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Being Offended – Fear of Differences

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Cultivating a culture of offense

Cultivating a culture of offense

I came across an interesting, yet troubling article the talks about a growing intolerance in the modern western world. The article is called Cultivating a Culture of Offense, from which I have borrowed the image to the left.  The author talks about humans becoming less tolerant and more hypersensitive, often opposing whatever it is that offends them with too much energy that doesn’t allow for taking a moment to reflect on whether or not one even needs to take offense.

“Hypersensitive people have been around likely as long as people have been around, but their numbers seems to have increased almost exponentially. Hypersensitive people get offended easily because they see life as having a certain set of rules and they find it infuriating when someone or some group doesn’t seem to be going by those rules. They play by the rules and think others should do the same.”

The world is seen as black and white – us versus them – the Chosen People versus the Heathens – good versus evil. Whatever ideologies, theologies, philosophies (the list seems endless) that separate and divide humanity creates a culture of conflict that can be healthy in providing a tension as well as contrasts that allow us to rethink who we are given opposing ideas and ways of being. However, when there is retrenchment, a building of barricades and a demand that opposing others recant their opposing views and adopt the correct ideas and ways of being, something in the shadows is activated, a dark and negative face.

“Discussing things related to sexuality, relationships, racism, religion, politics – and yes, simple nudity are all but guaranteed to offend someone. Disagreeing with someone is simply part of life. There is nothing wrong with people not agreeing with the concept of open nudity. But telling other people what they can and cannot do just because their worldview doesn’t square with yours goes too far.”

I know I have been taught in various situations, by various well-meaning individuals and groups to avoid talking about politics and religion because they tend to activate complexes which makes discussion turn into argument. As for sexuality, that is a taboo topic. To bring it up does no more than to confirm that one has sex on the brain, that one is vulgar and lewd. Having a different worldview is tolerated as long as one keeps it to him or herself while not disturbing the worldviews of others. Self comes in last place.

” A part of the problem it seems is the era of political correctness we live in. Political correctness teaches people should feel offended by the words and actions of others that they don’t agree with. Political correctness imbues people with the belief they are a victim of something and that should do something about it, hold someone accountable. Political correctness has gotten so far out of control in this country that anybody can be offended by anything at anytime. But who gets to decide what is offensive anyway? Each individual that’s who – people take offense because they choose to be offended.”

Personally, I don’t think that the author’s simplistic belief that all is within the realm of choice, the domain of the ego, is what is really happening here. Whenever there is an affect that rises – anger, being offended, irrational fear, taboo – the faces of the personal and collective unconscious are being seen as complexes, personal and collective, have been activated.

Yes, the modern western world is becoming less tolerant, more politically correct and angrier at everybody and everything that dares to contradict. The number of people who deny that human behaviour impacts upon environment and weather simply discount science, or as in the case of our Canadian Prime Minister, silence the scientists, burn their books, and distance the researchers from their needed texts. Aid to third world countries becomes judged on issues of control – abandon abortion and family planning and the Canadian government will consider with more favour, your country’s needs.

Control – it’s all about control whether it be at the individual level, the group level, or at the level of the larger society. When one needs to react to limit others, to control others, then there is a serious issue with the self and/or collective that so desperately wants to shut down and eliminate the differences that appear to divide us as humans.



Written by Robert G. Longpré

January 23, 2014 at 6:48 am

3 Responses

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  1. Ah, where to start, where to start. 🙂

    The author of the article you refer to would have been helped by reading Al Gore’s book, “The Assault on Reason”. Taking offence to things that have no impact on one’s personal life is intellectually lazy but affirms a frightened, powerless ego.

    Indeed complexes (is metaphysical belief a complex?) result in the fear and anger but we also have a financially competitive TV news environment that rewards the sensational. Hell even Detroit weather news was accused of exaggerating the severity of upcoming weather in order to attract eyeballs and advertising revenues. ( never proven in a court of law, I might add!) constant exposure to this “news cycle” hyperventilated conflict increasingly encourages people to be offended. They might just get their 15 minutes of fame.

    The conflict it seems to me is between the age of reason and the age of metaphysics. Even the Canadian Government’s staunch anti-intellectualism is a manifestation of the rejection of fact in favour of “belief”, much of which is based on the belief that if I have thought something is the right policy a metaphysical being must have planted it in my brain, therefore it is right and good. Therefore the use of facts and debate are utterly superfluous.

    Ironically, or sadly, Jeremy Rifkin in a somewhat pollyannish mood wrote “The Empathic Civilization”, suggesting that humanity is on the cusp of developing a global consciousness. From the fly leaf: “The author challenges us to think about what may be the most important question facing humanity: can we reach global empathy in time to avoid the collapse of civilization and save the Earth?” So how do you think it is going, growing intolerance and all? 🙂

    Are the “offended” going to sit down and analyze the facts, weight to pros & cons, conclude that in many cases their “offence” is irrational and a waste of time and energy? Their politicians don’t, so why should they?

    Bill Rathborne

    January 23, 2014 at 10:29 am

  2. At its most fundamental level, intolerance is a symptom of unconsciousness. The essential narrowness of the individual consciousness which is now, in a very real sense demanded by modern culture and driven by its educative function leads to people who live in constant fear of “other”. This of course is essential in a society where those who govern or control are also driven by fear, not only of “other” but also a fear driven by the arrogance of capital and the mistrust ground out by their own greed and need to “predict and control” and thus retain power.
    It amuses me to see new age types waffling on about higher consciousness etc, when it is quite clear the world is now driven by a level of unconsciousness not seen since post biblical times.

    Robert G Heyward

    January 23, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    • Good to hear from you again, Robert. There is a shifting within me that is showing in my words here. I am wondering where it is taking me and I have had a hint that the shift enters a new paradigm for me this coming summer when I turn 65. I don’t have the energy to be intolerant to a great degree. It is all wasted energy. I don’t want to control the world, but I definitely am less interested in giving control over to others – and perhaps that is where I am headed. Few here know just how close we have been for more than 15 years. Your words add gravitas to mine, my friend.


      January 23, 2014 at 6:44 pm

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