The Comforts of Bigotry
IT is commonly supposed, nowadays, that it is really desirable to be what we call “ broad-minded.” We are, in fact, so by way of believing this, that we never question it, but go about spreading out the stream of our mentality into an expansive channel, blandly unconcerned as to whether the stream then flows deep or shallow. Now, breadth is doubtless an attribute of a great mind, though perhaps not of all great minds; but being broad-minded does not of necessity make us great, while it does frequently make us uncomfortable. Continually to strive for it is about as restful to the average person as it would be to endeavor always to stand on tiptoe. Indubitably one appears taller; but is the game worth the candle ? Is broad-mindedness — at least of the sort that can be acquired — such a very desirable thing as we have been led to believe it?
For myself, I have abandoned the effort. I have descended to a mental undress as blissful as is the relief when one rids one’s physical self of an unduly high and stiff collar. And, even at risk of appearing in the part of the tail-less fox, I recommend a judicious bigotry to all who, like myself, were not born broad-minded. Picture your joy at no longer feeling obliged to give a reason for your likes and dislikes; of once and for all admitting yourself — as did formerly even the gentle Elia — merely “ a bundle of prejudices,” a being of “ imperfect sympathies.” Imagine the relaxation of choosing a side and sticking to it, unconvinced by argument; unconvinced even of the necessity of listening to argument. Life at once becomes simple, peaceful, in comparison to its state when one is perpetually harassed by the effort to be “ fair.” I have changed all that. “ This,” I say firmly, “ is my side. If you want my arguments, here they are. I do not care for yours. There is doubtless another side to it, as there is to the moon; but being neither an astronomer nor a broad-minded person, one side is enough for me. J’y suis, j’y reste.”
Admittedly much is accomplished by this method; men of one idea — bigots — have made the successes of the world, so far as that goes; but it is not with the achievements of the method that I am concerned, but with its comfort. We tarnish our dearest pleasures nowadays by the sneaking fear that the matter really needs looking into before we set about enjoying it. We are afraid to proclaim ourselves for, or against, any cause, lest we should not logically have considered all the arguments pro and con. We rejoice that we are no longer Pharisees; and we thank, pragmatically, an overruling Providence, that all other men are just as good as we are — which perhaps in its essence still lacks an entire humility.
It is a pleasant thing to have reasons for one’s convictions; but it is pleasanter to have some unreasonable convictions than none at all. I even find it pleasanter not only for myself, but for my friends. They have given up attempting to convert me. I know that they call me narrow behind my back, and, sometimes, to my face; but I know, too, that they say, “ Well, Tom may not be much of a man in an argument, but you do know where he stands.”
They avoid diatribes against my pet prejudices because they know them, as I refrain from offending theirs when I can discover them. And I find that, at the club, there is usually near my favorite window a group smoking in peace; while the corner sacred to the man who boasts his broad-minded tolerance is filled with heated and noisy discussion. I admit my convictions; hug my prejudices; glory in my bigotry; and advise a reformation along my lines to any and all who may have read this paper.