OPINION: Lines are blurred on offence and injustice

Derek GoforthMidwest Times
File image of a angry protest.
Camera IconFile image of a angry protest. Credit: RonTech2000/Getty Images/iStockphoto

No offence?

As an opinion piece writer, I can often be accused of causing offence. My opinion is my own and it would be impossible to align my opinions with even the majority of our population.

But it begs the question — is offence given or is it merely taken?

Well on the surface offence is most certainly taken and not given. Being offended is an active choice.

For some it can be a knee-jerk reaction; something is said or done and without looking deeper into motives or context — offence is taken.

For some people the offence taken even leads to them taking a “stand” on social media and voicing their concerns over the “offender’s” actions.

The counter side to this is the majority of the population who simply let things go, allow other people’s (often strangers) actions to wash over them with no ripple effect whatsoever.

After all, what good does it, or can it, do to subject yourself to the mental torture of being offended?

The level of offence, (perceived offence that is) is subject to a few factors. The largest being the offended person’s own insecurities over the subject matter.

It could be a topic that is close to a person’s heart and one which leads to a near instant reaction when the topic is spoken about and, in particular, criticised.

Politics, religion, gender, the list is long — all topics that can provoke offence at the drop of a hat.

The person’s relationship with the “offender” is also key.

I would imagine you are far more likely to be offended by someone you know well, rather than the stranger on the street, (more often than not the “social media street”).

On the flip side, if you hold very little respect for the offender you are not that likely to give any weight to their comments and offence is less likely to be taken.

Another factor is more subtle and often subversive.

It’s the pressure to feel or be offended.

We are given expectations of what we should be enraged about, topics that we should make a stand against, or for.

We need to accept that we will be exposed to opinions and views we will simply not agree with.

How we choose to take those opinions is completely on us.

But, and it is a big but, I still believe there is a time to take action against not merely offence, but oppression and injustice.

There is often a blurred line to being offensive and therefore being offended; to being oppressed and subjected to injustice. When speech can often turn to action or inaction.

When an opinion leads to someone’s rights being squeezed or manipulated? When a voice on social media leads to rage and violence. When someone in power uses their opinion to subvert and oppress.

That’s when being offended means something. That’s when offence needs to be kept in check, or we lose much bigger freedoms.

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