How neat would the world be if all our friends thought exactly the same way as we did? Our ideas would never be challenged, our comfort zones never pushed, instead we’d enjoy the constant reinforcement of our inherent righteousness.
The other morning I woke up to this posted on Facebook:
“Hi Mandy Nolan. I am deleting all local friends who are pro-fluoride. For two reasons. If they support it they are dangerously ignorant or they are cowards. Are you pro or anti?”
The underlying ethos of this statement bore some resemblance to the missive delivered by my first admirer: ‘My name is William Somerfield. I have seen you on the bus. If you won’t go with me you can get fucked!’ Of course this came well before Facebook in the form of a handwritten note passed through 10 different sets of grubby hands before I took the latter option and got fucked.
In the old days you couldn’t just DELETE people. If you wanted to take umbrage as to their point of view you had to tell them to their face. It was confrontational and weird and it was the threat of a nasty social incident that seeded the warning ‘Don’t talk about politics or religion’. Generally these have always been the subjects that divide us. And so in the interests of social politeness we avoided the subjects that would reveal our true allegiance.
The facelessness of Facebook has given licence to a false bravado and encouraged a ruthlessness that perhaps we wouldn’t have the courage to execute in the real world.
I should remind you, reader, that the land of Facebook does not exist. It’s not real. And the people in there, they aren’t actually friends. Just names grouped together under other names for the purpose of social connection, which is in effect a thin veil to mask the real objective which is to gather data for marketing purposes.
The Facebook statement enraged me. Not because I am pro-fluoride. The fluoride debate becomes irrelevant when thought threats are used. Just a few weeks ago another anti-fluoride supporter smashed Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell’s head in the door frame of her car. Surely physical violence is an inappropriate tool to communicate messages about public health?
When we refuse to listen or acknowledge the view of another, it posits a dangerous world where we corral all those who don’t think like us outside of the frame and philosophically execute them, albeit not with a guillotine but with a DELETE button.
If one never listens to dissent, then I guess one is never challenged. Isn’t the liberty of argument part of what democracy was founded on? How is it we always revert to totalitarianism in our fight for right? Is being right enough? What if everyone is right? At least a little bit? Perhaps this is the secret to what has been called the ‘looney left’: preaching to the converted?
Fluoride is not the biggest harm here. Intolerance is. Intolerance is a far greater poison than fluoride could ever be. A neurotoxin that targets critical thinking but also spiritual and physical liberty. Not even the CIA could lay claim to such a lethal chemical weapon. They don’t even need to drop it on the population with covert chemspray operations. We seem to produce it naturally.
Intolerance is our biggest health risk; it threatens our safety, our children’s safety, our children’s children’s safety. In fact it is intolerance, not fluoride, that will be the end of us. Or at the very least the end to what we prescribe as the ‘other’.
It seems that in the age of enlightenment we still define ourselves by what we are not. This simple binary process sorts the world into convenient groups: gay and not gay; women and not women; Muslim, not Muslim; fluoride supporter, not a fluoride supporter.
It is a timeless, simplistic approach that humans have always used to work out whom they hate. Whom they must persecute. It is the hallmark of all fundamentalism, and it is the way we enact our intolerance in the world. Fundamentalism in all its forms is dangerous.
Fundamentalism is what allows us to persecute others because they are different. It reduces us to our base animal nature, and that is to seek out and destroy what we identify as ‘difference’. Throughout history we have burned witches, gassed Jews, massacred indigenous people, and stolen people from their mothers and chained them
Fluoride didn’t do this. We did. We haven’t evolved at all. We continue to DELETE people because they think differently from us. Or if not DELETE exactly, we do things like lock them in ‘processing centres’ and hope they delete themselves.
There is no vaccination for intolerance. If only it were as simple as a few drops of a magic poison in the water supply and we’d all have shiny teeth and even shinier hearts. So I went to my friendship group and pressed DELETE. Then I thought, ‘what would Gandhi do?’ So I refriended the writer of the offensive post. Then I blocked him. If there is one thing I can’t tolerate, it’s intolerance.