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The words are laughably simple - yet they go exactly to what makes a harmonious society. Tolerance, forgiveness, intellectual generosity.
I haven't heard "live and let live" used in years. It's slowly fading from the language.
This may be because the values it suggests no longer dominate. Despite Kiwis' magnificent embrace of the Christchurch victims, we're blind if we think we still live in a tolerant "live and let live" society. We don't. All that has gone.
The aphorism told us that if we wish to live as we choose, we can't force our own beliefs on others.
During the '60s and '70s, when baby-boomers were busily freeing themselves from old conservative moralities, we had no idea that once these freedoms were won, they'd be so fanatically enforced and expanded, that they ended up enslaving us.
And so our fine liberal reform ideas constantly overreached themselves. The moment the purists begin enforcing a new tolerance, it becomes intolerance.
Overreach results in both the threatening and the silly. A special prize for proving this point goes to The Case of the Gay Wedding Cakes.
After a long battle gay marriage was legislated in many parts of the world. (Hooray, three cheers for acceptance, etc). But within weeks Catholic bakers who believed it wrong to create cakes for "sinful" ceremonies, were vilified as homophobes, and sued by gay couples who wouldn't do the kind thing and take their business to a less conflicted supplier.
The Case of the Cake illustrates how zealots expand their targets, and create the new repressions. If you have transgender friends, but query teaching transgender theory to schoolchildren; or if you question some new expansion of radical feminism - the outraged will label you a "phobe" or "hater".
Quote science which questions any aspect of the climate change story, and you're a "denier". Dare suggest a large person is overweight? Now my friends, you're guilty of "body shaming". (A label is yet to be invented for the monster who considers someone "fat".)
This culture of outrage has changed the art of public argument. Truth is no longer shown by an argument's quality, but by the vehemence with which it is espoused. The louder the moral outrage, the greater the argument's virtue.
The public has no vehicle through which it can resist this. But business and government - which can - has been craven in caving in to the outrage and moral posturing of the Progressive Left.
When common sense gets overcome by "progressive" doctrine, the results aren't only scary - they're often blackly comic. In Tasmania, new anti- discrimination laws are framed in a manner that permits men to become pregnant. Which is all very jolly, but it seems these bounders will also be entitled to abortions.
People get caught in the crossfire of the variously virtuous. After the Christchurch mosque murders, a photo was unearthed, apparently taken at a Jordan Peterson book-signing. It showed one fan, presumably from a long line of selfie seekers, posed beside the Canadian psychologist. This fan wore an anti-Islam T-shirt.
Who knows if Peterson even noticed? But because of the other man's T-shirt, Whitcoulls (incredibly) withdrew Peterson's best-selling books from its bookstores.
Consider this. It is unlikely Whitcoulls' management discovered this obscure picture all by their sweet selves. Peterson is most loathed by the more extreme branches of feminism. I wonder who provided Whitcoulls with the photo, and (perhaps) accompanying threats made in the guise of outrage? I doubt it was New Zealand Muslims.
Israel Folau has famously warned that hell awaits atheists, thieves, drunks, fornicators and homosexuals, unless they repent to Jesus. Nobody has taken offence on behalf of the drunks and fornicators, but as the world knows, Rugby Australia is trying to sack the star because homosexuals are among the sinners included in his religious rant.
Qantas, the Wallabies' main moneybag, is all for this disciplining of Folau. Meanwhile Emirates, the main Qantas business partner, is owned by an Arab state that executes homosexuals. More corporate hypocrisy?
Many of these organisations will be proud of "zero tolerance" policies they have towards staff who infringe the diktats of the virtuous. Zero tolerance sounds pure, but actually it is as stupid as mandatory sentencing, because it prevents justice also considering the often fraught circumstances.
Post Christchurch, our Government is about to consider changes to the Human Rights Act which further address "hate speech".
It is impossible to define hate speech objectively, so stand by for the next round of reformist overreach. It's possible you may still get away with your Irish joke - but not with your phobic belief that a man has a penis.
-John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.