Trigger Warning: If you enjoy being offended, you won't like this article.
Offence is in the Viewer and not the Event
'Taking offence' is something I have written about before. It seems that there are always new opportunities for taking offence, so I'm writing about it again.
Imagine this scenario: a woman is breast feeding in public. A man sees this and claims to be offended by it. Was he offended? Yes. Did he have the right to be offended? Yes. Did the sight of the breast feeding mother cause offence? No. Was the event of a breast feeding mother offensive? No. The event itself is neither offensive nor inoffensive. Now consider that two men who have strong feelings for each other start kissing in public. This time a woman sees this display of affection and claims to be offended. Was she offended? Yes. Did she have the right to be offended? Yes. Did the sight of the two men kissing cause offence? No. Was this public display of affection between two men offensive? No. The event itself is neither offensive nor inoffensive. Consider once that Aborigines being in some public places was considered 'offensive,' and the proof that they were 'offensive' was that people felt offended (and that's your bonus lesson in circular reasoning for today). Get it? It was offensive because they were offended.
Indeed, the events themselves are themselves neutral. We as human observers make the judgement of offensiveness, and that judgement of offensiveness resides in us. It is created in us; it is not caused by some external event. Consider an even simpler event: someone tells a joke to two people. Suppose they are twins who were raised in the same household with the same values. It’s not too difficult to see that it is possible for one twin to feel offended at hearing the joke and the other to feel delighted. The joke does not directly cause the emotional response. It is simply an opportunity for a response. The joke simply cannot choose to offend one twin and tickle the other.
So where am I headed with all of this? Recently, there have been events (the Serena cartoon and blackface) where people have claimed to be offended where their offense was caused by these events. Some claim that Aboriginal people are particularly offended because there is a history attached to these events and that somehow explains the offence (more about this shortly). It does not. If all Aboriginal people were offended, I may consider the possibility of a causal relation, but many Aboriginal people are not offended by these events.
Are we to conclude that taking offence at some events is valid but at other events it is not valid? Who decides? The PC brigade? The man who claims to be offended at seeing the breast-feeding mother feels just as certain that his offence is justified as the person who felt offended by the cartoon of Serena.
Learning to be Offended
I’m not suggesting that people just consciously take offence (though some might) but rather they are taught to take offence and regularly see others take offence to the point where it is normalised. And of course, if one is rewarded for taking offence, such as when people rally around with support and concern for the offended with: “you poor dear, that must have been terrible,” then the behavior is reinforced, and just seems automatic.
As an example of being taught to be offended, consider this from the Amnesty website (and reading this was a good reminder of why I stopped my monthly donations to them):
'Aborigine' is generally perceived as insensitive, because it has racist connotations from Australia’s colonial past, and lumps people with diverse backgrounds into a single group. You’re more likely to make friends by saying 'Aboriginal person', 'Aboriginal' or 'Torres Strait Islander'.
A link within that text takes you to a Creative Spirits website where we find the following:
The media, which is still using this name, has been called on to abandon using ‘Aborigine’ because its use has “negative effects on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ self-esteem and mental health”.
So the word ‘Aborigine’ has negative effects on their self-esteem? The person who wrote this has self-esteem that is as fragile as a soap bubble.
Trigger warning: Shortly in this article I will be using the word ‘Aborigine’ again, so continue at your own risk.
There is nothing offensive about the term ‘Aborigine.’ It is just a word and as Wayne Dyer has said, you will never get wet by the word ‘water’ as it is just a word. I think the reason why some (Aboriginal) people are so quick to take offence at the word, is because when they hear the word, it conjures up images of someone who is clearly and unmistakably a full-blooded Aboriginal person, like this charming lady in the photo below:
There can be no doubt about it. She is an Aborigine. For those people who identify as Indigenous or Aboriginal or First Nations, and have a mix of ancestries and are maybe indistinguishable from the more common folk (that is, non-Indigenous Australians) then the term ‘Aboriginal person’ is preferred. I’m obviously not going to name them, but there are plenty of people out there with some Aboriginal ancestry who are indistinguishable from white fellas but they insist on being called an ‘Aboriginal person.’
Stop Making the Past an Excuse
We see similar instruction (brainwashing) being given about golliwogs and blackface or even the national anthem. But the victim brigade army might respond with: “but there’s a history associated with it and you need to understand that history order to understand why it’s racist.” If an explanation is needed to justify why something is racist, then it probably isn’t racist. If I see an Aboriginal person being refused service in a shop simply because they are an Aborigine (and if the term offends then go find yourself a safe place), then no one needs to explain to me how that event is racist – it’s obvious. If one wished to link an event from today with racism from the past, where will it end? Are Aboriginal people to be offended by ships today because it was the arrival of ships at the time of the ‘British invasion’ that brought disease and killings to the original inhabitants? Or are they to be offended by guns because so many of their ancestors were killed by the white man (and native police) using the guns? I've said it before and will say it again: we are never ever victims of the past, but only ever victims of our view of the past.
Let's Move Forward
Just as we regularly read stories in the media where someone is offended for one trivial reason or another, we also read about the more serious issues like violence, child abuse, unsafe living environments, sickness, unemployment and more. Let’s not become so preoccupied with the trivial nonsense that we forget about the life and death issues.