February 11th, 2006


Offensive Opinions

You don't get to choose what other people get offended by.  You can't claim that X is offensive to you, and that's natural and right, but Y shouldn't offend someone else, because Y is perfectly normal and doesn't offend you at all.

Everyone is brought up slightly differently, with their own social background, their own experiences and their own interpretations of the world.  We get upset by some things, we're fine with others and we all feel that the things we are offended by are offensive, while the thing's we're not offended by are fine.

I'm scared of spiders (although I'm getting better), and I know its irrational - but it's part of me, along with my liking of Sandman, my dislike of bigotry, my fondness for bratkartoffeln, and my inability to watch more than 3 minutes of The Office without hiding behind the sofa.

None of these things are 'right' or 'natural' - they're emotions, and they're not based on any purely logical underpinnings - you can't prove that bigotry is wrong per se, any more than you can prove that Apocalypse Now is a great movie - you either feel that way or you don't - you can persuade people, but you're doing so for emotional reasons, not logical ones.

Which means that if you want people to respect your right to have opinions then you have to respect their right to have them as well.  You may disagree wildly with the actual opinions, you may do everything in your power to make sure they can't act on their belief that female circumcision is a good thing, but if you don't understand that their belief seems as right and as natural to them as yours does to you then you're never going to be able to engage with them about it, which means that you aren't going to be able to change their minds.