Hello. You are no doubt reading this because you are a pig faced, hate inducing person who recoils to the safety of the internet when the fact you are a social leper finally sinks into your alleged ‘brain’ at the end of a long hard day as an embarrassment and a failure. You now have a choice. You can shrug your shoulders and keep reading. Or you can wipe those salty rage tears from your eyes and get to work demanding the editor immediately ban me from this site and calling for a public boycott of Curias (in 140 characters or less). Up to you. But I do need to say that if you take the second option, I stand by every word of it you sanctimonious prick.
Does anyone actually remember what it is like to be properly offended? I don’t mean all those times you decided to be offended because you took a moment to think and evaluated it as the politically correct response. I don’t mean when you were feeling uncomfortable in a social situation or copped a bit of an emotional bruising. I mean instinctive, instantaneous, sick to your gut, rage-inducing offence. I suspect many of you can’t. The effect of people assuming a pseudo right to go about their day without being offended has seen the threshold of offence watered down like a cheap house red.
We are stuck in the middle of a maelstrom of indignation from both sides of the political spectrum. If you listen to those on the left, we should be offended by anything that deviates from what has been deemed ‘socially acceptable’, a very low bar indeed these days. A church representative stating publicly that the institution’s interpretation of marriage is a union of a man and a woman only isn’t a statement of opinion or a contribution to a debate, it’s an offensive, gay bashing statement. An industry leader pointing out that Australia could become a zero-emissions economy tomorrow and make no difference to climate change isn’t stating a fact, he’s an offensive climate change denier with no regard for future generations. Mercifully, it’s a much simpler process from the perspective of the right. We’re just meant to be offended by everything the patronising left says and does as they look down their freedom-hating commie noses at us plebs.
Implicit in this prosecution of any and all ‘offensive’ acts, particularly from the perspective of the left, is that people should refrain from anything that others may (yes, may) find offensive. We have classic books being changed because apparently we can’t be trusted to understand that they reflect a different and less enlightened period in human history. There are law faculties pandering to pathetic student complaints by not using the word ‘rape’, or even avoiding the subject altogether, while trying to teach criminal law. American free-to-air networks still bleep out words like ‘damn’ at 11 o’clock at night. At the risk of sounding like a cantankerous old man, a world that does not deviate from this bizarre route is simply breeding a generation of simperingly weak men and women with a psychological constitution comparable only to that of a damp sock.
As far as I can tell, people go out of their way to find things they can take offence at. They get that rush that only comes from saddling up your self-righteous hobby horse and telling people about this awful thing you saw or heard (and if you’re really lucky, there will be one person sitting around who voices their disagreement that the rest of the group can turn on). An annoyingly large number of people would not have a career were they not so eloquent in their moral discontent. Here’s a thought: maybe, just maybe, we should give apoplexy a miss and instead calm the farm.
As Salman Rushdie said (and I think we can all accept he knows a bit about this), nobody has the right to not be offended. And while we may not be able to prevent being offended, how we react to that offence is completely within our own control. Most of what people call ‘offensive’ is actually just a challenge to their preferred world view. If you don’t like what someone is saying, don’t try to silence them. Respectfully disagree with them, or if you really can’t take anymore, just stop listening to them. If what they are saying is genuinely offensive in the sense we have been discussing, then I would argue it is actually far better that they have said it than left it unsaid. Offensive ideas that are out in the open can be countered, undermined and torn apart, with the rotting carcass left for all to see. Hidden away these ideas can fester and grow in secret without anyone knowing the level of influence they have or the true nature of the people who clandestinely propagate them. True bigotry, racism, sexism and homophobia withers under the public eye; the only way to expunge it though is to draw it out first.
Don’t be the person who acts like every mildly controversial statement is a complete affront to our 21st century way of life. Don’t be the person who is so terrified of having their ideas challenge that they try to force the world to change to suit their intellectual cowardice. Embrace different ideas. Challenge the perspectives that don’t align with yours. Expose the truly dangerous ones. We don’t need you to sign up to the thought police. We already have more than enough narrow-minded politicians, commentators and journalists to cover the shifts.