By John Hawkins
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Since when did, “I’m offended,” become an argument that trumps all facts, logic and common sense? When did regularly claiming to be aggrieved on behalf of some splinter of the population become a high paying gig? How did we get to a point in America where people are PROUD to tell you that they’re “victims?”
There are a lot of reasons things have gone so wrong on this front, but ironically, the biggest is that our nation has had so much success.
Americans are now considerably richer and more educated as a group than Americans were a few generations ago. The Civil Rights struggle was an overwhelming success. Even many poor Americans have access to conveniences and luxuries that the richest and most privileged of us didn’t have 100 years ago. If you look at the whole of human history, anyone living in America today is in the wealthiest, most privileged “1%” of people who have ever lived on Planet Earth.
There’s a reason people say, “Idle hands do the devil’s work,” and it’s the same reason you often find that prominent terrorists and communists come from privileged backgrounds. No matter how well things are going, some people are going to be dissatisfied. When those people are living hand to mouth, they’re too busy scrambling to pay their bills to worry about trivia. But, when they have a roof over their heads, money in their pockets, and free time, they spend their days doing what critics do.
This is not new. Even Machiavelli had people like this in his time,
“And many writers have imagined for themselves republics and principalities that have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for there is such a gap between how one lives and how one ought to live that anyone who abandons what is done for what ought to be done learns his ruin rather than his preservation…..”
The difference between today and the start of the 16th century is that our prosperity has allowed a few puddles full of whiners to grow into an ocean and worse yet, we REWARD them for bellyaching.
In the era of the Internet and reality TV, everyone seems to be chasing Andy Warhol’s “fabled 15 minutes of fame” and one of the easiest ways to get them, especially if you don’t have any talent or don’t want to work for them, is to throw a big public pity party for yourself.
There are people like Cindy Sheehan, Sandra Fluke and to a lesser degree, even Hillary Clinton who managed to turn being professional victims into careers.
Setting that aside, there’s the financial motive. There are people who quite literally make a living by accusing other people of racism, sexism and homophobia. Do you really think people -- who are only going to be able to make their house payments if they keep making accusations of racism -- are going to see anything other than bigotry when there’s money on the line?
Professional race hustlers are bad enough, but the sheer number of amateurs getting in on the game has an even bigger negative impact on society. Every day, we now have millions of people trying to figure out how they can be aggrieved so they can claim their own delicious little slice of victimhood.
As often as not, when you hear their caterwauling about how upset they are, you can’t help but think it’s their way of saying, “Everybody look at us! We’re victims! We’re offended; so you have to pay attention to us!”
There are people offended by American flags, by non-offensive words like “niggardly” that sound similar to offensive words, by Christian business owners who don’t want to bake cakes for gay weddings, by children’s songs that mention pigs and there’s even a family that’s terribly upset about Ben & Jerry’s “Hazed and Confused” ice cream because….well, can you even guess? It’s because their son died in 2008 in a hazing incident and so they’ve decided they don’t like the word “hazed.”
That last example cuts to the heart of the problem because you certainly feel for people who lost their son and it’s understandable that they’re against hazing. But, where does sympathy stop and common sense begin? How far is everyone else supposed to go to cater to their irrational complaints? As someone who quite literally gets hate mail every day of the week from people who are deeply offended in almost every way imaginable because I dare to have a different opinion than they do on an issue, I’d say not very far.
That doesn’t mean that we should go out of our way to offend people. For example, even though I’m not a Muslim and think the overreaction to Koran burnings in some parts of the world is insane, I wouldn’t burn a Koran because I want to show a modicum of courtesy to people from another faith. I don’t think the Confederate flag is racist, but I wouldn’t personally fly one because I can legitimately see why many black Americans associate it with slavery. I’ve had polite conversations at conventions with liberals -- whom I would disagree with on every issue -- just because I think it’s good manners. These are the sort of niceties that help hold a society together, but it only goes so far.
When every niche issue that mildly tweaks someone’s sensibilities becomes a life and death, traumatic “either do this or you hate me” battle, the bonds that hold us together as a society begin to disintegrate because to paraphrase Aristotle, the only way to avoid offending people is to “say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.”
It’s made worse by the fact that so many people have started glomming on to these ridiculous issues as a substitute for actually doing something of consequence. “I’m against the Redskins; so I’m pro-Indian!” “The words ‘illegal immigrant’ are offensive; so I’m pro-Hispanic!” “I think that’s racist; so I’m pro-black.”
Bull****! If you’ve helped a black friend move his furniture to a new apartment, you’ve actually done more for black Americans than someone who has spent the last decade screaming “racism, racism, racism” every day.
Claiming to be “offended” on someone else’s behalf rarely accomplishes anything meaningful. In fact, it’s often about as “helpful” as buying a bottle of booze for an alcoholic because life doesn’t give “trigger warnings” and few people worth emulating in life enjoy being the guest of honor at a pity party.