Thanks for the link to the article @Mindysan33.
Interesting read. It’s refreshing to see this sort of thing being written about where the writer doesn’t take either extreme as a starting point, and actually seems to want to examine the topic fairly.
However, it does wander about a bit, and it seems to avoid a clear-cut conclusion. Perhaps there isn’t one.
However, it did get me thinking about a number of things-
Firstly, that it’s easy to see how the concept of offence as an entirely subjective notion, unrelated to anything but the inner mental state of the offence-taker, became easily abused as a rhetorical bludgeon. If the US patent system, with its “first to file” rule encourages the filing of speculative claims for later gain, then it’s easy to see how a “first to claim offence” rule leads to an incentive for frivolous or false “taking” of offence in order to gain a political advantage.
And the utter subjectivity does seem to push the matter towards absurdity, where anyone who speaks cannot know in advance whether what they are saying is acceptable, because the permissibility of a statement depends not only on the unknowable mental state of everyone listening, but on the possibility of someone finding meta-offence in a statement they are not actually offended about. (This seems related to the rise of the ghastly word “problematic”, which I find to be a sneaky assertion of a problem on behalf of some unknown party, which doesn’t feel the need to provide any justification for itself, hoping to get along on insinuation alone)
It reminds me of something I said previously. We are in the strange position where it’s possible to use the rhetoric of deconstruction to turn a claim of lower social status into political or social power. This leads directly to the bizarre situation where rich, educated people with access to the rhetoric of deconstruction search blindly through the forest of hierarchies (because everything has one, if you look hard enough), until they can concoct a claim to some form of subjugation, which can then be used as a springboard to greater influence. It’s quite a sight, and it only comes at the expense of eroding the concept of solidarity between people. But hey, what’s the use of that when divide and rule works so nicely.
Secondly it got me thinking about a fundamental disconnect between two ways of thinking that I’ve been meaning to start a discussion on for a while. The fault-line is between those who have a consequences based view of the right and wrong, and those who have a principles based view of what is right and wrong. (The two are related to (but not identical to) the paralell split between ethical relativists and ethical universalists. But I digress.)
The consequencialists will see the other side as hidebound and getting in the way of progress, with no appreciation for context, while the principlists will see the other side as raising special pleading into an art-form, with a tendency to overlook their own “side”'s faults.
Why does this relate to the article- because I think I can see the downside of the consequentialist world-view illustrated quite clearly in the excesses of both sides of this debate. Once you have raised any political viewpoint to the status of the ultimate good, it becomes very easy to fall down that slope into condoning any action that pushes forward that agenda, regardless of who it hurts. And it’s possibly a driving force behind the maxim that all revolutions end up devouring their own children.
Finally, to get onto my own opinions on the matter (I do go on a bit, don’t I).
I think that it’s good that this article was written. It’s good that someone has tried to talk about consequences of rival cultures of offending and taking offence, without dismissing the entire phenomenon as made up (okayy, until the last couple of paragraphs anyway.) or sneering. I also think that the phenomenon is probably the product of a very confused set of ideas about ideas themselves, that a self contradictory intellectual framework has produced the equivalent of a “divide by zero error”, that has infected the real world.
I’d also think that the taking of offence always has to be the start of a discussion, not the end of one. because sometimes, the correct response to a claim of being offended is this one from Steven Fry: