Is this the most offensive idea ever?


Earthrise

From the Moon, we don’t see opinions. The world looks to be at peace…

I know how we can achieve World Peace…

I’ve been interested in World Peace as long as I can remember. As a child I often wondered, ‘why can’t people just be nice to each other?’ and ‘why can’t people just leave me alone?’

I was 10 when I came up with, what I thought would be the only real law we needed: ‘Everyone can do anything they like as long as it doesn’t stop anyone else doing what they like.’

That seems to work, doesn’t it? It’s not far off the Golden Rule of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Not bad for me in 1981. But then I did pick up my philosophy from Doctor Who so you shouldn’t expect anything less.

But it doesn’t work does it? No matter what extraneous laws we put in place to control behaviour, whatever carrot or stick, whatever promise or guilt trip we use, we still don’t have peace.

So why is that? Clearly some people follow just the first half of my Golden Rule and just do what they want (that’s the definition of the code of magic set down by Aleister Crowley, ‘Do what thy wilt’ by the way). We call these people sociopaths. But they are a tiny fraction of the problem, even when they do end up running a country.

Why do we have wars? Some people cite religion as the reason. They are wrong. I may be naive and simplistic in my philiosophy, but I’ve thought it through a little bit more than that. Religion is largely irrelevant, or rather it is a subset of a larger set.

I’m suggesting there are two reasons nations or people go to war, or pick a fight of any kind. Just two reasons. Often it’s both reasons together and sometimes it’s one but they cite the other.

The first reason is resources. People will fight and kill each other to get what the other person has. It could be money, a nice coat, a wife or husband, more land, oil, water, copper, food, anything.

The two World Wars were about land and resources but they were both triggered by the other reason people fight:

Difference of opinion or different ideas.*

That’s why the answer is not religion, but the higher set of conflicting ideas. In fact that’s all religion really is, a group adherence to a particular idea on how to live life. That’s why different football fans will fight because of the difference of opinion on who should be supported. Without religion we’d still have warring tribes and culture clashes.

That’s why many peace activists have focused on pointing out that we have such few differences, that we should embrace difference and that we should remove the boundaries of tribe, religion, country and wealth that divides us.

But, on this day, I have another idea…

Let’s face it. It’s pretty obvious that we’re all different. All of us. It’s pretty obvious that we don’t all see things the same way. Even Beatle fans can’t agree on the best track on the Revolver LP. We all have different opinions and ideas and guess what, those opinions might even change.

So ‘different ideas’ are here to stay and we can’t do anything about them.

But it’s not the fact of those different ideas that are the problem. It’s not the fact that we disagree about which, if any, religious faith is right. It’s not the fact that we can’t agree of who was the best Doctor Who (it was Tom Baker by the way). It’s the fact that we get offended if someone else holds a different view. We get offended if we’re pointed out to be wrong, by someone else’s opinion.

Yes. That’s what I’m saying. We can’t have World Peace until everyone stops getting offended by other people having different ideas.

We often point the finger at idiots who incite hatred. The enlightened pour scorn on those who create division. The modern liberal politically correct model is to try really hard to not offend anyone and punish those who do. There have been numerous examples recently of comedians having to ‘apologise’ for making fun of someone (which is worryingly ludicrous as humour is formed by the realisation of differences or embarrassment over them).

There is an answer to all this. There is a brave step we need to take to get closer to World Peace. This is it:

We all must never be offended by what anyone says ever again.

Could you do it? No matter what they said about your mum? No matter how their words degraded you, your family, your work? Could you just laugh it off or ignore it? Do you have the confidence that your own opinions are strong enough to stand up to unfair trials without having to feel defeated or lash out?

If no-one was offended by what people said, if the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ was adhered to, we’d seriously reduce the instigation of violence.

So how can we stop people from being so offended by everything? Again the answer is simple. We all should be as overwhelmingly verbally offensive as possible to all those people who are quick to take offence. We need to tell the most offensive jokes about them to them until their internal offensive-defence mechanism can’t take it anymore and it just washes over them. And we must never ever apologise for it.

But guess what. I might be wrong. Your idea might be better. Let’s hear it.

All we’d have to do then is figure out a way to share out all our resources. That may not be easy, but in an open debate where no-one is getting offended by what people say, we might be able to at least have a crack at it.

* Actually it’s ‘fear of difference’ that’s the real key, which is why people with primitive minds are racist, defaulting to the ancient ‘purging of the hives’ animal mentality. The fear comes from lack of confidence in the self when faced with a difference. This is why racists have inferiority complexes and an inability to grasp logic which is a much later evolutionary trait.

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21 comments on “Is this the most offensive idea ever?

  1. Ed,
    As usual, thought provoking, insightful, provocative and fun.
    This seemed appropriate: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Eleanor Roosevelt

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  2. Not taking offence is something I’ve been thinking about recently. When someone gets upset there’s a line you have to draw – is someone being too offensive or is the other person being too easily offended? You make a good point – if we all try to be neither there will be less conflict in the world.

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  3. * ‘fear of difference’…. that’s the real key. It is said that we are always in an emotional state. And those emotional states are either born out of fear or love. That’s it. As you say, the answers are simple. They’re always simple and boil down to just a few.

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  4. I thought I was the only person in the world with this idea! I’ve never been someone that gave a damn about what other people thought of me. I am who I am and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to be around me. If someone disagrees with me, I’m open to their opinions. People need to learn to accept that others aren’t always going to agree with them and go about their business. You don’t HAVE to agree ALL the time. That would be boring!

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  5. Hmmm. Sounds like thou shalt not covet and forgive others their trespasses… That’s religion,of course, but you’re right that these are universal causes of contention. “I want what you’ve got, and you have to agree with me because I am always right.” It starts when we’re still crawling in the nursery, before we’ve learned any religion or philosophy. I think you’ve hit it, Ayd. What would happen in this world if we just stopped being greedy offendable jerks?

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    • In the 1968 film ‘Barbarella’, the Angel Pygar helps Barbarella and the evil Queen escape. Barbarella asks Pygar, “how can you help her when she was so horrible to you?”. Pygar says, “An angel has no memory”.

      That always stuck with me as a great dictionary definition of an ‘angel’. If we want to be like an angel, we too must learn to forgive and forget, totally.

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  6. Much like your ideas, I’ve been thinking along similar lines myself.
    You say, “We get offended if we’re pointed out to be wrong, by someone else’s opinion.” It was said by some Greek philospher, I think, that it’s better to lose a debate than to win – because to lose means you’ve been shown to be wrong. That’s good – because then you have learned something.
    It’s the scientific method. If you have a theory of how the world works that cannot be proved wrong it’s no theory at all, it’s religion.
    As for wars due to wanting what your neighbour has, I think we are slowly learning that trade is better than raid. War is a zero sum game at best, often negative sum. Trade is a positive sum game (if you car engine was made in Japan then you don’t really want to go to war with them)

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  7. I violently agree about the ‘fear of difference’. Difference also makes or allows us to fit stereotypes to others – “other people” aren’t real people. So it’s easier to make war on them. It’s easier to take offence from “other people” [maybe] that we wouldn’t take with friends. My little bit of the solution is – “know more people”, and start next door. I wrote about ‘fear of difference’ etc a couple of years back http://wp.me/pA6xo-O

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  8. What a great post! I’m not sure about the methodology for changing our predicament, though — there are some people who are so entrenched in their beliefs that I don’t think bombarding them with a verbal offense will ever lead to wearing them down. So then what are some other ways to remove their fear and build their confidence, I guess? I like the “know more people” idea that is posted above. And I’d add “start young,” too. Reading this also made me wonder what it is about ‘peace and love’ that has some people– the hawks– associating it with flaky daydreamers. Realists can eschew peace and love, too!

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  9. Great article, but I believe your conclusion is very wrong!

    The ability to be hurt by someone else’s opinion (and for hurt to be removed by counter-opinions) is part of the essential mechanism which provides feedback on our behaviours. Physical hurt is our body’s way of warning us that we are doing something wrong and compelling us to change. If you put your hand in the fire, it’s pain that drives you to pull it back out.

    Emotional hurt is every bit as important, as it gives feedback on how our words and actions have affected others. The shame we feel when rebuked is part of the mechanism that curbs antisocial behaviour and keeps society working fairly and productively. So we must never lose the ability to be offended and to cause offense.

    Sure, the feedback mechanism has gone into overdrive for some people, making them frustratingly over-sensitive. And other people have learnt (or been actively taught) to respond to unwelcome feedback by eliminating the source of the evidence.

    But in either case, I think we need a more subtle response than simply layering on more and more hurt, in the hope that the whole problem will go away!

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  10. There’s an issue I think you’re overlooking.

    The ability to ‘offend’ is related to power. It’s hard for white people in the US, to give an example, to feel really offended if a black person calls one of them a ‘cracker’. There’s no power to back up the implied threat of harm. For a white person to call a black person a ‘nigger’, let’s say, is backed up by several hundreds of years of proven harm, as well as a still viable probability of harm. It’s hard for Richard Dawkins to feel insulted if someone tells him he’s going to hell because he’s not in a position of power, and people like his mum would probably never say such a thing. However, if a teen has his mother say that, and the kid knows his mum believes that atheists should be turned out into the streets, that’s another matter.

    Gays aren’t afraid of the word ‘faggot’. They’re afraid of the brick that often hits them in the head right after that word is spoken. Women aren’t afraid of words like ‘cunt’. They’re afraid of the men standing near a dark alley saying it, because they might choose to drag a woman into a dark alley and rape her. Brown people aren’t afraid of ‘nigger’ jokes. They’re afraid of seeing how many people in the audience nod, smile and agree, and take the words as permission from society to treat brown people a certain way.

    I think it is very hard indeed for a white middle-class English man to understand the level of fear that many people fear from words. Even a man from a poor background, or a person who grew up in Ireland, while having some understanding, won’t have the same visceral sense of fear as someone who has been attacked for being different. Having been close to gay-bashed, stalked for not having sex with a guy, molested by several men, and scared into leaving an Army-Navy store owned by KKK sympathizers, while being brought up by parents who were African-American and grew up in the pre-integration American South, I’ve learned that my understanding of which words should offend me has kept me safe and even alive. It’s the attitudes behind the words that scare me, not the words themselves. It’s like the idiots I meet who want to know why it’s not okay for them to use words like ‘nigger’ any more just because they are white, when black people use words like that. Trying to explain that plenty of black people don’t use those words, and that too many cruel white people have used those words to the point where a sensible black person, upon hearing such words coming out of a white person’s mouth, would feel justified in grabbing a shotgun seems to be beyond these folks. So by all means, use as many offensive terms as you want and hope that the use of them will desensitize people who have no sense of history or cultural significance. Just don’t be surprised if someone who does have a sense of cultural significance and history kills you for it.

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  11. Pingback: Don’t Be a Walt Wawra | Laura Zera

  12. Great article, as ever. just two points to make:

    Crowley is so often misrepresented and especially by this mis-quote. The verse is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” a tenet of the Temple of Thelema and is actually saying “follow your true will and not some imposed will” and is tied into the will of the supreme, higher consciousness or universal consciousness. It is not suggesting that you should do anything you want and to hell with everyone else.

    The second point is that Doctor Who? is a question and not a person.

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    • Great info thanks. But Doctor Who IS the name of a character, as credited at the end of the programme called ‘Doctor Who’ from 1963 to 1980, again in 2005 and in two films with the Daleks in 1965 and 1966. From 1980 to 1989, 1996 and 2006 to 2012 the character is credited as ‘The Doctor’…

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      • …but The Doctor, in response to the question “Doctor? Doctor Who?” always replies “Just, the Doctor.” So, surely, even if the credits do read “Doctor Who,” is this not also a question, albeit with the question mark absent?

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