Oh dear me. Where do I begin?
I must not offend.
I have been pondering something broad, and obviously not a new item. That it is so ridiculously broad, just completely pervasive, is worrisome.
Now, who will turn out to be offended by this?
Seriously, consider the United States in general now. Consider how many people, these days, are in a nearly constant state of offense at some level. Then consider how many people are not, but then find themselves constantly dealing with the people of the first group in some way or another. Thinking about that, be sure to consider not just cases of being forced to deal with someone actively in some state of aggravation about some offense to them, but trying to tiptoe around in a chronic condition of trying to make sure that, somehow, somewhere, somebody is not going to take offense about whatever they do, or do not do, or say, or don’t say, or something.
Put those aside, and how many people are left?
It is an absolute pandemic, and it fouls nearly everything.
I thought it was timely to see an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast a few days ago, with a guest named Jonathan Haidt, discussing this subject, and doing a nice job of sorting out the madness this has become, and how dysfunctional and destructive it is.
By coincidence, another strange and fairly disturbing episode of insanity was discussed in a Joe Rogan Experience podcast with Rogan (a standup comedian, if you didn’t know) talking with guest Nimesh Patel, another comedian, about a bizarre experience Patel had doing a performance for Columbia University students where he suddenly found himself being joined onstage in the middle of the show by people who were some sort of representatives of a student organization putting on the show, who proceeded to shut down the performance in the middle. Apparently there was some vague complaint about “offense” from people in the audience, regarding some item in his set that was a simple observation from his own experience, and like much in the best of standup comedy, something that simply hits people with a bit of simple real truth about human existence. The idea that somebody was offended is ridiculous.
The conversation between Joe Rogan and Jonathan Haidt was, like all of the episodes of Rogan’s podcast, fairly lengthy, in the context of contemporary media in general. What passes for “discussion in The Media” now is generally pathetic, even outrageous, with that topic being something to analyze in itself. There is a vast load of irony in considering how the array of the current US cable television “news” operations conduct themselves, doing very little in the work of actual journalism and reporting of important and relevant factual information, and filling time around the clock with people making noises come out of their faces that recall a line from a William Shakespeare play, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
The conversations happening in Rogan’s podcasts are actually real conversations, with some depth. The really funny thing is that Rogan is much better at conducting real and sometimes very incisive discussions than the array of professional talking head TV network “news” people, despite, as he often points out in humble self-deprecation, just being a standup comedian and mixed-martial arts TV commentator.
In the Haidt conversation, a main topic was the subject of what seems to be a pervasive trend around US colleges and universities, the strange and pathological psychology of squelching information and discussion, even the mere mention, of any number of topics deemed to be “offensive”. Even worse, this seems to extend to the level where even the mention of particular “trigger words” can set off some idiotic drama.
That point, alone, is especially ironic, given the nature of education at that level. Just to be clear, if you will indulge me as I explain what is plainly obvious, this is talking about a level of education where students are presumed to have completed a basic solid education, and are not only in the process of learning more focused and specialized subjects, following a course of study in a particular major to obtain a specific degree, but also stepping out into the adult wider world, being exposed to a broader range of human existence and learning to function as individual independent human beings.
This is all going way off track. As the talk went along between Rogan and Haidt, it was pretty disturbing stuff to hear about things that were not revelations, as this seems to become more common, like an angry mob of students surrounding some college professor in a parking lot and shouting abuse and threats and even throwing things at them, for their perceived egregious crime of somehow failing to provide students with “safe spaces”, which effectively means being shielded from hearing or reading anything they don’t like, that offends them, whatever that might be. The irony seems completely lost on many people.
Given the continuing pandemic of bipolar political disorder, you can count on large batches of people locked into “their side” of lunacy reacting to this unfortunate phenomenon by squawking about “leftist colleges” and “Liberal snowflakes” and their “political correctness”, while, as I have also been saying for some time, they are all bound up in their own batch of “political correctness”, and getting all bent out of shape by their own assorted sense of aggrieved offense about a variety of things.
I was listening to an episode of James Howard Kunstler’s KunstlerCast with guest John Michael Greer, where Greer summed up what people like to call “the political landscape” as well as anything I have heard, describing the farce as like a bunch of five year old kids screeching at each other. If you spend time looking around at this on the web, especially in the “social media” realm, you can find examples every day of people being offended because, in short, they have a perceived grievance of suffering offense because their political opinion has not received its due as the golden sacred shining example of wisdom and truth it is. In truth, where this gets really strange, and will probably offend such people to no end, is that they often clearly have no political opinion, what they actually have is a set of clichés and dogma and manipulation programmed into their head that they fire off at anything perceived as being from the evil opposite Other Side, or, in other cases, seen as being “their side”, and they wish to jump in to show their loyal conformance with “their side”. (Watch this- a good, almost comical, example can be found where somebody’s response comment to some sort of social media posting is to offer up their profound commentary that goes something like “So true!”.)
As I write this, the State of the Union address is coming up. I have no plan to watch this. Choose your metaphor- dog and pony show, song and dance, whatever. This event degenerated a long time ago into a ridiculous waste of time, show business, a gigantic and pompous performance art piece that has virtually no connection to what this is supposed to be, an annual presentation about the state of the nation by the President to Congress and the American people. I should make it clear, given everything involved with the bipolar political disorder frenzy, that this didn’t become a farce when Donald Trump became President. That happened a long time ago. He had arguably made it worse.
It is funny to be writing about the subject of the day here, with a President of the United States who is, to put it gently, a remarkably offensive human being on a regular basis. Even worse, he seems to have quite a collection of fans who seem to think his great value and merit as President is “pissing off Liberals!”. On the “other side”, there is quite a collection of people whose entire existence seems to revolve around some vague sense of virtue based on a single principle stated simply as “oppose Trump!”, often describing themselves as “The Resistance”, with the common mode of operation basically being to bombard people with the general theme “Trump is a big poopy face!”.
All that, if you were not sure, is pretty much where we get into the bunch of small children screeching at each other.
Just a few days ago I came across an item online where somebody was passing along more social media web noise, where some random stranger had originally posted a Twitter tweet. The message there was internet stranger celebrating something about Republicans turning on Trump to produce a vote in the Senate by a large majority objecting to the President’s announcements that he would withdraw the US military from Syria, and then, from Afghanistan. The US military is in Syria where, by any realistic honest assessment, it is an invading occupying force, despite the objections of the Syrian government, the same Syrian government that American government officials, right up to the President of the United States, have said must be overthrown. The US military has been in Afghanistan for, what, over 17 years, and who knows why at this point.
I didn’t know what that was about, and I found an online article about it, that was still vague. That reported this as a Senate vote “rebuking Trump”, opposing his decisions about getting the US military out of Syria and Afghanistan as part of some amendment. What amendment? Eventually the article mentioned that this was attached to a “wide-ranging foreign policy bill”, with no identification of the specific bill, so people could look it up, or anything else about what this “wide-ranging” bill covered, and how. To this character on the web, and many other people, all that matter was this idea of “Trump was defeated!”. So, what, it’s just great that Trump was “defeated”, while this actually means that the US military was finally going to be pulling out of somewhere it didn’t belong in the first place, continued war, invading and occupying anyplace in the world… just as long as it’s “against Trump!”?
While you ponder that insanity, added on to the pile is the more recent scenario of imperialistic madness, with Trump, goaded on by the neocon faction, is jumping on the “regime change” bandwagon, to blatantly attempt a coup d’etat overthrowing another elected leader of government, in Venezuela this time.
People in the US government does not like the leadership of another national government, some guy there, educated in the US by coincidence, that has been described by people who know Venezuela as somebody who hardly anyone there had ever heard of, suddenly declares that he is the new President of Venezuela, not the guy who was just re-elected, and the US officially declares that he is the new “legitimate” government. How’s that for offensive?