Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I don't understand being offended.

(Ok so this is going to be a LONG read. Just a warning.)

Here’s the story. About 2 years ago I was posting on GameFAQ’s religion board quite frequently. (I have been a GameFAQ’s member since 2002, so I had a nice respectable account. I had always consumed information about religion and stuff, but I’d never had a “forum” to actually input opinions and ideas myself. 

So I was like a kid in a candy store, making topics about everything I could think of.)

Unsurprisingly, being an atheist, I started getting into “trouble” frequently. I would log in every day fearing that dreaded “System Messages” thing at the top of the screen telling me I’ve had posts deleted. To make matters more frustrating, there was usually a punishment to go along with the censorship.   

So my mindset went from “Wow a place I can say what’s on my mind, really challenge myself and others and grow as a person, and maybe help others grow too” to “Wow, a place where I can say… what exactly?” 

That took me a while to think up. I wrote and erased a lot of different things, before realizing the truth. I have no clue what exactly will set people off. I’m constantly surprised by what ends up labeled as “offensive” by the guys in charge. 

At the time I wrote this originally, I had just gotten done being banned from  GameFAQ’s for like 3 or 4 days. Here's the entire backstory for you to enjoy. In the original post (the “I don’t understand the whole concept of being offended” one) I said this: 

“Please don't mark this topic as offensive, I have to re-post everything or nothing will make sense, I can't just assume everyone read it the first time and remembers everything.

The basic idea was that aliens came to earth in the old testament and that's why god was , damnit, I can't even talk now. I'm so god damn afraid of offending someone’s sensitive soul. This is so friggin frustrating.

I seriously don't understand the concept of being offended. I know some of you will roll your eyes when I say this, but I've NEVER been offended before. Not that I can remember. Sure I've disagreed with things, who hasn't? But I've always supported a person’s right to say stuff I disagree with.

I propose that being offended is a learned response. It’s learned and positively reinforced out the friggin wazoo. Becoming offended automatically wins you an argument, without having to argue. All you have to do is act appalled, and whatever you disagree with just goes away. It's like an instant win card you can use as much as you want. In fact, it gains power the more you use it. If you can claim you got offend multiple times in a row, well “there’s just no talking to that offensive hooligan is there?” I propose that being offended is a learned behavior, like table manners and saying “oh excuse me” when you bump into someone. And I must reiterate, the positive reinforcement for getting offended is insane.

I don't even know how to repost this thing, do I edit it? Do I censor it? Can I post it without fear because it's in a different context? Will I be instantly punished again for just discussing what happened?

I seriously don't understand, it's so friggin frustrating. Ok I'll just skip the first post I guess? That’s the one that got me into trouble in the first place

I'm going to start with my appeal, I'll try to decide how to go about posting the original post...

I'll have to break this up since it's so long...

(This is where I reposted the “God vs. the Space Aliens” post I linked to earlier minus the original post sadly. So it was just my argument with the moderators)

I just want to restate that this isn't purely a "Me complaining that I got into trouble" topic.

I seriously do not understand the concept of "Offended". I have been scared, I've been angry, I've been happy, sad, lustful, proud, ashamed, hungry, sleepy, all the other 7 dwarves I left out.

But I've never, ever been offended.

Is being offended so horrible an emotion that you would feel the need punish others for offending you? I guess so, that’s the way things seem to be. I guess I should count myself lucky that I’ve never had to experience such an abominable emotion. It is an emotion right? Happy, Sad, Offended…

It just seems tragic that some sensitive, fragile individuals would deprive others of their right to express their true feelings and ideas, just so the delicate little flower people’s lives can be copacetic and placid?

I mean jeeze, why don't these alarmists just get some nice relaxing lobotomies and be done with it?

Can someone who has experienced the emotion of "Offended" please explain why being offended is the worst emotion in the world? Or explain it at all?

Why is it OK for the censors to make us who want to speak freely afraid of being punished for expressing our genuine thoughts and opinions, but it is totally, unquestionably NOT OK for us to make them even slightly “offended”?””

Some people don’t seem to want to discuss things. They just want what they don’t agree with removed so they can pretend to live in a sterile world where everyone agrees with them on every matter.

If an “offensive” post has any of these three things, there’s groundwork for discussion. 

1.       An argument. Someone is trying to explain why they believe or support the “offensive” thing. If there’s an argument within the offensive material, there’s something to reply to. 

2.       A question. If the offensive statement includes a question, then the “offensive” person is admitting to not knowing everything. You should take that into account, and attempt to answer the questions. See if a bit of extra info on the topic will sway the “offensive” person to see things your way. Maybe they’re offensiveness is born of ignorance. 

3.       Initiation of a discussion. Some “offensive” posts are blatantly trying to start conversations. When someone is open to discussing a topic, and you are of the opinion that “some things just shouldn’t be discussed”, the fault lies with you. I’m under the mindset that you can’t be open to discussion AND offensive at the same time.

Maybe I’m wrong, who knows.

So apparently the reason I got into trouble for being offensive was “defaming a belief system”. This is apparently frowned upon. Is being critical a key element of being offensive? Maybe, can you be offensive when praising something? Explaining something? 

I don’t know. Maybe someone can find a bunch of examples of things people think are offensive and see if there are any universal consistents?

I really have never been offended, so I don’t really know how to read or hear something and say “that is decisively unambiguously offensive”.  Maybe that's why I love arguing so much? Because I can just look at what’s said without taking anything personally. (Although excessive stupidity does depress me greatly) I really don't understand the concept of being offended. I can’t seem to reiterate that enough.

Even when people insult me directly, I don’t get offended. The way I see it there are two types of insults. Valid insults, and inaccurate insults. If someone says I suck at playing the flute, well I can't play the flute, so they would be right, if they say I suck at a particular game, and they, and pretty much anyone else can consistently beat me, than I guess they're right.  If they say something like I'm stupid, or ugly or fat... well I know I'm not stupid, ugly or fat, so I'll just dismiss the insult as inaccurate and move on.

If someone says derogatory things about something another person believes in, which can happen quite often when one actually believes in things, the second person needs to stop and wonder why person A is saying those things. Are THEY ignorant, or are you? Could it be possible you’re both correct, or is there some logical conflict that would really only let one of you be correct? Don’t get offended when someone says your beliefs are flawed, stupid or silly. Think about what’s being said and why.

I wish I could read one of my "offensive rants" through the eyes of a believer.

When I write about how screwed up the book of Joshua is (I’ll post it soon), How the story of Adam and Eve makes no sense, or jeeze, who knows how many other sacred cows I've tossed rocks at? I'm told I'm being offensive and everything I've said is completely ignored.

I just can't see my "blasphemous" writings as anything but a logical analysis of the topic at hand. I really do try to stay on point and not go over the top with the mockery, but I can’t write about this stuff in a COMPLETELY respectful tone. Does tone really matter all that much? These stories are absurd, and I think if I was as respectful as I could be, I'd still be called "offensive". 

I want to be able to get past my audiences defenses. If I can get someone to actually read what I write, well that should be the hard part right? For example, I was reading a topic the other day in which a guy mentioned that he was an atheist to his co-worker, said co-worker immediately jumped into the “so you believe we came from nothing? You think we came from monkeys” material and stuff like that. Before she asked her first question her mind snapped shut like an adamantium vice. Nothing is getting in there. Nothing you say matters.

There are times though when a Christian will (pretend to?) be open to conversation though. They will actually read what you have to say with a supposedly open mind. But when you point out how silly their story is there panic switch is instantly thrown. This is what I want to avoid. I’m not sure it’s possible though.

I want to know what a religious person thinks when a story they believe in is ripped to shreds and made fun of right before their eyes.  It takes so much skill and understanding of the religious mind to write something critical of religion, a follower of that religion will want to read and digest, then actually think about.
How can we say offensive things without offending the people most needing to read the writing in question? I don’t know. It’s not just about not getting into trouble, or getting a bad reputation. I don’t care about those things, well I do but, not as much as I care about

Sorry the ending kinda fizzled out. Or maybe the ending is the best part? I don’t know, I’m sure some people will like different parts. I do hope that if you got this far you found at least some parts that you liked though. 

I’ve been wanting to edit this all down and repost it for quite some time, it was quite a daunting project.I hope it was an enjoyable informative thought provoking read.

1 comment:

  1. I too don't understand being offended. There's a great bit by an English comedian about it. I would recommend it but I can't remember who it was. Great post by the way. Fascinating.