England is a cesspit. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence.
And yet England allows it. Remember, that country was the breeding ground for communism, too. Karl Marx did all his work in libraries there …
Of course, useful idiots such as myself would put it another way: England is a tolerant refuge for political exiles, some of whom would presumably be more welcome to Soyinka (Voltaire, Mazzini, Slovo) than others (Marx, Lenin, Abu Hamza). One obvious rejoinder: who is to decide?
The anti-apartheid Soyinka might have let in Joe Slovo; whereas, judging from his comment on Marx, the anti-communist Soyinka wouldn't have. Tolerance is indivisible. Indeed, the point of it is that you put up with what you vehemently oppose. As long as violence isn't incited, anyone who can justify a claim for political asylum status should be allowed to remain. (And it's here that the British government has fallen down in recent years: there should be no toleration of actions and views that are outside the law, including that relating to incitement.)
I infer that Soyinka believes we should have chucked out Marx. Surely a civilisation that rounds up misguided, beardy, German-Jewish, Hegelian philosophers is one that will struggle to save itself from their consequences?
Soyinka also has an eccentric idea of toleration's provenance. He sees our current accommodations as being...
...part of the character of Great Britain. Colonialism bred an innate arrogance, but when you undertake that sort of imperial adventure, that arrogance gives way to a feeling of accommodativeness. You take pride in your openness.
Tolerance a product of imperialism? A lot of cart-before-horse, unhistorical nonsense - or a non sequitur. And if tolerance is only fit for imperialists what hope is there for the rest of us, in particular the people of Africa? One is tempted to say of Soyinka that with defenders of human rights like that, the concept hardly needs enemies.