Berkeley, California
Berkeley, CaliforniaiStock
Th e late philosopher Karl Popper stated, "If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, the the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them...We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance , the right not to tolerate the intolerant."

I call this excessive tolerance the ideology of Tolerism and my book, Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed (Mantua Books), argues that too many people think that Tolerance is a more important value than Justice.

In the Western World, a good portion of liberal academics, journalists, leftist clergymen and politicians now preach that terrorist violence against civilians is not due to lack of tolerance by the terrorists for the liberal west, but that it is due to lack of sufficient tolerance of the liberal west for the “root causes” of the violence espoused by the terrorists. Such terrorism is the weapon of foreign Islamists but has also spread to domestic terrorist groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa in the U.S.

Once upon a time, a progressive was somebody who believed in social and democratic progress, so that all citizens could share fairly in the bounty of our productive societies. Now, however, people who call themselves “progressive” are those who tolerate the intolerant terrorists for using violence against civilians, because these terrorists, being minorities with less power than Western governments, are by that reason alone, being oppressed.

These progressives think that the more violent these minorities are, the more this proves that they are being oppressed and we in the liberal democracies are the ones doing the oppression.
These progressives think that the more violent these minorities are, the more this proves that they are being oppressed and we in the liberal democracies are the ones doing the oppression. Many also think that we in the West are somehow proto-fascist and have no right to tell other peoples that they are being illiberal.

We used to receive the bimonthly magazine, California, the magazine of the Alumni Association of University of California at Berkeley. Berkeley has a long history of priding itself on its openness and tolerance.

The May/June 2009 issue contained an essay by Pat Joseph with the title of “Out of Eden”. This essay concerns a student named Andrew Martinez, who was a public nudist on campus in the early ‘90s. The essay’s title refers of course to the biblical nakedness of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and therefore is some kind of attempt to link Mr. Martinez with the state of grace Adam and Eve had before eating the forbidden fruit, leading mankind to fall into our imperfect world. The article is subtitled, “The fall of Andrew Martinez”, which again seems to connect him to Biblical concepts, all of which remain unexplored in the article. Then, the magazine, in its contents section, adds another religious reference, this time the overtly Christian suggestion that “Andrew Martinez got naked for our sins”. Whether such glibness is offensive to Christians, I must leave to others.

The important point is how the author of the article (who is Executive Editor of the magazine!) conceptualizes the story of a student who became nationally known as “the Naked Guy” and was not just tolerated by many but viewed as having some kind of moral or political standing within the Berkeley community.

As the author states: “Just by taking off his clothes and going about his business in the buff, he seemed to become the very embodiment of the more radical aspects of the Berkeley spirit: a question, a challenge and a celebration all in one.”

What was this “question … challenge and … celebration”?

It seems that for a semester the University allowed him to attend classes in the nude. A subsequent charge for jogging nude near the dorms was dropped after a prosecutor was satisfied that mere nudeness without specifically lewd behaviour was not against the law. It was only when female students started launching complaints did the tolerant University and then the tolerant town adopt anti-nudity laws. These laws eventually resulted in Mr. Martinez being expelled from the University, and after a period of living in a tent atop one of the co-ops, he left Berkeley.

In this way, apparently, he tested “Berkeley’s idea of itself as a bastion of tolerance”. To be sure, Berkeley tolerated him coming to classes nude, but Andrew’s self-described “militant nudism” which led to his jogging naked and other acts of militant nudism in public space, became too much for even the tolerists at Berkeley.

However, they did their best to support him. Andrew was instrumental in the first “nude-in” on Sproul Plaza in September 1992, which included a nude performance art troupe and a total of 10,000 supporters. As one of the members of the art troupe told the Berkeley Daily Planet, “There were 10,000 people cheering him that day, cheering what he stood for – a society sans racism, sans greed, sans oppression.” (emphasis added)

Query whether that is really what Martinez stood for.

The article does acknowledge that Martinez’s politics “were vague at best, a poorly articulated dissent from ‘Western society’ and ‘middle class values’”.

But it also glorifies him as “charismatic and kind” and even in the numerous television interviews he gave, “he seemed preternaturally calm and unselfconscious. He was disarming precisely because he did not give off the creepy-crazy vibes one expects to emanate from a man strolling campus in nothing but a book bag and flip-flops.”

Martinez apparently inspired a tradition at Berkeley of taking off one’s clothes as part of protests against such diverse issues as war, use of animal fur, and environmental issues including climate change. In all cases the protests are exceedingly unsuccessful but the protestors celebrate their success in achieving tolerance for their methods even as they fundamentally fail in their aims.

Alas, the man that Berkeley’s most tolerant best adopted as a test of Berkeley’s idea of itself as a “bastion of tolerance” was not quite who he seemed. In 2006, it was discovered that he had committed suicide in jail at the age of 33, having been, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article, “bouncing among halfway houses, psychiatric institutions, occasional homelessness and jail, but never getting comprehensive treatment.”

The essay in California magazine reports that upon news of his death some of his friends saw him as some kind of martyr, notwithstanding that the news accounts made it clear that he had been suffering from schizophrenia for at least ten years; according to one friend, it was “shocking how society moved him to a deeper and deeper level of isolation.”

And, Pat Joseph, the executive editor and author, misses a central point about both Andrew Martinez and U. Cal. Berkeley. He cannot see that Berkeley’s celebrated tolerance of this obviously troubled young man helped to lead to his death. He cannot see that a less tolerant society might have seen the need to provide him with much needed psychiatric intervention when it was needed.

Instead the Berkeley Insider has the nerve to link this story of nudity “back to the beginning, to the time before time, before we knew we were different from the animals, when we walked naked and oblivious in Paradise. Striding around campus naked and unselfconscious, Andrew Martinez was like that – a living, breathing repudiation of Original Sin.”

One hardly knows where to start in critiquing the moral vacuum that allows such a slant on a story of mental illness; how the moral vacuum of the ideology of tolerism invested a schizophrenic with attributes of a philosopher king - viewed by the tolerist U.Cal students as standing against racism, greed and oppression, when he really epitomized a cry for psychiatric help.

The executive editor/author of the piece thinks that Martinez and his nudism represent a repudiation of “Original Sin”. In fact, the story of the fall of Adam and Eve, from the higher spiritual position (which allowed them no shame in their nudism) that they occupied before eating the forbidden fruit, can only be understood, as a failure to exercise properly their God-given free will. By having a choice whether or not to eat the forbidden fruit, they had free will which allowed them a higher spiritual state than if they were automotons in Paradise. Then, by failing their test by eating the forbidden fruit, they fell into a imperfect world, in which they could live only by hard labour, and hopefully “perfect” or “repair” the world by their future goodness and labour.

The Berkeley tolerists have in effect divorced social and political justice from spiritual perfection. By fooling themselves into believing that anti-establishment behaviour, like taking off one’s clothes in class, is in fact a statement against racism, greed and oppression, they are the tolerist fools.

The best statement against greed and oppression is to take actions to overcome greed, oppression and injustice, not to take juvenile symbolic actions like tolerating the mental illness of the Naked Guy and making him into something he was not.

But most importantly, the Tolerists confuse the opponents of our culture with those who are actually taking actions to improve our culture. By cheering on opponents of “Western society” and middle-class values” the counter-culture still embedded in places like Berkeley is helping to destroy the soul of America.

Cheering on our opponents is a cultural cancer spread more and more from our most tolerant universities. Tolerism is the ideology that thinks a “bastion of tolerance” is morally equivalent with a bastion of “activism” for liberty and individual and social justice. Tolerists have subverted a tradition of social activism by supporting meaningless “protest” and lulling to sleep the future leaders - who will have to defend the values of Western society against the fundamentalism of radical Islam and other challengers to our freedoms.

Query whether the self-described bastion of tolerance understands that tolerance for the Naked Guy equated intolerance for students who morally, culturally, religiously or psychologically objected to a naked man sitting in their Political Science 101 class. Perhaps the folks of Berkeley never heard of the concept of clothing optional beaches and resorts, which allow nudists the right to be nude without offending other uses of public space.

And so, the question is not how tolerant we are with our public space and our public institutions; the question that Berkeley should have asked is how could we direct Mr. Martinez to the proper space for his nudism, and help him with any psychological adjustment issues if he refused to confine his intolerant conduct to the proper space.

And now American universities are full of professors, even Jewish ones, who tolerate horrible conduct and words from the people calling themselves "Palestinians". Do we see the analogy in the madness at Berkeley to the madness of Jewish professors (such as Chomsky, Shlaim, Azoulay, Gordon, Finkelstein, etc.) who tolerate what I call the Leftist-Islamist-Globalis agenda, which includes the destruction of the homeland of the Jewish people, Israel? Like the naked guy they ascribe morality to the immoral and sanity to the insane.

For a society that is increasingly being met with cries of “intolerance” in the face of radical Islamist immigrants seeking to impose illiberal family structures and conduct on its women and children, along with cries of “intolerance” every time we critique their intolerant actions and views, a more mature and complex understanding of tolerance will be key.

The answer will not be the Berkeley method of cheering on the intolerant because of their opposition to Western society and middle-class values, but the answer will involve a method of trying to understand when tolerance is needed and when intolerance is needed, and when intolerance might be best for all concerned.

Howard Rotberg is the author of four books on ideologies and values: The Second Catastrophe: A Novel about a Book and its Author; Exploring Vancouverism: The Political Culture of Canada’s Lotus Land; Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed; and The Ideological Path to Submission... and what we can do about it. president of Canada’s sole conservative values and pro-Israel publishing house, Mantua Books, and lives in Hamilton, Ontario Canada.