Evelyn Waugh and Tolerance

In an article in the Mexican newspaper El Informador, printed in Guadalajara, Waugh is quoted as the voice of warning against indiscriminate tolerance. The article is by Maria Palomar who complains about the current reign of political correctness:

To tolerate is good. But the inability to discriminate prevents categorization and appreciation, and ultimately destroys the notion of justice. And universal tolerance leads to the situation in Mexico, and that can still get worse: since everything is valid, there is no reason to correct anyone (it is the realm of rights without duties) and, [as a consequence, to obey the law that does not obey it–como colofon, da lo mismo obedecer la ley que no obedeceria] and there is no crime to be punished.

The article offers an antidote to this dilemma in Waugh’s 1932 statement entitled “Tolerance” from John Bull magazine where he provided a contribution to an article on the “The Seven Deadly Sins of Today by Seven Famous Authors:”

Twenty-five years ago it was the fashion for those who considered themselves enlightened and progressive to cry out against intolerance as the one damning sin of the time. The agitation was well founded and it resulted in the elimination from our social system of many elements that are cruel and unjust. But in the general revolution of opinion which followed, has not more been lost than gained? It is better to be narrow-minded than to have no mind, to hold limited and rigid principles than none at all. That is the danger that faces so many people today–to have no considered opinions on any subject, to put up with what is wasteful and harmful with the excuse that there is ‘good in everything’–which in most cases means an inability to distinguish between good and bad. There are still things which are worth fighting against.

The brief notice was a teaser for a short story (not mentioned in El Informador) that appeared in an issue of John Bull about a month later. This was entitled “Too Much Tolerance” and is the ironic story of a meeting on a ship to Africa of a man who seemed perfectly happy but whose life is gradually revealed to have been ruined by his inability to distinguish the bad from the good in his personal relationships. The article is reprinted in Essays, Articles and Reviews (p. 128) and the story in the Complete Short Stories (Everyman, p. 67). The translation is by Google (with a few edits) and the Waugh quote is the original. Any improvement in the translation, especially the bracketed text, would be appreciated.

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