Once upon a time, no one gave a shit.
I don’t remember when or how it happened, but somewhere in between an episode of South Park and a stand-up comedy show, someone stood up and said, “you can’t say that. It’s offensive.”
From there, it was all downhill.
Until then, people accepted that being offended was an inevitable part of life. It was understood that if we expressed our opinions publicly, we had to be willing to defend them. If we were not willing to defend them, at the very least, we had to accept that people would disagree with us.
An important distinction to make is that we are not our opinions. In the heat of the moment, it may feel impossibly difficult to make this distinction, but it is necessary to do so. When we stop identifying with our opinions, it helps us to stop taking things so personally.
When someone negates our point of view, they are not negating us. They are disagreeing with our perspective on a specific issue. Luckily for us, perspectives can alter, evolve, or stay exactly the way they are. There is no compulsion in belief.
When I was growing up, I heard my elders say, “don’t talk about religion or politics with people you don’t know.”
The reason for this is that our views on these subjects were personal and private. They were worth something and when we spoke of them, we weren’t shouting them out to everyone we knew. We were discussing them with a select group of people that we trusted.
We didn’t broadcast it all over our social media unless we were running for an election or involved in some form of activism.
If there was a cause that we wanted to bring awareness to, we had to be a part of that cause and bring awareness to it rather than just bringing awareness to it because it was a cause.
Political correctness, also known as PC culture, has turned conversations into moral tap-dancing contests that we have to perform on mine fields.
In trying not to say the wrong thing, we provide unnecessary explanations to clarify what we are not saying before saying what we want to say. What we end up saying is nothing at all.
Cancel culture is real and we are all scared out of our minds to say the wrong thing, give the wrong answer, offend someone, and ultimately be ostracized for it.
The Internet is like the international repository of everything that has ever been said online. Historically, we could rely on people having a bad memory to get away with saying some dumb shit, some wrong shit, or some outdated shit and then if we were called out on it, we could deny that we ever said it.
Now, if there is something you did or said that lands up on the Internet, it could be used against you. A transcript of your words from years ago can be provided to wrap your ass up and bury you like a mummy.
Some might say this has created more accountability. I think it has created more anxiety.
When did the stakes get so high? Why can we no longer make mistakes? Part of being human is having the right to be wrong… and often.
The prevalence of this modern-day polarization has left no forum untouched. It has even made its way into the world of dating and romance.
I have a friend who uses dating apps and occasionally sends me pictures of responses to a prompt on Hinge which reads, “Don’t contact me if….” You would think this would be a great opportunity to inject some humor or say something wild like, “Don’t contact me if you can’t play the bongos on your butt cheeks.”
Unfortunately, many users of the apps have taken this to a whole new level. They list out every cause, belief, and opinion that matters to them. If their suitors do not meet their “minimum” criteria, they are forever cast away into the bottomless pit of swipe lefts.
People argue it is necessary to weed out profiles on dating apps, but there must be a better way to screen someone than to list out seventy-two points of view that you don’t vibe with.
A tag like, “don’t message me if you are conservative, a racist, or an anti-feminist,” doesn’t really set the stage for a passionate romance. For starters, I don’t think racists self-identify as racists. Secondly, when someone says don’t talk to me if you are conservative, are they solely referring to their politics? What if the person is liberal in their social views but comes from a religiously conservative family? What if they identify as Liberal but are fiscally conservative and would prefer lower taxes?
It is tricky when we try to turn grey areas to black and white. When we do this, we set the stage for polarization to occur. As more people share their opinions publicly, lines are drawn, and people are under pressure to pick sides.
“If you are not with us, you are against us,” and this extreme attempt to sort people into different camps is commonly known as identity politics. It is a shitty game to play and terribly unfair to ask someone to partake in.
When we engage in identity politics, we are no longer people. We are world views, and the rules of this game are that, if your world view doesn’t match my world view, I am going to scream at you.
If you are on the left, there is a well bundled, end to end belief system available for you about how to collect more debt and make Jeff Bezos pay higher taxes. If you are on the right, there is an alternative package that provides you with all the information you need to know about Stand Your Ground laws and three easy steps to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from your local Walmart.
When it comes to compatibility in friendships or intimate relationships, it is not necessary for our ideologies to be completely aligned. When we try to artificially create this compatibility by forcing agreement, we do a disservice to each other.
Different ideas and opinions come from having different life experiences.
If we need to enforce political compatibility with the people that we surround ourselves with, we are no longer willing to listen. We block ourselves off from conversations or relationships where our views are not further validated.
Some important questions to ask include:
1. Is it more important for us to be completely inoffensive or to seek the truth?
2. Do we shut ourselves off from listening to other opinions before understanding the life experiences that might have led to those beliefs?
3. Do we let our opinions get in the way of getting to know or falling in love with one another?
Healthy levels of disagreement are valuable. It is an essential feature of a free society, that is committed to progress.
To live in a society where we are given the cold shoulder for thinking independently seems extremely offensive. Much more offensive than being disagreed with.
What if we aspired to live in a world where we are free to make mistakes, have our opinions evolve, be cancelled but allowed to make a comeback? That way we could take some time to get to know one another before we learn about each other’s politics, which will allow us to separate the two if necessary.