Dr Jennifer Wilson

The equality debate: Tolerate my intolerance, or else

As far as I see it, the counter argument to marriage equality seems to be powered by the insistence that equality won’t be given, because you didn’t ask nicely.



It takes a certain amount of arrogance to declare that your support for others is contingent upon their actions and speech being acceptable to you. In other words, they earn your support by dancing to your tune, not because you have any real interest in their cause. Do it my way or else is hardly a respectful way in which to approach debate.

Side note: I’ve long been of the belief that arrogance is a psychological defence mechanism employed to conceal from self and others terrifying feelings of insecurity, uncertainty, and lack of self-worth. It’s a thin veneer.

Fairfax recently published this piece by Tom Switzer on marriage equality and intolerance. To paraphrase: I would vote Yes in the marriage equality postal survey, but the same-sex advocates are being so objectionable, I’m rethinking that and may vote No.

I like to think of this attitude as an effort to retain control by those who feel they are close to losing their hold on the status quo. The if you are not nice to me I will not support your cause position is narcissistic, in the sense that offending these people is experienced by them as a narcissistic wound, a threat to their very being. It reveals the fragile, threatened ego that needs everyone to be nice to it all of the time, otherwise it will blow you up, metaphorically speaking in this instance though the threats of annihilation are more substantial at the more powerful end of the narcissism spectrum where we find Trump and Kim. Switzer, of course, is not in their league: his narcissism is of the petit bourgeoisie class for whom bad manners, language and graffiti are offences that far outrank just about any denial of human rights.

It represents the ultimate exercise of control: Do it my way and don’t offend me, or I will use my power to affect your life against you.


I like to think of this attitude as a desperate effort to retain control by those who feel they are perilously close to losing their hold on the status quo.


Many of us can likely find a parallel in childhood, when our parents told us we wouldn’t have what we wanted unless we were good. Some are applying the same authoritarian discourse to adults seeking equality with other adults. They are demanding their own intolerance, either of marriage equality or the manner in which the fight for it is fought, be placed front and centre in a discussion on equality.

This is a tactic used by the privileged against many minority groups. The ruling class sets behavioural norms, and gives itself permission to break them while severely punishing and shaming those who are not of their ilk. Tony Abbott’s taxpayer-funded drunkenness comes to mind as an example, as he advocates for the humiliation of others with the imposition of a cashless welfare card to prevent their purchase of alcohol.

The intolerant, are not interested in respectful debate and just outcomes. They are concerned with their own feelings of offence, and consider themselves to be so important that a vote on the lives of others hinges entirely on whether or not they suffer affront.

Respectful? I don’t think so.


Dr Jennifer Wilson

Jennifer is an independent scholar, eclectic writer and prolific political blogger at No Place for Sheep. She has published academic papers, book chapters, short stories, memoir and poetry. There is no box she will not think outside of. So far.