I truly believe that we are the most whiney, sensitive, thin-skinned, easily offended society in the history of the world.
Nobody has ever been as prolific at getting offended as we are.
Nobody cries over insignificant nonsense as loudly and consistently as us.
It’s the one thing we seem to do better than everyone else on the planet. We corner the Offended Market, and it’s not even close. Modern Americans love to get offended more than we love eating Cinnabon or talking about our fitness goals. If it was an Olympic sport, we’d grab the gold, silver, and bronze every year. If it was a job, we’d all be millionaires. In fact, we have turned it into a job, and the people who do it professionally are millionaires (Al Sharpton, etc). It is our calling card, our national pastime. It is the battle we fight and the banner we wave.
We get offended faster and more efficiently than anyone. And it’s not just our speed that separates us from the rest — it’s our endurance. We have a limitless capacity for offendedness. Every week there are dozens of new national outrages and boycott campaigns and social media crusades to raise awareness about some offensive thing, or to get someone fired for saying some offensive thing, or to teach people that some previously non-offensive thing has now become offensive.
Most of all, I find myself positively dazzled by the dexterity and athleticism with which we get offended. We can juggle six or seven outrages all at once, and then drop them and pick up new ones in the blink of an eye.
Our creativity and meticulousness are also quite notable here. We can look at any situation and extract hundreds of offensive factors that an untrained eye probably would have overlooked. We conjure up more fabricated outrages and controversies in a month than past civilizations could have mustered in a thousand years.
Do you remember what everyone was super worked up about four weeks ago? Yeah, me neither. That’s the point. We move on to the new outrage so quickly and the old ones are buried and forgotten. Well, whatever it was way back then, I’m sure it was REALLY bad and we were REALLY upset.
It’s always something. We have located the Fountain of Eternal Indignation, and we drink it by the gallon.
Love the blog, man. Thanks for it. I’m a sophomore at a college that shall go nameless. I saw your Twitter tirade tonight about micro-aggressions and I thought I’d let you know that my university has launched a “campaign” to make us all aware of our unconscious biases and microaggressions that serve to otherize minority groups…
Today a girl in one of my classes suggested that pulling out a chair or opening a car door for a woman could be a microaggression because it insinuates that she is incapable of doing it herself. Lots of people INCLUDING THE PROFESSOR agreed! I feel like I’m surrounded by crazy people…
Yes, opening a car door is a microaggression.
God help us.
Does anyone else get the impression that college is somehow making a lot of people dumber (or maybe just accentuating preexisting dumbness)? I pray for this young man, that he make it through three more years of higher education without sustaining any serious brain damage. A tall order, to be sure. I’m not even taking these classes every day and I feel slightly concussed just from reading the phrase “unconscious biases and microaggresions that serve to otherize minority groups,” let alone that whole car door bit.
It’s remarkable that many in our society are so addicted to victimhood that they can’t even wait for the handful of fresh media-constructed outrages to come along in the news every week. They have to stop and snack on these infinitesimal little affronts and indignities along the way.
Everyone wants to be a martyr these days, and they’ll grasp at any straw and sob over any banal remark in order to achieve it. They will twist and torture any comment or polite exchange just to find even the faintest hint of a snub or a taunt.
We are absolutely determined to be victims, and I think there are a few reasons for that:
First, many of us have been programmed to desire pity more than anything— even above respect or love. There are a lot of profound spiritual factors at work here, and it would require a hundred different blog posts to even crack the surface. To sum up this phenomenon in a very insufficient way: our obsession with pity stems from our selfishness. Love, charity, and fraternity, in order to exist, must be both given and received. They are a great gift, but also a duty. When we love we are showered with blessings, but we are likewise called to make enormous sacrifices. Pity, on the other hand, works just one way. When a person demands pity they demand something for nothing. They want to be a recipient but not a giver. This is why love has fallen out of favor in our culture and pity has been put in its place. It’s also why many marriages fall apart. When love is extinguished often its void is filled by a lethal mixture of pity and guilt. I think it can be accurately said that some people in our society have spent their whole lives in relationships ruled only by these two forces.
Second, we have come to believe that our Victimhood grants us wisdom and insight. How many times has a constructive debate been derailed when one of the participants suddenly proclaims that only their opinion counts because they’re the only one who “knows what it feels like”? Important cultural and social issues devolve into gladiatorial duels over who can claim the title of Ultimate Victim. Whoever wins then earns the right to make even the most irrational and unintelligible assertions, and anyone who defies them will be deemed a bigot and banished from the conversation. For this reason, people collect their examples of microaggressions like chips at a casino, and then they cash them in as soon as someone mentions abortion or affirmative action on Facebook.
Third, we are bored. Much of the chaos in our culture can be boiled down to this. We are simply bored. We need something to fight about, something to complain about, something to cry about. Without it, we feel like we will cease to exist. Descartes said cogito ergo sum: I think therefore I am. But today we’ve changed the expression slightly: I am offended therefore I am.
So that’s the diagnosis, but what’s the cure?
Well, we could start by not sending our kids to public universities. Asinine gibberish like “microaggression” can only be effectively fostered and spread in the cloistered, cutoff, sheltered environment of ‘higher education.’ Maybe if we starve the beast, it will stop infecting our kids with this kind of madness.
But that would be a merely partial solution. The full answer escapes me, but I know it requires everyone to come to terms with these five Absolute Truths:
1) If it wasn’t intended to offend you, then you shouldn’t be offended.
2) You do not get to decide someone else’s intentions. They do.
3) Being offended is a choice you make. Nobody is responsible for that choice but you.
4) Even if the slight was intended and deliberate, functioning adults understand that they must move on and not dwell over every sideways glance or rude comment.
5) You have to stop doing the trendy internet thing where you write something on a piece of paper and take a picture of yourself holding it up while frowning. It’s just annoying at this point.
You’ll never be happy or satisfied if you don’t keep these five points in mind.
But then, for the grievance mongers, I suppose happiness isn’t the goal.
If they’re happy then people might stop feeling sorry for them.
Whatever they do, they certainly can’t allow that to happen.