Be Offended — PART ONE
My youth was spent on the streets of New York City. There’s nothing I can change about that and nothing I would.
Those years brought me into a world with a range of influences, people, that most childhoods and adolescent years never experience. Even more because of certain paths of choice…and nature. And life.
I was nearby when Malcolm X was murdered. He offended a great many people. I was around when Lenny Bruce was arrested. Probably no one offended more people than Lenny. I was in the neighborhood for the Stonewall riots. Lots of offending going on there.
However, as the poet says, those were different times. In some respects. One would assume, since The Big Apple changes with each moment, it is not the same today. I left for the last “different time” almost thirty years ago, and even then I was already a mere tourist.
Today I live in the “semi-rural” South. For fear of offending anyone, I won’t say where, specifically. Okay. Tennessee. I’ll be that specific. You see, I do not mind being offensive when I need to be or wish to be. That is part of what one learns growing up on the streets of New York City.
One learns to be properly offensive in either a “political” fashion, or on a “personal” level. This has ramifications well beyond what even many who are well-trained in the offensive arts might even understand, if they’ve chose to remain on the streets.
Unfortunately, we live today in a rather repressive society. Most of us don’t think of it this way. Indeed, we tend to think of ourselves as living in an open society where we can express ourselves freely and, perhaps at times, altogether too freely. But this is not the case in reality.
We’re being taught, as usual, that “offensive behavior and language” is out of place in society. This is utter hypocrisy as such behavior merely proceeds out of sight.
Offense, and other means of expression, are provided less and less space in public as a result.
From all sides and in many ways most of us are being repressed. Speech is being repressed from the top for political reasons. Speech is being repressed from the bottom and the sides also for political and financial reasons. Behaviors are still being repressed all around us except for most behaviors in the most elite habitats.
Certain groups and individuals are still being repressed beyond measure.
At bottom, the individual’s ability to fully realize their personhood is still unfulfilled despite this being the task of the past sixty years or longer.
What has prevented this task from manifesting its end result? People! At times the very champions of the goal itself.
Indeed, we might not have had a President Trump if this job had been given over to a room full of baboons in 1960.
At least, that thought has occurred to me. Because at least baboons see all baboons as baboons. I think.
Someone here reminded me, as I was drafting this, of something that Adrienne Rich wrote back in the 1970s, coincidentally. Great minds, and all that (thank you, Luz):
“When relationships are determined by manipulation, by the need for control, they may possess a dreary, bickering kind of drama, but they cease to be interesting. They are repetitious; the shock of human possibilities has ceased to reverberate through them.”
This says a lot about the problems we have not only as individuals but in groups today — which Rich went on to discuss — and will continue to have moving forward until and unless we address them.
As we continue to criticize others for their groups while separating out into our own groups defensively for whatever reasons, the problem stems not only from the ones we anticipate controlling and manipulating us. It also comes from those whom we presumed to be liberated from such problems.
When we become what we have been fighting against, it’s bad, folks.