Being offended today, is not what being offended was like twenty years ago. To feel insulted, belittled, or emotionally hurt means different things, now. In some circles, it’s seen as an act of violence, and in some circles, it’s seen as sport. Personally, since my 30’s, I’ve found that when I’m offended by something, or by someone, I see it as a challenge. Most of the things that have offended me included the opinions of people who thought I couldn’t do something, whether it was learning something new, getting further in my career, or achieve some sort of milestone. I’ve had people block my path several times, delaying my progress for years. People in power do that because they’ve been doing that for a long time, and they get away with it because most people give up. But, not me. That shit gets under my skin, and I just can’t let it slide. I always find a way to get to where I want to be.
Not everyone is like that though, and that’s what actually led me to writing this. Not everyone has the will, nor the patience, to persevere through hardships. That’s why telling someone to “pick themselves up from the bootstraps” rarely works. That’s why those of us who can, have to help make the world a fairer place by not repeating the things that made it unfair in the first place. “The cycle ends with me”, is something I’ve kept in the back of my mind, and have put into practice, for decades. Nonetheless, there’s a newfound pressure these days to do things in a certain way, not because it’s more effective at making the world a better place, but because it aligns with the expectations of other people.
And what fascinates me the most about all of this is that it has led us to being scared of others. More precisely, it has led us to fearing the judgement of others. I mean, let’s just call it what it is: a lot of this stuff is adolescent behaviour. If you fear other people’s judgement all the time, you’re never gonna get anywhere, and it’s high school all over again. Because, the only stuff you’ll be able to do will have to fall within a strict set of criteria. That’s a very limited way of living. Also, factions almost always end up eating their own, as their movement evolves into the next iteration of whatever pedagogy they believe in at the time.
Fear of others has made it less likely for us to interact with people who are different, and to me, that’s a huge cultural loss. Fear of others has made it easier to create policies that repress difference, and celebrate uniformity. And, fear of others has made it harder for innovation to take place because it’s very difficult to challenge the status quo, if everything you do is heavily regulated by a social, or religious code of conduct. Thoughts, ideas, passions, “what ifs”, “why nots” get repressed… because what if someone doesn’t like it? Even worse, what if my government doesn’t like it?
It must be exhausting to live your personal, and professional life, constantly fearing other people’s opinions. And, in many ways, it’s not fair that we’ve made it harder to live outside this kind of pressure. I like to believe I’m free as a bird, but I’m not. One could argue that no one on this planet is free. We’re all subjected to a set of rules that mandate how we live our life. Some are freer than others. Case in point: I’m free enough to write this article.
What bothers me the most, however, is the cultural pressure to conform. I just don’t see the value in fearing other people. I want to understand things; I don’t want to say things or do things only because I’m scared of the repercussions of not doing them. And, as a lifelong activist, I don’t accept silence through fear as a win.
Whether it’s religion, or social justice, or just “doing the right thing”, I’m of the camp that justice can’t be achieved through fear. Never ever. Maybe it’s because I’m a pacifist by nature. Or maybe it’s because I can already see the consequences of this fear, in the arts, in technology, in our professional, and personal circles. The hush-hush nature of it all is deeply disturbing. I don’t comment on political things online (anymore), so the kinds of things people say to me privately just don’t match up with their public personas. There is little understanding, there is only repetition, and façade.
Inside of me is an old hippie that just wants people to ‘give peace a chance’, and deal with the anger issues in a different way. Because a lot of what breeds fear, is anger. And anger breeds the ambition to be powerful, at any cost, even if it means: we make people scared of us. I find this approach repulsive. It’s authoritarian, and I really dislike authority. I really hate it when someone tells me to do something just ’cause they said so, or else. I’m not going to hate people because they’re the “target du jour”. I’m not going to bow to someone I don’t respect, and I’m not going to preach what I don’t believe in, even if it means I lose some friends along the way.
If I’m going to tell people that authenticity is the key to a successful marketing campaign, that has to include the freedom to not conform to whatever religious-socio-cultural pressures there are to be a certain way, at any given time. You can be quiet. You can be a loudmouth. You can be colourful or grey. And, I encourage everyone to be socially responsible, environmentally-conscious, and kind to others. I would just prefer it if we didn’t decide that getting what we want through fear is an acceptable way of getting things. I just can’t encourage that. That cycle ends with me.