Friday, January 23, 2015

How To Offend People In Three Easy Steps!

Have you ever wondered to yourself, "Self, how can I insure that people are offended by what I say, think, value, and believe?"

Well look no further than this handy guide. I'm here to help.

1). Pick a subject. And, it can quite literally be anything. Ping pong balls, feminism, bacon sushi, etc...

2). Say whatever you think about this subject. Preferably one should stick to a discussion they are familiar with. Ideally you do want to know what you're talking about, but this is actually optional.

3). Wait...

That is all. There are no other magical steps required. Congratulations! You have now almost with certainty offended someone!

Now lets discuss why giving too much of a shit about someone elses offense is a waste of effort.

For instance, what do the following words mean? Try to come up with a definition that will fit into a conveniently sized sentence.

- Feminism
- Atheism
- Dogma
- Agnosticism
- Humanism
- Egalitarianism
- Political

I could make a much larger list of course, but these are words in particular I have experience with. What I tend to find is that such words have varying definitions depending on who you talk to. I'd wager that everyone who might read this blog post will at least have a slightly different take on these words.

Some few will have near instant knee-jerk reactions to merely seeing these or other "certain words". And what usually happens is a process of demonization, or merely discounting the quality and precision of ones words, all because of disagreements over what particular words mean.

This will often incite further discussion, though often of an unproductive variety. This aspect really depends on who might be in the discussion.

The thing to keep in mind, in any intellectual endeavor is simply this. Expertise does matter. More importantly, ones lack of expertise matters too, but this is something you have to remain open to and aware of about yourself as much as those you engage in conversation.

I'd personally love to be invited to a symposia on cognitive neuroscience or even quantum mechanics. Those are two "hobby subjects" of mine that I find both fascinating and intriguing. I feel I've learned quite a bit, at least from a laypersons perspective, about both fields. And, I even feel I could construct a talk to give at such an event. I'm reasonably confident with at least some of my understanding of the topics.

What I am not however is a neuroscientist, nor am I a physicist. Though I would feel comfortable giving a talk in front of neuroscientists and theoretical physicists, I wouldn't pretend to posess knowledge they do not have about these fields. I would be very careful to be deferential to the expertise surrounding me in the room. And this deference wouldn't mean I had nothing of value to contribute. However, and here is my point, the value of my contribution would be judged. And it would be judged by those with greater knowledge than my own.

Being offended is merely not liking what you hear. Sometimes that offense is genuine, but as often that offense is not.

There is value in knowledge and expertise. There is a huge value in understanding the language you use. If people are unable or unwilling to face the discomfort within themselves to better their own understanding, it's just too fucking bad. And this is true of myself, yourself, and anyone else who becomes embroiled in a discussion.

The pope doesn't attend symposia on molecular biology, nor is he ever invited to speak at one. It is as unlikely that a physicist would be invited to issue a Fatwa on the Kasimir Effect. In many realms of discussion expertise not only matters, but is vital.

Not all opinions have value, and some people? They're just fucking stupid. :P