Monday 22nd of October 2018 |
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Look the bully in the eye - By Ali Kassay, The Jordan Times



Recently, when my wife needed to clear some official paperwork, she made the usual preparations for a day with officialdom: a nerve relaxant before, anti-depressants to be taken afterwards and a sense of resignation to the waste of a day collecting signatures and rubber stamps for a process that could have been completed with two e-mails.
But when my wife presented her paperwork, the official simply ignored her. He neither made eye contact, nor glanced at the paperwork she presented; just an angry gaze fixed at the great void beyond.
So she exclaimed: “If you have a problem dealing with my business please call someone else who would be helpful!” 
This brought him out of his reverie and made him behave as bullies often do when confronted: he became conciliatory and helpful.
Seriously, though, why did the official try to ignore my wife?
A look around the office provided the answer: she was the only woman whose hair was not wrapped tightly in two or three layers of scarves to prevent any errant strand from manifesting itself to the public.
This is not an isolated case. Many women describe in conversation and in social media the peer pressure and even emotional terrorism to make them adopt a certain code of dress and behaviour.
Now, really, in the early 1980s, when women who covered their hair were a minority in places of education and work, they were not bullied or coerced to change. This was not because the majority at the time believed itself to be wrong and these women right, but because everyone was considered free to dress as he or she pleased.
Now that the boot is on the other foot, there is intolerance of any woman who exercises the same freedom.
This highlights the fundamental weakness of liberalism: liberals are too broadminded to take their own side in a quarrel. They took their freedoms for granted and did not realise how vulnerable freedom is. They felt the need to show respect to all outlooks, even those that seek to suppress freedom.
Ironically, this provided a fertile ground for ideologies that declare outright that there is no place for any deviation from their dogma. And, adding insult to injury, these ideologies work to capture the moral high ground by claiming that criticism of them is intolerance.
This rise of intolerance is global and threatens us with the total eclipse of human reason. But it also led to an awakening. Liberals began to realise that arguing against discrimination is not intolerance.
The strength of liberalism is that it is the fruit of intellect; it has structure, form and power. But it has a hard fight against the human tendency to derive supreme satisfaction from being able to despise the other.
In this fight, as in others, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. This is why we all need to look the bully in the eye.

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