Thursday, October 04 2007

Offensiveness and the Fracturing of Modern Culture

I've noticed that everyone seems to be obsessed with offensiveness these days.  Sometimes, it's people going out of their way to be offensive to provoke a reaction.  Sometimes, it's people going out of their way to take offense at any perceived slight, to themselves or to anyone else.  Often times it's both at the same time.

Dan at Protein Wisdom provokes a blog firestorm by using an offensive slang term to highlight the complete lack of real world perspective of many on the left.  Shamus Young, artist behind the wildly awesome DM of the Rings comic, hasn't gone through a dozen strips on his new comic, Chainmail Bikini, before starting a riot in his audience (details here).  I haven't dared to try the link, but regular Ace of Spades commenter Zombietime has covered (Warning!  Very Definitely Not Safe For Work!) an "Alternative Lifestyles" fair in San Fransisco that seems likely to provoke the equally offensive Fred Phelps crowd into their own peculiar brand of offensiveness.  Political commentators on all sides have gone out of their way to be as rude and boorish as possible towards the other side of the politico-cultural spectrum.


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I think that in part this modern explosion of offensiveness and counter-offensiveness is a side effect of the fracturing of modern American culture and a nasty side effect of the culture wars, and as such a part of the Big Picture in that it ties culture, identity and politics together to make us what we are.

My observation has been that the advent of modern technology has led modern culture in America to be increasingly fractured as we have much less in common with our neighbors and our fellow Americans than in the past, and that separation is increasing as time and culture pass.  This is in many ways both a positive and negative development.

I believe that part of the reason behind the explosion of offensive behavior is that increasingly almost everyone feels like an outcast from American culture.  In part, it's an expression of our snobbishness;  "we're not like the others, the common, the strange, the rich, the poor, the conservative, the liberal.  We're better than the others.  Our way is right.  If only they could see that we're right, they'd agree with us, but they're stupid and evil.  We don't care what they think."

It's behind the offensive costumes at Otakon.  All otaku (anime geeks) are definitely perceived as weird by the rest of society.  I watch the looks cosplaying con goers get from normal passers by.  Seeing someone running around downtown Baltimore in weird clothes and blue hair carrying a six foot wooden and PVC sword is definitely strange.   And if they are going to look at you strange anyways, whats the difference between that and wearing a Nazi armband?  Nothing, if you're one of those morons that knows little of history.  You and I know the difference, but your average rebellious high schooler may say, "The powers that be don't like me.  The powers that be don't like Nazis.  Therefore, to rebel against the powers that be, I'll side with the Nazis."  And in doing so, they're more ostracized and pushed towards other things that are ostracized.

It's also aggravated by the fact that the modern cult of victimhood has made all victims equal, and therefore all victimizers equal.  "Sure, Hitler and Stalin were bad.  But so was Columbus.  Therefore people that celebrate Columbus Day are as bad as Nazis, and I don't care if I offend them.  Also, they offend me just like Nazis do."

To sum up, since we're going to offend someone anyways, we don't worry about how offensive our speech or behavior is.  Since we view everyone else as offensive, we don't care if we offend them.

Posted by: Civilis at 08: 50 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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