Throughout our recorded history, humans have developed the tendency to cling to particular ideologies. Way, way back in ancient times, if someone were to challenge another’s way of life, a natural response would be to destroy that person. Cruel, but it makes sense. Back then, our lives were nasty, brutish and short and that feeling of offense was a mechanism that kept our group’s way of life safe. Our ways of eating, praying, dressing and organizing were things with which we were familiar and thus, protected with intense fervor. Because of this, after a while, only the most aggressive or the most efficient of these ideologies survived.
To this day, little has changed. Religions, political philosophies and “ways of life” all are still competing to have a monopoly over the people’s minds. Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a war for control of your brain. Popes, politicians and corporate executives are all out to convert you — to make you a part of their group. Democrats and Republicans, Catholics and Protestants, Coke and Pepsi … the list goes on.
Of course, I’m not claiming that ideologies are evil, nor that if you follow any ideology you are a brain-washed lunatic. It would be ridiculous to paint a stroke as broad as that. Ideologies offer solutions to several problems, and many excel in keeping people organized and happy. For example, I happen to believe that republicanism is a far better form of government than monarchism. But does this mean that I’ll violently explode in anger if someone mentions they are a fan of Prince William and Kate Middleton? No, of course I would not. Everyone has the right to express and defend why they believe what they do. In fact, I welcome criticism because it allows me to correct my errors and become a better-rounded, better-informed individual.
Whenever we fanatically believe that we have the right way of thinking, while they are absolutely wrong, we are doomed to fail. If we immediately jump to being offended every time someone raises a point that goes against our ideology, then nothing will ever get done. How could we possibly progress?
In both our government buildings and our homes, we need an open discussion on the problems in our world. If we put certain topics totally off-limits, like religion, culture and politics, there will be very little of importance left to talk about. Everything should be open for debate, and we should encourage our children to be curious about the ways of others, not afraid of them.
I believe that being offended rises out of being absolutely, dogmatically convinced that your ideas are correct, and everyone else’s are wrong. When one is too close-minded to consider that their ideas are untrue, they feel threatened that their way of life is being challenged and thus respond aggressively, sometimes even violently. Being flexible and educated in the ways of others can help bridge the gap between two drastically different groups of people. All ignorance does is spread fear and hate, the two main ingredients of being offended.
And, well, if you happen to disagree with me, don’t worry. I won’t be offended.
Jay Graff thinks being offended is so last season.