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Post No.: 0063offence


Fluffystealthkitten says:


I absolutely agree with being polite but I don’t personally care for ‘manners’ that only function as an attempt to denote ‘class’ e.g. which fork and knife to use for which meal course – it doesn’t reasonably hurt anyone which specific cutlery one uses, and it doesn’t really disrupt anyone else’s meal either. Any ‘offence’ caused is akin to saying that if you’re not wearing a wristwatch then you’re offending me(!) Different shapes of glassware may affect how aromas flow (but if one shape is the best design then surely it’s the best for all types of drinks where aroma matters from an aerodynamics perspective? So why don’t we just stick with that shape?) and there is a difference in flavour between drinking from a porcelain or a polystyrene cup, for instance, but it’s still not something to be snobbish about if someone cannot or does not want to use the ‘correct’ vessel. These sorts of things don’t reasonably cause psychological or certainly physical harm to anyone.


Putting one’s shoes on the table is an example that can reasonably potentially cause harm and therefore genuine offence to others though because unsanitary shoes that have been outside can spread nasty germs on a surface where foodstuffs are expected to go. So hygiene and washing are one thing – pretentiousness and vanity are another. Those who aren’t so vain themselves tend to see through the vanity in others because they know it’s largely pretence. There are more important things to spend one’s primary concerns on. Having style, taste and being aesthetically tidy is admittedly nice for all to see, but style and taste are extremely subjective hence any judgements will speak more about the judger than the judged. Indeed cultures change and so do style and taste trends. Verified facts can reliably speak about the subject a fact pertains to because they are held to be objective, but opinions can only reliably speak about the person whom expresses an opinion because they are subjective. Lies, misunderstandings or otherwise getting facts wrong also only speak about the person whom expresses them, or at best no one.


Cleanliness is really the true and important goal here – but cleanliness is not about looking tidy and clean (e.g. being clean shaven, be it one’s face, armpits or wherever) but rather being clean at a microbial level, and this cannot always be reliably assessed by looking at someone superficially (e.g. a tidy-looking person could actually be dirty on an invisible-to-the-naked-eye microbial level, and vice-versa) or by smelling someone (e.g. spraying deodorant or otherwise wearing a lot of fragrance doesn’t make a person any cleaner even though they may ‘smell clean’ – they could be just lazily masking their odours). Then again, research suggests there might be a problem with being ‘too clean’ because some microbes are good for our health.


Even though I am indifferent about it myself, it doesn’t matter if other people have e.g. pineapple on their own pizzas – it’s not likely going to win any culinary competitions but it causes no harm to other people or to oneself (it arguably does one some good because it’s a bit of fruit!) i.e. it’s just pure snobbery to judge such things. People can wear whatever they like, or not wear anything at all, unless they want to sit down – in which case please wear at least some underpants so that the chair doesn’t need to be washed or incinerated afterwards(!)


For me, rudeness requires the intent to personally offend someone or gross neglect towards someone, thus generic swear words on their own don’t cause any ****ing genuine offence but they certainly can do if intentionally directed towards specific individuals or groups aggressively, to belittle them or if they’re used as a form of power over others. But some phrases or actions come preloaded with intended derogatory meaning towards specific groups though, and so one should try to learn these meanings in order to be more considerate to others – offence is taken by the recipients rather than needing to be intended by the authors or speakers in these cases (people who’ve not experienced systematic prejudice themselves seem to have the most trouble, relatively and in general, understanding that it’s not just ‘banter’ – these phrases have been historically used as a form of tangible prejudice towards certain groups).


Whatever the case, if it genuinely wasn’t intended as offence then the authors or speakers should have no problem retracting their statements and never using such phrases in such contexts ever again i.e. they can no longer hide behind their ignorance. Ignorance is not a robust defence hence neglect is inconsiderate and can be regarded as rude. And offended parties should accept these apologies and move on – no one can be expected to know everything, so teach people without being obtuse oneself.


So I personally try to follow a few general rules regarding offence, rudeness and tolerance: 1) Is it reasonably harmful or dangerous to others? 2) Is it reasonably harmful or dangerous to oneself? 3) Is it intentionally inconsiderate or ignorantly neglectful in a way that could reasonably cause psychological distress to another person? If not then I don’t care what another being does, says or how they look like. Being ‘quirky’, ‘odd’, ‘strange’, ‘peculiar’ or ‘embarrassing’ are just optional states of mind. Meow!


Rule 1 is the least controversial, and rules 2 and 3 are somewhat controversial and admittedly have the largest grey areas, but I don’t think there can be concrete rules here so they all involve the term ‘reasonably’, and this requires social intelligence to determine what level is reasonable and not for a particular time, place and recipient individual.


Now the question is – am I tolerant of those who don’t want to follow these rules themselves? Yes, in the sense that I don’t care if others do want to use the ‘right’ cutlery or glassware – it’s only if they try to judge others for not doing so. And if other people want to be ‘politically correct’ then that’s fine and up to them too. Real life is complicated though and it’s sometimes about where we argue the lines are drawn (e.g. it’s harmful and dangerous for one to breathe in another person’s petrol or diesel vehicle exhaust fumes (it’s just like breaking wind in another person’s face – well the evidence shows that exhaust fumes are actually far worse for a recipient’s health over time) but should we call the driver rude?) The lines where ‘reasonably’ are can be debated, and causing potential ‘psychological distress’ depends on the individual (e.g. forgetting a child’s birthday is worse than forgetting an adult’s, and different people have different phobias or trigger words). Context is absolutely critical too.


Meow! These viewpoints on offence and tolerance speak about me and are only my own personal fluffy thoughts. I’m sure some people will disagree with them. Please tell us what are your own views on this topic via the Twitter comment button below?


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