One thing I have come to ponder in recent years is that we seem to be living in a culture of offence.
Daily there are examples of someone being offended by the behaviour or comments of someone else and demanding that a person change their ways so as not to offend.
I'm not talking about being offended by the big things like the inequalities in our society or the lack of action on climate change. I'm talking about the offence we take at a personal level, of people and behaviours that we might not agree with.
Being offended that someone wishes to identify in a way that we don’t understand. Being offended at having to make small sacrifices in our comfort levels, so that the greater population can have a better chance of not getting sick. Being offended by a book that was written 100 years ago, because societal norms or the meanings of words have changed.
Society risks being fragmented into smaller groups of people with specific identities, offended and outraged by anyone that doesn’t belong to its ever-diminishing idea of identity.
Someone once described to me the idea that we seek out people we identify with, and that everyone else is “Other”. When we complain about things, perhaps something the local council had done, we use the term “They”. They are other, They have done this to us. We are right, they are wrong.
This propensity to pitch ourselves against “Them” creates barriers, barriers to engaging, listening and even understanding.
We are all entitled to basic rights, but as contributing members of a larger society, we need to make sure that our rights don’t override the rights of others to exist peacefully. With personal rights also come personal responsibilities, and for society to function smoothly, we all need to sometimes yield on our individual rights for the greater good.
Examples of books being banned by schools or history being rewritten to remove things that we now are uncomfortable with are becoming more prevalent. Statues of people are being removed. Some for valid reasons, but some for seemingly minor misdemeanours that are dwarfed by their positive achievements in other areas.
History has happened. Whether we like what happened or not, it happened, and by removing it from the records we keep, we risk removing it from our collective wisdom repeating the mistakes of the past and restricting the ability to develop as a better society.
Historical people can be cancelled for behaving in a way that was normal for the time. We should not judge history by the standards that we live by today, we need to understand the context of the times.
We think we are the more enlightened generation yet how will our behaviour be judged by those 100 or 200 years from now? Will those left on the planet look back and ask incredulously, how we managed to get it so wrong despite all the signs and the warnings?
Many of us can see the need for a major shift in society's values, but are we too comfortable in our bubble of consumption to make any significant changes? Are we so occupied with the seeming injustices and offences against us as individuals to consider the bigger issues?
I am reminded of a phrase I have heard, but I am unable to find the source, so I apologise for the lack of attribution or the probable misquote.
“I can see the need to change, but not me, and not now.”
In previous generations, instances of outrage or offence were often followed up with a stern letter to the organisation involved, or even the editor of the local paper. Sometimes, in the time it took to put pen to paper, and upon reflection in the writing process, the perceived gravity of the offence may have reduced somewhat. In today's world, with instant access to multiple social media platforms, there is no cooling-off period to reflect on before unleashing our inner fury.
Absolutely, there are things that we should be offended about. We should be offended by the lack of opportunities for the poor and underprivileged. We should be offended by injustices against race, gender and disability. We should be very offended by the lack of action on climate change.
Being offended because your neighbour mows their lawn without any clothes on, should not even be on the list.
Grumpy from Tauranga.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.