What does it mean to be offended? We talk so much about things being offensive. But we never talk about what it means, how it feels, to be offended. Let’s try to figure it out.
I’ll start with myself. Something that offends me: Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow.
How does it feel? Why am I offended?
When I watch Maddow, or listen to Rush, I feel betrayed to the core. I feel like they take important things and piss all over them. Their programs are like eating cellulose pellets. You eat them, they go in your stomach and you feel full. But there is absolutely no nutritional value. Your body is tricked. You’re still starving for nutrients. That’s what Rush and Rachel do to people’s minds. They trick you into thinking you’re being educated, when in fact most of the time they’re making people more stupid. And they’re making millions of dollars by doing this.
Something about that offends me… Something about the bait and switch just appalls me. Why would humans do this to each other? Why destroy people’s minds… for your own personal gain?
Of course, I’m not so offended that I’m moved to action. Mainly because I don’t believe Rush or Maddow are bad people. They genuinely believe they’re doing the right thing, and people opt into it and get a lot of pleasure from them. Perhaps it can even be said, while they’re entertainers not educators, they’re still propelling the conversation forward in a big picture sense – and that’s awesome.
So: I think being offended is an emotional thing (at least in this case). It’s about people cutting to the core of our moral compasses and violating them. It’s people doing things we in our heart of hearts can’t fathom doing ourselves. It’s more identity-driven than rational?
I often hear: “ignorance is offensive.”
True. Here’s a non-controversial working example: you spent the last month solving a problem. Then some person who has spent no time thinking about the problem starts hooting and hollering about their own answer, cutting you off. This kind of ignorance is offensive. How does it feel? It feels like someone is stepping on your toes. It feels impolite, rude.
Who are they to talk like this?
You can imagine this non-controversial example in other settings. Someone talking negatively about your religion or race – someone who really has no idea what they’re talking about.
Seriously… How rude.
Then again ignorance isen’t so much offensive as it is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to connect with someone and make your consciousness known to them. Yeah, ignorance is an impetus for bridge building. Someone is ignorant and now you have an opening where you can insert yourself into him or her and help them become more aware.
In other words, a display of offensive ignorance is not just a display. It’s a portal: the dawning of an opportunity for you to inform them (and vice versa)… that vice versa part is important…
… Ignorance might be offensive, but it doesn’t seem to be offensive in a bad way. It seems to be offensive in that neutral way – like the offensive side of a football game.
As long as people are talking, there is hope. When they shut off completely, you’re in trouble.
I want to know what it means to be so offended that it does permanent and irrevocable damage. I think of the brain and heart like a muscle. The more it endures, the more it suffers through – the stronger, the richer it is. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, I believe:
As Victor Frankel says, “What is to give light must endure burning.” Sometimes, I’m driving to work in my $100,000 souped up Range Rover and I see the poor faces waiting for the bus in the rain and I get jealous of their suffering. Why can’t I burn the way these people burn? Why must my life be so easy? Set me on fire. What makes life meaningful is what we are denied.
Life is like a movie. And a movie without agony, without an enemy, is not a movie. It’s blistering boredom.
Let us chant it again: I want to know what it means to be so offended that it does permanent and irrevocable damage. An offense that pushes you to suicide? I’ve seen suicides, and the aftermath for the living. Awful. My heart goes out to you brothers and sisters. But the day there is no suicide, there is nothing left, there is nothing left to die for. And when there is nothing left to die for, we’re no longer living, we’re in heaven – utopia has been reached.
This person got so upset about Vice portraying the suicide of female writers in a fashion magazine. Sure it was offensive! But isn’t that one of the reasons its interesting and tragic? That it touches upon something we all have strong feelings about and opens a dialogue?
(It offends me that someone would try and censor art for moral reasons. And I’m sure that’s offensive to people, too. Such is life.)
Besides, what’s so wrong about glamorizing suicide in art? Sure it’s harmful, but what isn’t harmful? Doesn’t the Buddha say, it’s all ying and yang?
Only from the darkness can we see the light.
Good for Vice for commissioning such a tragically beautiful photo series. Really, the only thing I found disappointing was that it was taken down from the website. Good for the woman who wrote the article for having such a strong moral fiber and wagging her finger at those naughty kids over at Vice. Keep doing it – you have something important to say (so does Vice, though). Good for me for taking time to weigh in on the issue. Good for everyone!
“And if it takes shit to make bliss, then I feel pretty blissfully.”
What does it mean to be offended? I think to be offended essentially means to be challenged. To be offended is to confront another person, to deal with others, particularly deal with others in uncomfortable ways; as Freud says: “unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” I hate heterosexual white males. I think they’re evil due to all their violence, and I welcome their downfall. JK, that’s how I feel about hetrosexual black males. Does that offend you? Good, now that I got your attention, let’s figure out why you think the way you do, why I think that way, and build a bridge of understanding. Stop preaching to the choir and actually get your hands dirty with the real problems.
“An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind.” – Mohandas Gandhi