Letter on Offense


What follows is a letter written to some individuals to whom were deeply offended
at my open display of a Baphomet.

What is it that would make one so quick to offense in regard to one’s deeply held beliefs? What does that betray about the given individual and one’s positions? Should we really be so quick to outrage in light of what challenges our beliefs? Or should we not rather examine our positions with precision and a view towards objectivity, endeavoring as much as possible to negate bias?

When we see a symbol that expresses ideas which oppose our own principles and we get offended over that symbol, we are giving that symbol power. The symbol in and of itself is meaningless; it is the ideas and principles behind that symbol that we should be concerned about. It is right to say that certain ideas are offensive, such as: racism, sexism, and all types of discrimination and prejudices on the grounds of gender, religion, and anti-human ideologies–things of this sort. However, we should not surrender ourselves to our emotions–having a gut reaction which guides our behavior and our thinking. We give these ideas power by becoming immediately emotional; not to say that there is never a place for emotion in regard to offensive ideas. We should feel repulsed by things like racism because it is treating and perceiving an entire people and culture as second-class and subhuman. Rather than being enraptured by emotion, we should focus and call attention to the ideas in question, including our own, and examine them, targeting exactly what it is we are perceiving as offensive.

Let me give an example of the type of behavior we are trying to cultivate. Imagine that we are sitting about when suddenly someone sits down beside us with a shirt that has a picture of a Swastika. Now as we know about the cultural history of the Swastika, it wasn’t always associated with the National Socialists of Nazi Germany. It originally represented auspiciousness to the Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. But let us imagine the shirt with the Swastika on it included the Imperial Eagle which the Nazis used. It is undeniable that the ideology of the National Socialists was utterly offensive and oppressive in its prejudiced and racist views. However, we should not respond to the individual with the Swastika on the shirt by getting in a fluster. It is valid to feel repugnance toward the ideas behind this symbol, but we should respond to the individual by shedding light on the negative views of the Nazis and challenging this hateful outlook with rationality. When we become overwhelmed in an emotional stupor, we are letting these atrocious ideas have power over us. What we should want to aim for is not reaction, but proaction.  What we want is to start a dialogue, a discussion about the nature of the ideas behind the symbol that offends us. Perhaps in the process, we may even discover some positions of our own that may need reflection and more fleshing out.


One thought on “Letter on Offense

  1. If the individual opens themselves up to adversarial experiences, it offers opportunities to learn about the self and the world. How can the individual appreciate the blessing of a good meal if they have never had the experience of hunger? How can an individual grow in wisdom through experience, and knowledge through their senses, if they exist only in an echo chamber that only serves up that which they agree and are comfortable with. How stupid and lazy people become when they have no opportunity to challenge their own limits by being open to new adversarial possibilities.

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