Thursday, June 1, 2023

Why Are Some of Us So Easily Offended?

Recent news articles about some Florida parents who were offended by Michelangelo’s famous statue of David, so offended that the Tallahassee Classical School fired their principal, has gotten me thinking about, and talking to folks about why some are so easily offended these days.

The Florida story seemed crazy to me. A sixth grade art-history class was shown a photo of the statue, something that is part of the regular curriculum, and three parents complained, with one of those parents suggesting that the statue is ‘pornographic’. Those three offended parents caused a school principal to lose their job.

Created between 1501 and 1504, by the same hands and mind that painted the Sistine Chapel, the statue of David has long been an inspirational work of art.

I have had the good fortune to have visited Italy a couple of times, and though I never made it to the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze to see it in person, there is a fine cast bronze example of the famous statue located in the Piazzale Michelangelo, located high above the city of Florence, offering fantastic views of the historic city.

As I wrote in my 3Rs column in last week’s print paper, never while viewing this bronze cast of David was I offended, never did I feel like the statue was pornographic, and it is a shame that folks in Florida are teaching their schoolchildren to see a classic work of art as pornography. I’ve been to Florida – there is much more to be offended by in that state than a simple statue in a museum in Italy.

The insanity of the Florida story has continued to boggle my mind.

It is perfectly natural for us humans to feel offended from time to time, but a mature mind is able to put those feelings of offence into some sort of perspective that saves us from becoming outraged over a photo of a 500-year-old statue, so outraged that we demand someone be fired.

Thanks to the world of social media, which connects us all, links us all, as though we were all hanging out in the same school gymnasium, when one of us becomes offended there can quickly be an army of the seemingly professionally outraged making a ruckus online, and if they do so with enough vigour, they might even be treated seriously.

I count myself fortunate that I have never been easily offended by anything. Perhaps because of this I have difficulty understanding how some can be so easily offended. I don’t discount people’s feelings if they are indeed offended by something, but I do refuse to play along, or to join someone in solidarity as a result of their feeling offended by something. It is perfectly natural to become offended from time to time; what is important is how we handle the experience of feeling offended.

We humans have likely always been prone to being offended, though in this modern age, folks can be offended as a collective, and even build a movement on the outrage that builds due to feeling offended while everyone else is seemingly oblivious to the fact that they too should be offended.

Over the course of history, folks have been offended by many things. We have seen book burnings and record burnings by those who have become offended, and most of us simply shake our heads and move along. Just this week I saw news reports about people taking offence to a beer company due to a partnership with a trans activist, and, as mentioned above, social media ran with it, and before we knew it there was a new social media army decrying the evils of Budweiser Light.

From my perspective, to be offended requires energy, and I just can’t justify using any of the limited amount of energy that I have in order to ensure that all around me know that I am offended by something.

There are things which should offend us, of course. That we allow people to live in poverty for example should offend us. That we use war to settle disputes should offend us. A photo of a 500-year-old statue created by one of the most remarkable minds ever to grace a human skull should not offend us one bit.

I suspect that I am not alone in having grown tired of enduring the outrage expressed by those who have been offended by something. Be offended, fine, but zip those lips and move along, because I have no plan to join in your outrage, or to further your cause of advising folks of the things that should offend them.

To those who do find themselves wildly offended, whether it be by a work of art, or by your neighbour’s decision to hoist a rainbow flag, or if you don’t like who your favourite beer maker is partnering with, I don’t care, it simply isn’t my problem. And my only advice is to do what the rest of us do, keep it to yourself, and move along. The rest of us don’t share in your outrage, we don’t care if a hunk of marble has hurt your feelings – grow up.

Sounds harsh I suppose, but I’m not sorry if that offends you.

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