about itself, but which nevertheless guides our actions in a morally sound direction and guides them better and more effectively than rational argument. Disgust or nausea often makes us shudder, literally, at the immorality of others or ourselves. As a result, it helps to bring about a better world, and it does so more effectively than reasoning or persuasion (in this sense, disgust is similar to other emotions such as sympathy and shame).

Disgust is not an argument, but that’s a strength rather than a weakness if you believe the likes of Kass. It grips us, whereas arguments can be boring or unconvincing. (This can also explain why many of us have a love-hate relationship with disgust: we’re disgusted by some things, but at the same time we relish this disgust). Because of its gripping force, disgust is the human psyche policing itself and other psyches, keeping desire and passion in check and in the process making life in society a lot easier.

That is why some view disgust as the evolutionary origin of morality and law. Initially a protection mechanism against putting bad, rotten or infected stuff into our mouths, disgust quickly evolved from an emotion focused on physical health to one including morality. Moral disgust came about as one of society’s self-preserving forces, and human evolution favored the emotion because it produces social benefits such as taboos, rules and order. Human evolution favored this extension of the feeling of disgust into the realm of morality because it made social life easier, more orderly and more peaceful. These supposed evolutionary origins of moral disgust give it an added advantage compared to more rational approaches to morality: the latter can be unconvincing but most people in the world will even fail to hear them, whereas the evolutionary origins of moral disgust means that it drives all people, even those who will never hear a moral argument in their entire lives. Moral disgust therefore delivers immediate, reflexive and almost universal moral judgments.  

Complicating this simple evolutionary theory is the fact that disgust doesn’t seem to be innate, at least not in all cases: children are notoriously lacking this emotion and don’t develop it until they are three years old or something. This diminishes the strength of the evolutionary part of the argument. However, a more important problem with the argument is the fact that the objects of disgust are not the same throughout history and across societies. What was disgusting centuries ago isn’t anymore – or vice versa – and different societies find different things disgusting. Agreed, the range is somewhat limited: disgust is mostly about things related to the human body (e.g. torture), and more specifically to metabolism (eating and excreting disgusting things with our disgusting intestines), sex (doing disgusting things with each other with our disgusting organs) and mortality (being a disgusting corpse). But within this range many different things can be viewed as disgusting, and it’s not obvious that all the things we would label immoral from a reasoned point of view are always and everywhere disgusting, or that everything that is seen as disgusting by some is also immoral upon reflection.

For all these reasons, we have to conclude that disgust isn’t a very reliable moral faculty. It can make mistakes, and often has. Not so long ago, the supposed body odor of blacks, their curly hair and facial features routinely provoked disgust among whites (still today but less commonly so). And I’m convinced that this disgust was a major cause of the subjugation of blacks. The same is true for some, now less pervasive beliefs about the disgusting nature of homosexual activity.

So it’s clear that disgust can be either beneficial or detrimental for human rights. Lack of disgust where disgust would be appropriate can lead someone to violate someone else’s rights, but inappropriate disgust can have the same result. One would therefore be wrong to label disgust as a kind of moral wisdom, superior to rational thinking about morality. 

The problem is then how to distinguish good disgust from bad disgust. For example, why is disgust directed at pedophilia appropriate, whereas disgust about interracial sex is not? Whatever the answer, we won’t get there without reasoning. Hence, reasoning reclaims its position at the top of moral faculties. Disgust, rather than a type of moral wisdom, seems to be a socially transmitted and culturally specific substitute for the absence of reasons.

This is why many argue against the use of disgust as a tool for human rights protection. In theory, it could work, just as the incitement of shame and sympathy can work. But it’s dangerous:

maybe we should try portraying racism and racists as disgusting. The powerful influence of this emotion might help push racism to the edge of society or eliminate it altogether, but my response is that we still shouldn’t do it. It’s not ethically appropriate to deliberately depict any group of people as disgusting because disgust makes it very easy to dehumanize, and that would do the very thing we seek to undo. (source)

More posts in this series are here.

The Causes of Human Rights Violations (37): Our Brains

Using modern brain scanning technology, researchers have found delays of about half a second between a person’s brain committing to certain decisions and the person becoming aware of having made them.

Benjamin Libet is famous – or infamous if you want – for his experiments in the 1980s, showing a consistent build-up of electrical activity from the brain’s motor cortex before participants were consciously aware of their desire to move. Apparently, brain activity – unconscious buildup of electrical charge within the brain – precedes conscious decisions to perform volitional, spontaneous acts. In other words, unconscious neuronal processes precede and potentially cause volitional acts which are retrospectively felt to be consciously motivated by the subject. If unconscious processes in the brain are the true initiator of volitional acts, then there is no free will; or if there is free will it shouldn’t be viewed as the initiating force.

If unconscious brain processes have already taken steps to initiate an action before consciousness is aware of any desire to perform it, the causal role of consciousness in volition is all but eliminated. (source)

An example:

scientists in 2008 were able to predict with 60% accuracy whether subjects would press a button with their left or right hand up to 10 seconds before the subject became aware of having made that choice. (source, source)

How can a choice be free if scientists can predict it with relative certainty? It seems that our conscious experience of decision-making is nothing but a secondary effect, a mere biochemical afterthought, with no influence whatsoever on our actions and reactions.

If this demotion of free will is correct – and that’s a big if – then rights violations aren’t caused by people who decide to violate them. They are instead caused by their brains. This is a depressing idea because it implies that we can’t do much about rights violations, short of clinical or chemical interventions in the brain. It also implies that we can’t hold violators responsible for their actions, since it’s their brains rather than their conscious volition that is the real cause of those actions.

More on free will here. More posts in this series are here.

Human Rights and Anarchism

At first sight, anarchism is an attractive theory for proponents of human rights. It’s often the state that violates human rights and getting rid of the state would therefore automatically and drastically reduce the number of rights violations. However, state action isn’t the only cause of rights violations; our fellow citizens can also take away our rights or fail to act in ways that protect our rights. When that happens, we often go to the state for protection. We regularly ask judges and police officers to protect our rights to physical security, property and life, and we depend on the government to provide education, poverty relief, transportation infrastructure etc.

Anarchists claim that we don’t necessarily have to go to the state for those forms of protection or provision. For example, the monopolization of violence by the state isn’t the only possible means to achieve physical security and protection of property. One can imagine private companies offering their protection services. That would also be more fair to those who need those services less (for example because they have less property or because they live somewhere isolated). In a government protection scheme, these people pay as much as anyone else (at least proportionally, given a more or less progressive tax system) whereas in a system of private protection services they could pay less or even nothing at all if they so wish.

One problem with a system of private protection services is that it can’t regulate violence or theft among the different service providers (a form of insecurity that can affect individuals as well). Anarchists could reply that a natural monopoly would arise as a result of that risk, but a monopoly would then drive up the price of security, which would be detrimental to the buyers and would, in the end, make government provided security look like a better deal. And government is definitely a better deal for those who can’t afford to buy private security.

And then there are of course the other, non-security related human rights. A free market solution to education, healthcare etc. is possible, but again would likely be insufficient for those who don’t have the means to buy those services. Rights are important first and foremost for vulnerable members of a community. If these people can’t count on rights, rights aren’t of much use. We all have rights and the protection of those rights shouldn’t be dependent on our individual ability to pay for them.

Of course, it’s true that rights cost money, and somehow this cost has to be covered in whichever way we think is best. But it seems better and more fair to cover this cost by way of taxation than by way of voluntary purchase, because then at least people’s rights don’t depend on their ability to pay, even though they depend on an overall social ability to cover the cost.

Moreover, free market solutions can cause free rider problems, especially in the case of public goods – and many human rights are public goods. If people have to pay for services, then some may be able to enjoy the services without paying. In private garbage collection systems, for instance, people who don’t pay for the collection may just put their garbage next door, together with the garbage of the paying neighbor. That is obviously not a human rights issue, but the same effect can occur when people have to pay for rights protection or provision. Let’s reiterate the example of security: if a certain number of people in an area pay a private security agency, then this agency will provide security in the area, even – to some extent – for those who don’t pay. This, of course, will convince many that they don’t have to pay. State protection or provision can also suffer from free rider problems, but at least the state can force people to pay (by way of taxation). However, government monopolies create the same problems as private monopolies (see above), so perhaps a mixed system of government and private rights protection and provision would be optimal.

Obviously, when we argue in favor of the relative advantages of state vis-à-vis private protection and provision of rights, we also have to acknowledge the practical reality that states often fail to protect and provide. They fail in two ways: many of them don’t sufficiently protect or provide, and much of what they do is completely unrelated to rights and often even detrimental to rights. We also have to admit that whatever the theoretical merits of either state or private protection and provision, the empirical reality is difficult to ascertain. Whereas we have many cases of state action – some good, some very bad – we have very few cases of attempted anarchy. That doesn’t help the case of anarchism. Maybe some theoretical shortcomings of anarchism don’t turn out so bad in practice, compared to the practice of government. And there’s of course the status quo bias which doesn’t help anarchism either: we know what we have, and trying something new is always risky.

The Ethics of Human Rights (52): Human Rights, Transhumanism and the Singularity

The word “transhumanism” covers a lot of different things, but it’s fair to say that it expresses the belief that in the (near) future, the human condition will fundamentally change and we will be able to overcome human limitations such as aging, dying, moving etc. Technology, science, medicine and psychology will allow us to become posthumans, “Humanity+”, “H+” or “>H”. Biotechnology, brain science, computer technology, robotics, nanotechnology etc. will make a “controlled and assisted evolution” of humanity possible. The word “singularity” marks – somewhat pompously – the hypothetical event occurring when technological progress has reached the stage after which the future will be qualitatively different, and humanity will become something else – perhaps even an immaterial species, uploadable unto computers.

Whether or not transhumanism is more than techno-utopia, science fiction or a pseudo-religion, it’s worthwhile to ask what the possible implications are for human rights. Will posthumans still need human rights? One can indeed view human rights as solutions to human shortcomings, and when these shortcomings disappear, then so will human rights – an immaterial human will not need a right against torture or against poverty.

Of course, a lot will depend on the specific nature of the posthuman or transhuman future, and that’s where transhumanists have widely different opinions. The implications for human rights are enormous when you believe that in the posthuman future, human minds or human consciousness can be transferred to a computer (“mind uploading“). The uploaded mind can then reside in a computer or “internet”, inside (or connected to) a humanoid or non-humanoid robot, or even inserted into another biological body, replacing its brain (perhaps through cloning). If people no longer need their physical bodies, they obviously also no longer need certain rights that serve the requirements or correct the deficiencies of the physical body: the right to food or shelter, the right to a certain standard of living and the right to physical security and bodily integrity become meaningless.

If that is true (a big “if”), then transhumanism can be seen as a technological solution to human rights problems. Compared to human rights, transhumanism is then a far better way to solve certain problems of the human condition.

However, even if this is the future, it’s not certain that posthumans won’t need any human rights. Not even the extreme vision of posthumanity in which humans become totally free of their biological bodies and live “inside computers” will make human rights totally superfluous, although maybe these rights will have to be framed in another way. The right to life would then have to become something like “the right not to be deleted”. A right not to suffer poverty would become a right to basic usage of the network or CPU. A right to non-discrimination would be rephrased as a right to equal access to and equal usage of human enhancement technologies. Etc.

And finally, it’s also possible to view transhumanism as intrinsically hostile to human rights and as the playground for the already privileged. The narcissistic self-improvement of transhumanism can shift attention away from social justice. A lot of transhumanism is about the improvement of human bodies at the individual level, not the improvement of social, political or economic structures. The focus is also on technology rather than politics or law, and a love of technology shouldn’t obscure the real effectiveness of politics and law when it comes to protecting people’s human rights, and neither should it obscure the dangers inherent in technology (technology can be a tool for oppression and inequality; technological body modifications can be an expression and solidification of oppressive body ideals; and there are environmental concerns about technological development).

More posts in this series are here.

Limiting Free Speech (41): Crush Videos

In its irresistible march toward the deification of the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court has again decided in favor of free speech absolutism. (And it’s not like I don’t care about free speech). In United States v Stevens the Court ruled that a federal law criminalizing the commercial production, sale, or possession of so-called crush videos was an unconstitutional abridgment of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The movies in question are depictions of cruelty to animals, used to satisfy a particular “sexual fetish”. They feature the intentional torture and killing of helpless animals, often by women wearing high-heeled shoes who slowly crush animals to death while talking to them in a dominatrix voice (source).

Let’s assume that cruelty to animals is universally considered a crime. If we can agree on that, we can – I think – also agree that filming a crime and distributing the movie is not, by definition, a crime in itself. On the contrary, it can help solve the crime. Think of the Rodney King video for example. However, if a crime is filmed, and the makers of the film fail to notify the authorities, then they can be considered as accomplices or guilty of criminal neglect. The crime then is the failure to notify the cops, not the act of making a video. The video itself should not be banned or criminalized, only the failure to report a crime.

But we can go one step further. In the case of crush videos, the video of animal cruelty is not contingent to the act of cruelty itself. In other words, the act of cruelty – the crime – would not have taken place had it not been filmed. The precise purpose of the act of cruelty is its videotaping and the subsequent sale of the videotaped cruelty. There would have been no crime had it not been filmed. So, we can reasonably assume that the act of cruelty, the filming of it, and the distribution of the film are in fact one and the same act. It’s therefore wrong to claim that we are dealing here with a simple case of free speech. The speech part of the act – distributing the film – is inseparable from the other parts of the act – cruelty and filming. If you care about the enforcement of anti-cruelty laws, you should make the distribution of such movies illegal and carve out an exception to free speech. If, on the contrary, you allow the distribution, then you provoke, condone or at least accept the existence of cruelty. In the words of Alito – dissenting:

criminal acts … cannot be prevented without targeting … the creation, sale, and possession for sale of depictions of animal torture.

If you enforce anti-cruelty laws, you de facto limit freedom of speech. So, either you take an absolutist position on free speech and you have to allow animal cruelty and violation of the law, or you don’t want to allow that and then you can’t take an absolutist position.

Anyway, free speech absolutism isn’t a widely held position, not even in the Supreme Court. Many kinds of speech have historically been granted no constitutional protection by the Court (“well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem”):

However, in this case, the Supreme Court was not inclined to add an exception for another type of speech, even though the harms caused by animal cruelty perhaps outweigh those caused by obscenity for instance. This disinclination is even less understandable when you consider that in United States v Stevens, Justice Roberts – for the majority – cited the older rationale for prohibiting child pornography, namely that it’s a special case because the market for it is intrinsically related to the underlying abuse. How is the same rationale not applicable in the case of animal cruelty? It seems to me that both child pornography and depictions of animal cruelty fall within the Court’s longstanding jurisprudence that “speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute” (source) is a valid exception to the general rule of freedom of speech.

Freedom of Expression, or a Duty of Expression?

I often have the impression that people transform the right to free expression into a duty to free expression. And I don’t think that’s a good thing. For example, Muslims in western countries are often told that they should distance themselves from the more violent members of their religion. We require them to speak out against Muslim terrorism.

Another example: politicians, especially in the U.S., are required to speak out on a number of subjects, e.g. abortion, same-sex marriage, their faith in God etc. As if it would be a disaster to elect a politician who happens to doubt about abortion. After all, many people do (myself included).

A somewhat exaggerated view on democratic transparency is undoubtedly a small part of the explanation for this. Democracy can’t function without public knowledge of politicians’ opinions, or without some sense of what our fellow citizens believe (part of democracy is group formation, and group formation is based on discussion and persuasion; and you can’t persuade someone if you don’t know what he or she believes).

But the most important cause of this “duty of expression” is, I think, the manichean nature of contemporary politics. Every issue is painted in black and white, good and evil, for or against. We force people to express themselves on issues so that we can see if they are with us or against us. And if someone expresses him or herself in a nuanced way we automatically assume that he or she takes a position opposite from our own. For example, if Muslims reject Islamic terrorism but at the same time point to the situation in Palestine, we assume that they really think terrorism is OK, or justifiable given certain circumstances. We can’t accept muddled or nuanced middle ground positions, or positions which change according to the circumstances. Gray isn’t an option.

Clarity, simplicity and certainty are important human objectives, but often they aren’t appropriate in thinking. Of course, sometimes manicheism is the only possible position: you either believe the holocaust is a fact of history or you don’t; there’s no middle ground, and those who don’t believe in it are either stupid or evil. But when it comes to political or moral opinions (rather than facts), those who really think about them often find themselves occupying a gray, complex and uncertain position.

I suspect that the difficulty to let go of manicheism and to accept uncertainty and nuance has something to do with the nature of democratic politics. It’s hard to vote for nuance, and easy to vote for or against a clear and simple proposition. And simple propositions get more attention, sell better and make it easier to mobilize large constituencies (see the cartoon below). But then again, when we look at political reality, manicheism is much more common in autocratic societies. The public debate on issues which is made possible by democratic societies forces nuance to appear.

The difficulty to let go of manicheism also has something to do with the fear of the other extreme: the paralysis that follows from endless nuancing and thinking. Politics is a realm where decisions have to be taken, contrary to philosophy where thinking is unending in principle.

However, it doesn’t follow from this that decisiveness has to be manicheism. Decisions can be based on nuanced thinking. The risk of paralysis is averted by the realization that our decisions, often taken under the pressure of urgency, are necessary yet provisional, based on the best thinking available at the time, and open to revision when time has improved our thinking.

Limiting Free Speech (14): Religious Education in Public Schools

There can be nothing wrong with educating children about religion. And I say this as an agnostic. But religious education must include information about all the world’s main religions, and about atheism as well. And it also shouldn’t avoid mentioning some of the problems caused by religion. Children benefit from seeing all sides of the coin.

Even public schools, i.e. schools instituted, organized and funded by the government, should provide this kind of religious education. Banning religion from public schools is wrong, but not because it would be a limitation on the freedom of speech of religions, as some religious activists claim. It’s not because you’re not allowed to speak in a certain place that you’re not allowed to speak (freedom of speech does not include the right to say anything anywhere; if it would, then newspapers would be forced to print everything everyone asks them to print). Such a ban is wrong for another reason: it would be stupid and a disservice to children.

It would be politically and legally wrong to have public schools teach only one religion, or emphasize one religion. The separation of church and state does not allow agencies of the state – such as public schools – to be hijacked by a particular religion, even if it is the religion of the majority of citizens (I would even say, especially when it is).

If this were allowed, then a religion could then use its privileged position to compete unfairly with other religions, and the result would be the abolition of religious freedom. The choice of religion would then no longer be a free one. Children would be led to one religion. Rather than complete information on all religious options, necessary to make an educated choice between religions, children would have a one-sided view on religion.

For the benefit of their students, private schools are of course also advised to teach all religions. But since many of these private schools are religious schools, it is only fair to allow them to focus on their own religion. It would indeed be an unjustified encroachment on religious freedom if religions and churches were not allowed to organize their own system of education according to their own rules (even if it includes teaching that Darwin was wrong and that Dinosaurs and men walked the surface of the earth together – but evidently they wouldn’t do their pupils any favors).

As long as parents have a choice to send their children to such a religious school or to another, public school, then there is no problem. But this must be a real choice of course. If the public schools are of inferior quality, or difficult to reach, then there isn’t really a choice.

School prayer is quite another matter. Praying is not learning, and the demand of inclusiveness mentioned above does not appear to work in the case of prayer. Starting lessons with different prayers of different religions seems awkward. Hence, school prayer in public schools looks like the kind of hijack that is contrary to the separation of state and church.

The Causes of Human Rights Violations (9): Overlegislation and the Big State

I agree that a complex contemporary society needs a complex system of law, and I’m the last one to adopt a libertarian philosophy in which the state is evil (necessary evil or not) and should be kept as small as possible. I accept that the state has a role to play in poverty reduction and redistribution, for example. Laisser-faire leads to injustice.

However, the more rules there are, the more restrictions on individuals’ freedom to act. The rule of law, as opposed to a simple system of legislation, was designed precisely to limit the realm of state action and to open up a realm of society, distinct from the state, in which freedom can rule and laws do not apply. The more laws, the smaller this space of freedom (although one very general and vague law can also reduce this space to nothing). A big state is an enemy of freedom.

The rule of law limits the state and opens up the realm of society in the following way. It limits the number and scope of laws because it allows only laws that are discussed, voted and published according to formalized procedures, and that stay into force until the same procedures result in another conclusion. Moreover, laws in a system of rule of law must respect the fundamental laws, the constitution, and cannot go beyond what is allowed by the constitution (for example civil rights, in a democratic constitution). So the rule of law creates a legal system in which laws are limited and stable. The rule of law therefore creates freedom (from the law) and is incompatible with an ever expanding system of law.

By comparison, the legal system in an autocratic rule by a dictator (as opposed to the rule of law) can result in whatever law the dictator decides, and whatever change in the law he decides (if he bothers at all to use laws for the purpose of his rule). Such a system is inherently unstable, unpredictable, unlimited and expanding.

Another reason why laws should not be too numerous, distinct from the concern for freedom, is that an extensive system of law makes it very difficult to respect the law and without respect for the law, there is no rule of law. People should be given the opportunity to plan their lives in such a way that they can respect the law and can avoid running foul of the law. That’s very difficult when there are too many laws.

Knowing what things the law penalizes and knowing that these are within their power to do or not to do, citizens can draw up their plans accordingly. One who complies with the announced rules need never fear an infringement of his liberty. Unless citizens are able to know what the law is and are given a fair opportunity to take its directives into account, penal sanctions should not apply to them. John Rawls

For the same reason, i.e. giving people the possibility to respect the law, it is also unacceptable to have secret laws, retroactive laws (laws that punish acts that have occurred before the law came into force) and unstable laws (laws that change all of the time). Bad law as well is unacceptable, again for the same reason (by bad law I understand complex, incomprehensible and contradictory law, which are types of law that make it impossible for citizens to respect the law).

What is Democracy? (29): Vote Buying

Or, rather, what it should not be. Vote buying is a perversion of democracy. It is a system in which groups of citizens try to force the government to take decisions that correspond to their self-interest and that give them certain advantages, such as tax breaks, subsidies etc. Citizens try to force politicians by giving or threatening to take away their votes. They desire something and the price they pay is their vote. They give their votes and expect to be compensated for this. They sell their votes and their electoral fidelity for certain advantages. Citizens have votes and politicians need these votes; politicians have access to government-provided benefits and citizens need these benefits. Hence, it is natural that exchanges take place.

However, this kind of logic is of course detrimental to democracy. A first problem is that a benefit for one group is always at the expense of the rest of the population. The financial loss that results from a tax cut or a subsidy for a certain group, has to be compensated by increased contributions by the rest of the taxpayers. The advantages given to some people in return for their votes are, of course, not paid by the politicians themselves, but by the rest of the population. In fact, politicians buy their votes with the money of others. It is often the less vocal and hence those already disadvantaged who end up paying the bill.

Because politicians run the risk of losing power when voters go elsewhere to sell their votes, we often find politicians outbidding each other and promising ever more important benefits, to preserve or conquer power. They have to buy votes and fidelity by way of more and more benefits. Politics becomes a kind of inverted sales. Politicians have to grant ever more important benefits to entice voters in their camp. Votes are scarce and demand is high, especially before election periods. If demand is high and if there are several competing buyers, then prices go up. Votes become ever more expensive because buyers can be played off against each other.

This results in budget deficits, an over-sized state, and dependency. An economic logic is applied to politics, which as a result loses its identity. Democracy degenerates into an economic system in which groups of citizens use the competition between political parties (the competition for the votes of the citizens instead of the competition for the money of the citizens, as in the real economy), in order to achieve as many material benefits as possible in return for their votes (their only political capital). The political process has become a market process. The laws of economics (offer and demand, free competition etc.) take over politics.

Of course, it is true that democracy is a free competition between would-be leaders searching for as many votes as possible, but it should be much more than that. It should be a place of debate and discussion, of freedom and equality, and of the pursuit of the general interest.

In a system of vote-buying, politicians represent groups and interests instead of society as a whole and the will of the people as a whole. Resources are redistributed, not from the rich to the poor, but from everybody to those who are vocal and have the best bargaining power. Transfers depend more on electoral importance than on real needs.

Direct democracy is the only solution to the problem of vote buying. In a direct democracy, there are no representatives who have to grant all kinds of benefits to pressure groups, in order to cling to power.

Cultural Rights (10): Tolerating Intolerance?

Some people urge us to accept and respect other cultures, other practices and beliefs unconditionally and without exceptions. Every cultural practice, whatever its content, is valuable and should be protected, even if this means giving up certain or all human rights. This means that rejecting intolerance in a certain culture is intolerant and rejecting discrimination is discrimination. Diversity should be tolerated, even if elements of this diversity are expressions of intolerance or discrimination. Otherwise, we would show a lack of respect for cultural identities and we would de facto return to the days of colonization and imperialism.

Respect is important, and human rights are created precisely as tools to make different people with different beliefs and practices or habits live together peacefully.’a0But they are not designed to protect practices which violate them. We can never tolerate intolerance and that we must always discriminate discrimination. One cannot force an idea to be self-destructive. A tolerant system tolerating intolerance or failing to discriminate those who discriminate, will never last very long. Those who are tolerant must be intolerant of those who are intolerant (and the latter include those who attack the institutions protecting tolerance, such as human rights).

This has nothing to do with “an eye for an eye”. It is purely a matter of consistency and self-preservation. We must accept and respect diversity, but not in an unlimited way. Some things are just unacceptable.