I’ve had it.

I’ve had it so often that I can finally say what it is.

Maybe I’ve had it more than most, living as I do in the Bay Area’s advanced culture’ a culture that has a response to the horrors of intolerance, but an inadequate one.

It’s this: People embracing non-judgmental, tolerant, open-mindedness so absolutely that they proclaim hypocritical policies. They judge all judgment bad, have zero tolerance for intolerance and are absolutely closed-minded to all closed-mindedness. They profess these policies but can’t possibly live by them nor should they, since judgment, intolerance and closed-mindedness have their place and are often virtues.

What they’ve done is what all groups do when they gain a little insight into critical thinking and rhetoric. They use their critical thinking to defend their beliefs and their rhetoric to attack other’s beliefs, a practice so old that Socrates worried about it, and so universal that it’s what Sarah Palin and the Occupy movement have in common. You commit to some new unworkable universal formula for deciding what is virtuous and then, since it doesn’t work, you apply it not universally but selectively and self-servingly.

“Judgment is bad. Don’t judge. If you judge I’ll be quick to point it out. If you hear me judging, you’re being judgmental and anyway I’m not being judgmental. I’m being discerning.”

That sort of thing.

I’ve had it with the tyranny of tolerance, with its tedious monitoring, it shroud of anti-judgment judgment that distracts and interrupts conversation every few minutes, its attacks by half-baked critical thinking: “Hey you’re being judgmental!” its defense by half-baked rhetoric: “Look, I’m not being judgmental but…” It’s like being monitored by Big Brother only he’s some spiritual guru who hasn’t really thought through his convictions and won’t even admit to having convictions.

People use open-mindedness as a way of saying “shutup” without having to notice themselves saying it. Any time a conversation that’s these people out of their depth or threatens to cast doubt on their beliefs, they can summon tolerance as a reason why they don’t have to listen or think any further. You feel like you’re riding with in James Bond’s passenger seat, their fingers on the eject button always at the ready. They’ll eject you out of the conversation with such lines as “Yeah, well…:

…anything’s possible.”

…I try not to be judgmental.”

…I’m not into limiting my imagination about what could be.”

…It’s not good to cling to your beliefs.”

…Those are just thoughts, just your intellectual masturbation.”

…That’s just your ego, your monkey brain chattering.”

…I’m not attached to any ideas.”

…I don’t have any beliefs. I just try to be open to all ideas.”

…why wonder? We should just be here now.”

…I just appreciate all possibilities.”

…all that matters is the moment.”

…reason is just so limited. We can’t know anything”

…it’s all just semantics.”

…some people are desperate for answers. Not me.”

…you act like some ideas are more true than others. But that’s not true.”

…I love all ideas.”

…it’s all just ideas.”

…I say just live. Don’t be conceptual.”

…you think too much.”

…you’re way overthinking this. You must be really anxious.”

…it’s all good.”

They think a debate’s winner is the one who embraces the larger quantity of diverse views no matter how contradictory, the one who cares less about outcomes no matter how important the issue, the ones who expresses the greatest contempt for debate, no matter how hard they’re debating.

While I obviously find this frustrating, I do understand the impulse to shut debate down. Often debate is futile or inappropriate. When you don’t know enough about the topic to discuss it, when you don’t feel up to the challenge of articulating your position, when you really don’t think the issue matters, when your opponent is really only interested in winning and dominating, when making people feel safe voicing their opinions matters more than figuring out what’s true—there are plenty of situations in which one should back out of a debate.

It’s just that for some, self-proclaimed open-mindedness has become a formula for backing out of any and all debates indiscriminately and feeling smugly victorious every time. It’s become yet another last-word formula for saying, as all tyrants do, “I demand absolute freedom to believe anything I want without ever again having to wonder whether I’m right.”