Friday, April 22, 2011

I Take Offense To Your Offense

There's an article on my Facebook feed titled NYS Senator 'Deeply Offended' by Governor's Pro-Gay Marriage Efforts.  My opinions on gay marriage are pretty played out, and while I may post on that in the future, I feel no real need to do so at this time.

But it got me thinking about offense in general.  We hear that word and iterations of it so often.  People are offended by God, or by a lack of God, or by bigotry or homophobia, or apparently a lack of that too.  Sometimes they're offended by specific words, like cancer, sometimes they're offended by jokes on serious matters like death and rape.  The whole thing seems really complicated to me, especially since when considering what offends me, I have a hard time coming up with anything.  The dictionary.com definition of offense is merely something that displeases, which seems overly simplistic.

I think I'm offended by very few things.  I'm fiercely in favor of Gay rights, but I throw the word faggot out as often as anyone.  I have interests that are...not mainstream, but I'm quick to use words like dork and nerd as well.  I think rape and death and cancer and dead babies are awful things...but I still joke about them.  I've had people call me funny looking, socially retarded, a loser, and been more amused than anything.

I think it's such a difficult concept to grasp because offense seems so fluid.  No stoic person is completely unoffended by anything, and no politically correct person is devoid of their fair share of dirty or tasteless comments.

It's weird, I am well aware of my faults, such as being prone to isolation and being less than socially adept.  Being called out on these things doesn't bother me too much.  Honestly, when I get offended at such insults, the offense is more directed at the fact those insulters think those things matter, or that they make them better than me, not at the insults themselves, but maybe that's the same thing.

One of the things I was highly offended by was the constant remarks by my old bosses that I needed to be "more engaging," or "more talkative," or that I "didn't look excited enough."  (That last one still boggles my mind.  That someone could be so stupid to utter such a thing is nothing short of incredible to me.  That has to be the dumbest comment I've ever heard in my life.)  Mostly I was annoyed by their extremely crude grasp of people and how they thought that it was simply a matter of altering my personality.  Annoyed by how they couldn't understand that I wasn't like them, that I didn't like making small-talk, or going to company functions, or being around people at all.

Maybe that's what offends me more than anything, the all too often instances in which people fail to consider that those around them have conflicting viewpoints, different impressions, or that there are multiple ways of looking at things.  "Perception is reality," was another favorite quote thrown out by my old bosses, and to me that seemed like such a cop out.  I accept that appearances do matter to a certain extent and am okay with conforming to them.  But I feel like that phrase is an excuse to avoid any critical thinking, to bully your way through an interaction with a subordinate, or to tenderly stoke the fires of your own confirmation bias.  If you believe that perception is reality to that much of a degree, then you don't really need to explore anything with any depth, do you?  You can just continue to rely on your own flawed perceptions and pat yourself on the back for it because you'll never even think about exploring the possibility that you might be wrong.

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