I’m Offended – Free Ebook

It’s become hard to say anything especially on social media that won’t upset someone somewhere rather a lot. There’s a myriad of things people get deeply offended by. There are perceived slights around economics, nationality, social group, sexual tastes, and commitments of every kind. This is the result of something extremely positive: democracy. Democracy makes us, and this is a lovely word gloriously disputatious. We’re no longer surf-like, submissive people who just bow to authority. We’re brought up to speak up for ourselves and respect our rights. The problem is that this can, on a bad day, tilt over into a settled, unquestioning kind of self righteousness. It’s an attitude that quickly assumes we know what someone else means when they say something about our areas of concern and that they’re deliberately trying to cause us offence and, therefore, that we must respond at once with anger and with pride. Taking offense can be a gloriously solipsistic emotion where we’re always ready to pull up the drawbridge and fire, rather than work towards achieving and understanding of another person. One takes comfort in why one is right rather than attempting that much more daring and interesting exercise: trying to imagine why the other person may feel the way they do. We’ve forgotten the art of civility: the art of trying to work through to an agreement, the art of not necessarily saying when you don’t agree. These may be slightly old-fashioned traits, for their virtues too, especially in a small world where we can’t all shout at the same time and we sometimes may have to just learn to live with disagreement rather than always hoping to resolve it. Furthermore, we should bear in mind that almost all offence is caused inadvertent, but the person who takes offense readily treats everything as deliberate -it’s a fatal misunderstanding of others’ intentions. Then there’s the issue of perspective: we live in a world of larger and smaller offenses; there are some properly big offensive things in the world. The things really to be offended by are that Africa is in chaos, that certain countries have a proclivity for bombing as a solution, that it’s so hard to make a living especially doing something that’s tolerable; sometimes focus on micro-offenses gets in the way of seeing the big offenses. We’re emerging from thousands of years of history when only a tiny group in society was allowed to get offended; the rest of us just how to do the plowing very quietly. So perhaps wer’re still just letting off steam, but on a bad day it can look like everyone is wailing and insulting, cursing, and cussing; no one is looking to empathize or find agreement. Being offended is a choice; it’s a way of allowing what someone says to get deep into you, and it’s a way of imagining people’s motives as very negative. Perhaps sometimes we should just look the other way and not let it get to us; sometimes, not getting offended should be the truly great and prestigious choice.

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