When people are honestly offended I do care. I care about people and if they are upset that does matter to me. Even if their offense is something unintended I try to make it right. However, we all know that some people work really hard to be offended or they are offended at something outside of the norm. When that’s the case I believe their offense is something I just don’t care about.
What got me thinking about this was a story I read where the word “offense” should be put in quotes. It is one of those happenings that I can scarcely believe happened. It doesn’t seem like it could be real, but it is.
It doesn’t seem like a person could be so sensitive.
A professor was in an elevator. A person (he says it was a man) who was in the front by the elevator doors manning the buttons for everyone as the elevator was full up. This man asked the professor when he got on, “What floors would you like, people at the back?” Joking the professor quoted the line from the old BBC show Are You Being Served, “Ladies’ lingerie”.
Having watched this show I not only get that joke but have used it on numerous occasions myself. In my case I wait until the doors open then announce the floor. Depending on the building I am in this can be pretty funny. The more serious the work being done on that floor the funnier it is. Yes, it’ a lame joke (as the professor admits too) but it’s a small-talk joke. A joke meant to break tension, break ice, and lighten the mood in a crowded elevator. Socially speaking such jokes are common. As such they are jokes that are vanilla and generally only worth a chuckle. According to the professor that is exactly what he thought he had delivered.
But it seems not everyone on the elevator felt the same way.
The professor said, “…you’d expect that a 76-year-old professor at the prestigious King’s College London, a stalwart of the association and a recipient four years earlier of its distinguished scholar award could be permitted a lame joke.”
I agree with that. I think we all should be permitted a lame joke. Not cruel jokes, or dirty jokes, or racist jokes, but lame and in this case rather wholesome jokes should be allowed. It’s not like he was at a funeral or other very serious function where any joke would be out of place. Of course there is a time and place even for funeral humor.
He continued, “Nobody spoke up in the elevator, but four hours later a woman I didn’t know, a professor of women’s and gender studies at a small college in New England, lodged a formal complaint.”
I know, I know, at this point you are repeating “gender studies” in your head and getting ready to stop reading. Stick with me. That leads right to the point I started with – just why I feel comfortable not caring.
Being offended is a personal choice.
I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am not saying that never caring is good or that we shouldn’t be caring people. I’m saying that in the particulars of offense, when people expect you to share their feelings and are willing to damn you for not, that’s when we don’t care. There is no requirement for me to be the victim of your offense. There is a clear difference between how your husband feels when you tell him his new mustache looks stupid and someone using offense to force you to think like they do. “I’m sorry honey, your mustache looks stupid, that’s how I feel, but I still love you.” He’ll understand that you are sincere and likely shave it off again. But what does it mean if he replies, “if you really loved me you would like my mustache too!”? It means he’s just a jerk that is trying to manipulate you. When it comes to personal relationships that is easier to see clearly. The same manipulation is used by activists too.
Every warrior needs a war and every war needs weapons and this is the weapon of the social justice war. The weapon of mass compliance.