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Literature, Culture, and Tolerance

Edited By Andrew R. Murphy, Charles Russel, Jaroslaw Pluciennik and Irena Hübner

Questions of tolerance are as old as human society. In acknowledgment of the crucial importance of tolerance and intolerance in contemporary life, a conference was convened in 2007. The 16 papers included in this volume all have their origins in that conference, which brought together a wide array of over 100 academics from fifteen nations, all interested in furthering discussion on tolerance. The goal of this book is to stimulate further historical and contemporary critical reflection on the foundational philosophical, religious, and cultural value and problematic future of tolerance. The title – Literature, Culture, and Tolerance – emphasizes the interconnections between the social and the artistic, between the political and the literary, in thinking through the phenomena of tolerance and intolerance in the modern world.


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Part V: Challenges to Tolerance in the Contemporary Era 217


Part V Challenges to Tolerance in the Contemporary Era Introduction to Part V We live in a time of terror. During the twentieth century, state–sponsored terror- ism — whether in fascist Germany, apartheid–driven South Africa, Jim Crow racist rule in the Southern United States, or any number of totalitarian regimes — cowed the populace into submission to governmental authority (not to men- tion extralegal vigilante groups). In the early twenty–first century, by contrast, the figures that strike fear in the populace tend to be shadowy bands of self– righteous agents of rebellion against the social order. Contemporary terrorists seek to induce pervasive fright and undermine the authority of the state, often by spurring it to expand its powers of surveillance and control and thus undermine the tolerant and just values it clams to embody. Yet whatever moral justification terrorism claims for its actions, its primary strategies stand as the ultimate form of intolerance. Terrorism has affected nearly every aspect of daily life in Western socie- ties, in effect becoming one of the defining narratives in our culture. Dominating not only political discourse and mass media palaver, scenarios of potential ter- rorist actions affect how individuals as well as social groups and organizations view themselves and those around them. Since fear of what might happen is a constant, while occurrences of violence are rare — and never experienced by the vast majority of the populace — it is the imagined stories that the frightened (or cynically manipulative) mind creates that shape behavior...

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