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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A meditation on the value of being offended 

This week, things went typically crazy in the Muslim world due to a now retracted story from Newsweek regarding treatment of the Koran. The problem is, these people don't get offended enough.

While it may surprise those of you currently in "blue" states, American Christians, even the most radical ones, are remarkably well-behaved as a religious majority relative to what they could be. Remember the famous "Piss Christ". This sparked what was termed "outrage". The form this anger took was a political action to reduce public funding for art! Hah! No one killed over that. Maybe a protest, never a riot. I believe that being regularly offended may be good for you, the reason for the difference between "Piss Christ" and the Newsweek story, and one of the intrinsic gains of a religiously pluralistic society.

If someone goes out of their way to do something I consider offensive to my religious beliefs, I simply yawn and say "This is Kevin Smith's worse movie". Kevin Smith fears no fatwa. Not so, Salman Rushdie*. Christians have been lucky enough to be roundly offended in many ways in the last 100 or so years. And it has mellowed us out.

This is certainly not to imply admitted defeat. Think of the people in your life who have been regularly offended. They are far less likely to fly off the handle over little slights than someone who has been insulated from such things. Look at Buddha! He saw a corpse and quit eating for 10 years. Going uninsulted leaves you mentally and emotionally inflexible. "Piss Christ" wouldn't have played out as well in 1600's Spain.

The point, vague and controversial though it may be, is that if Muslim society is going to progress, it must be roundly insulted. The little offences fade into the background. If I heard that the US government was desecrating Bibles for military interrogation, I would think "vote against this guy", and change the channel. This is much more economically productive than rioting.

*didn't think you'd see these two artist as equivalents when you woke up, did you?

-Miguel Sanchez  11:29 EST | |

About us:

This weblog is an ongoing, if periodic, effort by several friends to stay in touch, in reading material, and in ideas.

Lucky Luciano is a former Italian Stallion real estate hustler and Benedict Arnold CEO turned shady lawyer-to-be. He lives in Denver.

Ben is a Paramedic and would-be philantropist who lives in Denver. He knows everything about nothing.

Fuzzy Dunlop lives in Manhattan. He is more than capable of standing up to the stresses of a high crime urban environment.

Jess is a teacher. But have YOU given her an apple? No, you haven't. You should be ashamed of yourself. This crazy feminist currently rests her copy of Awakening in Jersey City.

Matt is a pariah, iconoclast, and professor of gambling living in Oakland.

Miguel Sanchez is not Lionel Hutz.

Daddy Brooklyn lives in Brooklyn. He hates Republicans, though he wouldn't mind being ensconced in the landed elite of New York City.

Paul just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.

Ziggy Stardust has no past.

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