An old Irish toast:
Here’s to the general health of the whole world, lest some damn fool take offense.
I used to think it was an amusing exaggeration. Maybe it’s not. I have realized that there are people out there – people of influence or with the capacity for violence – who really will throw a fit if they feel they’re not in control of other people’s minds, and the center of all the attention.
And I remember this thing my elders taught me when I was young:
Nobody has the right not to be offended.
We have the right not to be attacked.
We have the right not to be exploited.
We have the right not to be terrorized.
We have the right not to be robbed.
We have the right not to be silenced.
We have the right not be prevented from worshiping the god of our understanding.
But we do not have the right not to be offended.
And we do not have the right not be ignored.
So are you offended by something you don’t like? Good for you. So what? Who cares? It has nothing to do with the rest of us, whether we like that thing or not. Your reaction has even less to do with the person who created it. Being insulted is an arbitrary, subjective reaction to external stimuli and just one way of finding the stuff that you do like. Good luck with that.
Civilization does not exist to satisfy our tastes and applaud our eccentric little performance. Creativity is the outward expression of cognitive functions which are not subject to community control. We share and publish and react in the hope of finding common ground. Then it falls to each person to find in the society around them a place of belonging and a means of self-affirming expression. The world doesn’t owe anybody a custom-made reality.
Those of us who feel a creative urge owe ourselves a level of honesty and industry. We owe our audience gratitude, and our pledge to do our best to fill the amount of time we have asked them to give with something worthy of their attention.
The Internet and books and magazines movies and TV and music and art, is all practically infinite. If you find something you don’t like, and stop to complain instead of looking for something that seems right for you, you’re simply doing it wrong. If you think you can tell someone else how to express himself to suit your tastes, you’re just a fool.
Oh Good Grief
Funny thing, until this week I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo. I knew there was a little magazine in Europe that pissed off some whacko extremists a while back, but I couldn’t tell you its name or its nation. It only had 30,000 subscribers on a planet of 7,000,000,000 people. The magazine, and its lampooning of religion, got about a megaton of free publicity this week.
I don’t mean that cynically. It’s just ironic that the crazies who hated the innocent people at the magazine, and murdered them, and are now dead themselves, did vastly more to spread the alleged blasphemy than the victims could have ever have hoped to do.
I don’t know if I would like the content of Charlie Hebdo magazine. I’m skeptical that it would be to my taste. The mockery of religion is not amusing to me. Disrespect isn’t funny, though respectable is as respectable does. But that doesn’t make me angry. It makes me a guy who’s looking elsewhere for his reading material.
I believe there is a God, it’s not me, and God can take care of Himself. The God of my understanding is not weak and vulnerable, a easy victim of bad taste, nor does He require human sacrifice. The necessary sacrifice has been made for me, long ago.
Amen. Well said.