How can you be offended by art? It’s inanimate. Would you be offended by a rock that looks like something you might be offended by? What is the purpose of being offended? Will it make the rock go away? Will someone have to put a sheet over it for your lifetime?
Should you be suspicious of the underlying reason when someone claims that they are offended?
What is the motive of a person saying they are offended. Is it controlling or bullying? A novel like Trainspotting would not get published now as publishers self censor. Restraint due to the fear of causing offence is now common to the point that it is unhealthy. There was an exhibition of degenerate art in 1937 which presented 650 works of art, confiscated from German museums as a denunciation of modern art. The works included paintings by Chagall, Kandinsky, Mondrian and Picasso. Then the architect of control was known; now it the amorphous social media and it’s powerful manipulators.
The programme raises the issue of third party offence. This is well known to naturists, who in the past had to put up with the ‘off duty policeman’ syndrome, whereby the decision to arrest was made on whether someone could have been offended, rather than that a complaint had actually been made. So being offended becomes a third party idea where no one in actual fact was offended. Nowadays, having raised the issue in the media, other people take up the offence as if it was their own experience. It is reported as fact and debate thereby discouraged.
The fictional Titania McGrath inhabits social media looking for things to be offended about. It’s supposed to be comedy! Being offended gets you noticed. Social media seems to have become a game where you score points by creating a following and for some reason larger followings are better. Educated debate plays no role.
So what is wrong with being offended? It’s a perfectly understandable emotion, but we should take a grown up approach and take the responsibility to deal with it ourselves. Often this will simply be to distance oneself from the experience that offends you. I would note that it’s not always possible. For instance, if you are offended by beggars in the street, being offended and vocalising it will not remove the problem and you may not be able to distance yourself from those streets. You may need to consider whether the emotion is purposeful, or merely like arachnophobia – spiders in the UK cannot actually harm you.
Original publication 17 November, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 10th December 2020
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.