The Internet Outrage Machine never stops.
One week, we get a story about a Muslim woman who was targeted by “Islamophobes” because she couldn’t get an unopened can of coke on a flight. The next week, we get a story of people who are offended by backwards words on public transit. Another week, stories circulate of students who file Title IX actions against people who offend them. Every single week, I find another people in dire straits of being “offended,” and how the actions they take following that offense become national–and sometimes international–headlines.
I just don’t get it–the notion of continually piling on offense and outrage over the tiniest of gaffes, the continued piling on of hate for individuals who commit “microagressions” for failing to share the collective world mindset, and the seeming personal policy we all must have that if you commit the crime of contrarian thought, you must apologize to the offended immediately without questioning the offense or taking issue with the offended. Nothing but complete, unwavering support is the mentality we must adopt for those who claim themselves as “victims,” and if you are the offended you must immediately start a Tumblr blog and a creative hashtag campaign to get the offender fired.
Maybe it’s the white male privilege in me. Maybe it’s the fact that I have kids, and it’s really hard for me to get offended about something when I spend a morning barking and mooing at a nearly two year old child just for the sake of hearing her giggle. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve got a wife that loves me and seems to think even when I ballooned into the “dad bod” that seems to be the new standard of cool that I’m worthy of getting stared at with a bit of lust. Maybe it’s because I spend some time taking out my frustrations and anger on weights in the gym instead of sitting behind a keyboard or phone screen attacking others.
This culture of offense has reached a point where Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld refuse to play college campuses because they know their material will be seen as racist, sexist, ableist, cis or trans-phobic…the list goes on and on. Louis C.K.–a comedian whose style borders on making people laugh uncomfortably–was branded “offensive” for a rather brilliant SNL monologue involving bits about child molestation, racism, Israel and Palestine, and more. When this becomes an issue that divides us–in a medium that intends to heal–comedians are told to “take their work seriously.”
I wonder if any of these people understand they’re removing their own power, and giving it to those they hate so very much. By the continued strains of outrage and anger, they’re taking away their own strength and giving it to those they target.
Let me explain this small nugget of wisdom from a very wise man who I love and respect: Hate and anger are weapons of power and control. When you hate someone, or they make you angry–and I’m talking ready to come to blows angry–they’ve taken over your life. They have power over you, because they’re now the center of your thought patterns. They have control of you physically, because you’re directing efforts and your time in getting others to notice your anger and join in your collective Two Minutes of Hate. You now no longer have control of your mental faculties, your physical abilities, or your emotional state. They do. By devoting that much mental energy to your target of hate, you have given them power over your life.
When you relinquish that hate, when you decide to respond in love, you take a different tack. You now exercise the control. You can respond in kindness, or you can simply use humor to ridicule and deflect the situation. The difference is that you’ve now taken the power back, and really “disrupted” something by using a positive mechanism to attack the negativity someone attempted to make you feel. You’ve gained power in the world where you didn’t think you had any.
It’s hard work, this kind of loving response in a culture that thrives on fear and hate. You have to actively examine yourself to figure out why you hate so much, and tap in to a new kind of skill–self examination–to learn where the real target of that negative emotion lies. It’s a practice that takes time and dedication to truly master, and I’m still working on it myself, but when you finally get to that point where someone attempts to make you hate them and you respond by draining their negative energy through humor, you will understand a new means of peace and control over your life that you’ve never seen before.
I end this by saying that I direct this to the people who are offended and outraged out of a sense of true powerlessness, those who are honestly in a moment where they’ve been stripped of their power by someone attempting to make them lose control over their own life and want to fire back with negative feelz. If you are of the other lot–the ones who attempt outrage for the sake of what is now being called “shame storming” or you use your manufactured offense to affect someone else’s life negatively, then I have no recourse for you. You’re just an asshole.