No Offense, But…

So here we are. Two thousand and fourteen. We as a species have adapted and conquered the majority of the world. We change our environment to fit our needs. We have the mental capacity to perform the most incredible of calculations or to create a machine that can perform them for us. Even with only using a small portion of our brain, we are extremely advanced cognitively. So what is it that is holding us back, both as a nation and as a species?

I have a few theories that are, for the most part, intertwined.

If you remember back in my first post, I discussed the effects of both our education system and our economic system and the push they give in the complete wrong direction when combined. I brought light to the fact that we are becoming more and more insensitive to each other while becoming increasingly more sensitive in our own needs. I think those subjects need some deeper exploration.

First off, the reason why I created this blog was to 1) provide myself with a valve for the pressure buildup of thoughts in my head, and 2) to give a thoughtful rebuttal to the constant “I’m offended” rants posted all over social media. I feel as though we discovered facebook, twitter, and other social media without understanding the responsibilities we have in order to maintain a peaceful and just presence. News articles are being posted and ridiculed or broken down without any sense of the true story. Those articles are then filtered through the opinions of a misinformed audience who don’t understand the full story, and then force-fed to their entire following. This creates an army of misguided sheep who are “so extremely offended” about what they’ve read that they have to vent their frustrations and mud-sling the entire facebook community which in fact just makes them look foolish and mildly pathetic despite their attempt to “make a change.”

My biggest question is, why? Why do we feel the need to take so much offense to everything that happens? Why must there be a deeper and darker meaning behind everything that happens? Why do we see something and immediately jump to a stubborn conclusion with no interest in allowing the truth to alter our opinion? It goes back to what I said about our fast-food, cookie-cutter society and our demand to get straight to the point. “Feed it to me all in one bite. I don’t have time to hear it all.” We are so caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of what is really happening.

Our beliefs have become so easily shaken that people are looking for any excuse to twist them. If you get so upset and offended by something that I say that you can’t form a logical retort, then you can’t tell me that you truly believe in your cause. You need to sit back and think through why you believe what you say you do in the first place. I’m all for passionate beliefs. I have a few that could spark controversy, but they are backed up by reasoning. They are backed up by experiences and by logic. However, I am not written in stone. If you can provide me with proof (and I mean absolute proof) that my opinions don’t hold water, then I will change my opinions. But that’s the tricky part. There aren’t a lot of beliefs that can be proven either way. That, in addition to being the most beautiful part of humanity, is the most difficult concept for us to grasp. In a lot of cases, even with science, we don’t have proof that one opinion stands out as the end-all correct answer. Life is so packed full of variables that there is no way to prove a lot of the controversial opinions we possess. One solution will never work for everyone.

That is the beginning of our issue. We see this inability to find one true answer and we see our adversary gathering troops. We do our best to rally our own troops to fight this social media war and really “stick it to the man.” We take pride in converting others to our side and “enlightening” them; showing them the truth. “Our adversary is different. He/she thinks differently (at least in this specific case) and I want to show him why he/she is wrong.” Our first instinct is to poke fun, even ridicule their beliefs in hopes to break them down. But why? Why is that step 1? Why instead of proper research and a thoughtful process are we instead choosing to break our opponents down.

We are playing a game, to put simply, a friendly competition of wit. We don’t see an opponent in a track meet that is more prepared and trained harder for the race, and trip him/her or hurt him before the big race. If you would, then you’re a major part of the problem we are facing and you should be ashamed of your shortcut-craving lifestyle. No, instead we just push ourselves to our limits and give it everything we have. If he/she wins, Oh well… We will just admit defeat and train even harder to prepare for our next meeting. We will use defeat as a motivator.

This metaphor holds true to a mental debate as well. If you convince me that I’m wrong, I will go back and do more research to bring it back to the table for our next quarrel. Either that, or I will admit that your opinion makes more sense to me and I will give you the trophy, which is my faith in your cause.

This race to gain a following is ingrained deep within our psyche and is difficult to overcome. We love when people agree with us. We love when we share similar opinions. It lowers friction between individuals and reduces uncertainty. We tend to spend time with people who are, by our own definition, easy to deal with. No one likes to be in constant combat. No one wants to incessantly defend their core beliefs or their opinions. It’s exhausting, it drains you, and it could potentially lead to you altering your foundation of life. We don’t like to admit that we could have been wrong all this time. It’s difficult to admit making any sort of mistake, let alone thinking that your entire life has been guided in the wrong direction. So our solution is to try and gain a following, try and recruit as many people on our side as possible because we all know that in our society, majority counts.

Regressing to a former statement, our beliefs have become fragile and shaky. They are weak from constant combat and from a lack of understanding. We don’t know what to believe anymore. Politics, religion, life. It’s all corrupt. Nothing is real anymore and no one is genuine. We can no longer put our trust in anything. What we thought was good and just, ended up lacking a foundation and crumbled completely. That breaks us. It hurts knowing that everything you’ve lived for is a lie. We don’t like that feeling. When others try to challenge our opinions, we have a potential to receive those feelings so we lash out. We attack with our claws out. We do everything we can to subdue that brokenness, if only for a little while longer. It’s a basic survival instinct, transferred to our internal beliefs.

While we have sheltered ourselves from the dangerous world around us, we have softened our skin to the potential hurt that is circling above our heads, ready to attack. We have in essence become both the predator and the prey, feeding on the weak but being too fragile to defend ourselves from the other attackers. We are both, too sensitive and too insensitive to allow our thoughts to flourish. We are putting a choke collar on our opinions and running full speed at our adversaries.

The internet generation has even softer of skin and even sharper of teeth. They don’t see the pain they cause to others and just hide behind their keyboards, tapping away. They sit and sulk over what someone else has commented on their photo. They say disgusting and hurtful things to their peers because it takes the negative spotlight off of them for a few seconds. How can this be fixed? I don’t have a direct answer. They have been raised in a culture that tries to protect them from the hate of the world but cannot. They are sheltered and protected to the point of complete selfishness. If Mom and Dad never let the baby bird out of the nest, it will never learn to fly. There needs to be a better balance of protection and independence, between punishment for wrong-doing and praise for achievements. If a child is completely sheltered in his/her crucial developmental stages and is forced to confront a dark world, he/she will potentially collapse under the pressure of the inescapable hate they come across. We need to teach more of what is right and wrong, and what is the correct way to handle pain rather than just trying to shelter ourselves and our children from the hate that is inevitable. We need to build our houses on a solid foundation rather than a soft understanding. Sure, the weak house will stand in fair weather but as soon as a storm rolls through, it will no longer be able to withstand the pressure. It will collapse.

In addition to a strong foundation, we need to stop seeking a deeper meaning. There isn’t always a hidden agenda in the media. Yes I agree that sometimes there is… but not every ad is racist/sexist. Not every commercial should have a quota to fill in terms of diversity. That shouldn’t be the requirement. It should be whoever the best actor is for the spot. If it’s a black man, great. If it’s a white woman, fantastic. If it’s a homosexual couple, wonderful. Stop trying to force your cause into an ad just because the man walked into the frame first. Take things for face value. Our increased sensitivity has forced us to lose our sense of self as well as our sense of humor. We can no longer laugh at something in fear that we may offend someone. We have to double check every line of copy because it may say something that will upset a potential reader. Why? Does your day really revolve around a comedic ad or magazine article? Does your world really stop if you see an image that is meant to be humorous? We are permanently blurring the line between satire and reality. There is a difference and we are intelligent enough to distinguish the two. 

For example, Dutch Airlines was under fire recently after they posted an image of their “Departures” sign with a stereotypical Mexican figure next to it after the Netherlands defeated Mexico in the 2014 World Cup. I understand that if you’re Mexican, you will likely be upset at your loss in the game. Your team fought bravely and should have come out on top. The icon, which was a mustache and sombrero, shouldn’t be taken as offensive. It’s a simplified graphic of an iconic Mexican style of dress. If if was an icon of a Frenchman with a beret and a cigarette, there wouldn’t have been an outrage. It was a clever means of displaying national pride for the Dutch after they won a game….. I’m going to repeat that…. A GAME. Sure it’s the biggest stage in the world of soccer, but it’s still a game. It’s sport. It’s fun.

In addition, I was watching an episode of Top Gear on BBC. If you haven’t ever seen the original British version, you’re certainly missing out. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the show, it basically takes 3 crazy, quirky hosts and places them in hilarious competitions, all dealing with motor vehicles. They test drive sports cars and everyday vehicles and then are faced with a challenge. Typically they are given a small budget to buy a car and outfit it according to some random, idiotic guideline. In the episode I recently watched, they had to come up with a new police car that had to be able to stop a perp and needed an aspect of flamboyancy. One of the hosts purchased a 1994 Suzuki Vitara to his own comedic chagrin. The other hosts immediately start in with jokes and insults. One even stated “This would work if you were going undercover at a gay club.” I, with my own Americanized brainwash activated, immediately thought to myself “Uh oh. He can’t say that. He’s going to offend someone.” Then I stopped and thought “Why?” Why is that statement offensive? It’s a statement of comedic fact. That is a vehicle that has a specific audience which is not typically a police demographic or even a masculine demographic. He made a joke. A connection between two things. The car and the the fact that a policeman would never use such a vehicle unless he were to use it in such a way that would require a comedic atmosphere. That got me thinking about all of the similar jokes and comedians who receive a barrage of attacks because they’re offensive. Comedy is meant to take a topic and remove it’s pain by laughing at it. That’s why we make jokes. We refuse to give power to our hurt so we laugh in it’s face.

Things like this happen all too often. Something with no racial or sexist undertones is taken as quite the opposite. We all try to fit our agendas in and twist what was said to prove a point. It’s a battle of bullshit and the stinkiest usually takes the gold.

So while we as a species continue to adapt and develop, we somehow have gone in a retrograde motion, erasing progress. We have taken advantage of the amazing tools at hand and are using them improperly. We break each other down when we should instead be challenging each other constructively. We need to understand that we aren’t all going to agree on everything. We have reasons to do what we do or think the way we think. We owe it to ourselves and the world to look inside and truly understand why it is we think and feel the way we do. What makes us tick? Why do we constantly have to put down our fellow humans rather than pushing them to understand their own intentions and beliefs. We don’t have to convert them to our own thoughts, we just need them to realize why we think them. Teach, don’t preach. Give them a reason to seek our point of view. Being hurtful just gives them an excuse to avoid your way of thinking. So keep using your brain to its full potential. Do what it is that sets us apart from our primal predecessors, think. It’s about time we got back on track.


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