Of inconvenience and offence

Of inconvenience and offence

Friday, 01 March 2019

Ever since the individual became the centre of the world, it seems like (one’s own) feelings have taken precedence over society. It seems like this self-centred and hypersensitive neo-individual experiences every obstacle as a personal attack. It seems that every inconvenience has become an offence, with zero nuance. In this situation, society can only lose. Is this how we want to live?

What should we think? What can we do? What can we hope for? 

These questions point to the foundations of ancient philosophical thought, which considered that communal life is better than living on one’s own. To avoid sinking into the depths of cynicism, we have to make certain distinctions between inconvenience and offence.

An inconvenience is above all an annoyance, an annoyance that doesn’t suit our worldview or our plan for the day and, as the word suggests, an annoyance is… annoying. It’s a feeling. We have to avoid confusing things that are annoying, inconvenient or frustrating with actual offences.

Offence differs from inconvenience in its nature and its strength. While you can be alone to have a feeling, to be a victim of an offence, there have to be at least two of you.

An offence goes beyond annoyance; it is shocking or even hurtful. Offence can result from an insult, an attack that strikes where we’re vulnerable. As a victim of an offence, we feel diminished, beaten. 

However, we have to realize that every inconvenience is not necessarily an offence.

The confusion between inconvenience and offence is a direct result of the binary thinking that afflicts society at the moment. Faced with a perceived offence, which is often only an inconvenience, the neo-individual gets angry and proclaims his or her indignation, online, always summoning us to be “for” or “against.” Nuance is thrown out the window, on pain of exclusion.

Nuance implies degrees—think of colour nuances—degrees that make it possible to form our own opinions. The necessity to be “for or against,” although popular, is the death of reflection. Without reflection we can’t find meaning, and we’re lost.

And yet, things are most beautiful when nuanced. 

Oscar Wilde wrote, “It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful.” It appears that this same uncertainty, today, is nothing but a source of insecurity and worry. However, if we really wanted, we could all make an effort to put things back into perspective by ceasing to confuse inconvenience with offence. 

If we stop worrying, we’ll be able to make the necessary distinctions.

Not every comment is an attack.

Not every difference of opinion is the end of the world.

Multiple worldviews can coexist. 

Trust is better than mistrust.

Think about these points. It will only make the world better.

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