…are without a doubt these three: I am offended. On their own, these words are harmless enough, but when put in that particular order they have the power to hi-jack a narrative that is about one thing and make it instead about one person’s own emotional reactions. Never mind that the thing which has offended this person is typically nothing more than the words and thoughts, however they may be expressed, of another person who never intended or expected that they be held as universally true or that every single person would appreciate them to begin with. It doesn’t mean the sentiment is without merit simply because someone puffs their chest out and says so.
That’s the thing about the people who shout loudest about how offended they are; they never offer any alternatives. Particularly when it comes to art. If someone finds something viscerally off-putting about a piece of art, and goes out of their way to air their grievances over it, they are inadvertently drawing attention to the very thing which brings them so much grief. How many more copies of ‘The Satanic Verses’ did Salman Rushdie sell because of the huff it put the Ayatollah in? I’m sure Rushdie would have preferred the negative review from Khomeini not have included the additional sting of a fatwa on his head. Sure, it’s not Khomeini’s cup of tea, but he needn’t have been SO shitty about it. It is just a novel after all.
The point is, there should be a movement begun by all artists of all types, anyone who creates anything from themselves for any reason. Basically anyone who says anything about the world, ever. We as creators, comedians, writers, painters, poets, musicians and those whose vocation is just mouthing off should stand up to those who would white-wash our every brushstroke. Call them to account. Instead of crying out that your delicate sensibilities have been bruised, you must explain why do your bruises matter? Why do your feelings about it require a loud, public inquisition? Do they negate the legitimacy of the artist’s piece or their sincerity about it? What about the people who find inspiration or truth in it? Do their feelings matter less than yours because you are offended? Who is responsible, really, for your predicament?
This is not a piece about censorship. This is something else. Something more fundamentally flawed about society in the 21st Century. On a planet with more people crawling all over it than ever before, there are still people with enough ego to point to someone else’s creation and exclaim, “This! This vile thing is beneath my contempt and should not be!”
Imagine the balls it takes to stand amidst the thronging masses, creating nothing and judging those who do? Imagine the arrogance it takes to suggest to a world filled with all types of people that any one of them should consider you and your desires and prejudices before setting about their work?
No, to this writer’s mind, if you’re not offending anyone then you’re not being honest. The very best art evokes every sort of emotion. So, y’know…fuck em’ if they can’t take a joke, right? I think that’s the point to this piece. Yeah…fuck em’ if they can’t take a joke.