Found guilty of (possibly) thinking something

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Offending people is an odd thing.

On yesterday's Liveline, Damien asked someone if Cathal Ó'Searcaigh was planning to apologise to those people he offended, even if he had done nothing wrong.

An ex-girlfriend of mine often looked for apologies from me on occasions when I offended her, regardless of whether or not this was my intention. To keep things sweet, I naturally capitulated. But it really burned me up.

Years later, I can see that rather than my intentionally offending her, she was being offended by me. Active versus passive offence, I suppose.

It's like the story of the two monks crossing the river.

An old monk and young monk saw a gorgeous lady in rich clothes wondering how to cross the river on the road. The old monk asked lady's permission to carry her to cross the river. Two monks continued their journey.

Hours later the young monk asked:

'We are monks, we shouldn't get close to girls. Why did you do that?'

'Oh! That girl? I put her down hours ago, Why are you still holding her?' the old monk replied.

The young monk was bitterly offended and kept his resentment seething away for hours. The old monk was oblivious.

Can you really be responsible for other people getting offended? Surely there is almost nothing worth saying that isn't going to be considered controversial by someone somewhere.

While a passenger on an Australian aeroplane, rock star/activist/poet Henry Rollins was flagged as a possible terrorist threat because of the book he was reading.

More recently, a janitor at a university was accused of, and reprimanded for, racial harassment for reading this scholarly book about the KKK in the presence of African-Americans.

In a clarifying letter, IUPUI Affirmative Action Officer Lillian Charleston informed the man that it was not his choice of reading material or his intentions that were at issue, but the 'perceptions' of his co-workers.

Let that one sink in.

You're doing nothing wrong. But other people assume you are thinking bad things. Ergo, you are now doing something wrong. QED.

Thoughtcrime, anyone?

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