A generation easily offended

Northwest B.C. writer challenges this generation for how quickly people take offense and wonders if it helps to tiptoe around words.

Does it really help to tiptoe around words that might offend? asks writer.

The generation that fought the double tragedies of the Great Depression and the Second World War is usually referred to as “The Greatest Generation” and those that followed right after are considered Baby Boomers.

At some point in the past two or three years, we have seen the rise of “The Apologist and Offended Generation.”

Witness the chairman (oops, sorry, the chair) of the mostly underwhelming Juno Awards apologizing for comments made by awards host Russell Peters. Anyone who has seen Mr. Peters’ act knows it mainly consists of comedic racial profiling (somebody’s gonna get a hurt real bad) picking on Asian people and talking about body parts and noises.

Mr. Peters IS funny, but he is no Pierre Berton. For the record, and because nobody actually watches the Junos, he suggested that a group of the underage women in the audience were a “felony party waiting to happen” and that Canadian heritage minister Melanie Joly, was “hot”.

(Google her name, I’ll wait.)

What exactly did they expect him to say? Doesn’t it seem a bit ironic that he was hosting an event that celebrates musicians and artists whose lyrical content can easily be more hateful and misogynistic? Were people genuinely surprised Mr. Peters’ “off the cuff” remarks? Considering that’s how he makes his living, they should have seen that coming.

In Nova Scotia, a Mr. Grabher was forced to return his customized licence plate which displayed his last name because someone was offended by it. An obvious link was made to U.S. President Trumps now infamous “Grab her by……” comment.

Mr. Grabher has had this plate for decades and due to a small number, perhaps one, complaint, he is no longer allowed to put his own last name on his car.

Thanks in large part to social media; everyone now gets an equal chance to become a cause celebrity. The slightest insult or the merest offense provokes a so called “social media outrage” where people wail about being “triggered” or complain of feeling threatened.

We are expected in turn, to offer “safe spaces” and counsellors for people whose feelings have been hurt. Then the cries for meaningful apologies begin immediately. Experts are trotted out and interviewed, opinions brought forth and the cycle begins anew.

The great comics of our time, Carlin, Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Steve Martin and all the way back to Chaplin attacked these situations head on and allowed us to laugh, however uncomfortably, when we looked at ourselves in the mirror.

Who can forget Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words”, even though 30 years later, most of them are already on T.V.  They were offensive, we were offended, or at least my parents were, but nobody got hurt. Pryor told “N word” jokes; using a word we can’t even say any more, unless you happen to be a bona fide rapper.

Don Rickles (RIP) told the meanest, nastiest Jewish jokes for which he was universally loved, because while there was no hatred in those jokes, there might have been a nugget of truth.

Just so we’re clear, nobody is suggesting supporting the sexist, racist, Islamophobic or homophobic nutbar bullies of the world. No one appreciates a bully, except another bully. Sadly, the availability of blogs, cable news and discussion boards have given voice to people who do not deserve one.

Studies show that the rise in serious allergies amongst children is mostly due to the fact that kids no longer get to play in streams and fields of mud. Everything is sanitized, allergen free and prepackaged. Children don’t eat worms or play exposed to dirt, germs and other bacteria.

In the same way, not being exposed to humour, not being around Newfie, Irish or Catholic jokes is creating a sterile generation that faints at the sound of an offensive term. We are becoming a society that must apologize for offending anyone or any group, no matter who they are or even when the ‘offense’ took place.

To quote the author Christopher Hitchens, “Those who are determined to be ‘offended’ will discover a provocation somewhere. We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.”

Short generations ago, 18-year-olds volunteered to shiver in the belly of a bomber over occupied France. They began each day not knowing if it would be their last.  Trying to stay alive, they didn’t have time to be offended.

Nobody is advocating ever going back to those dark days, but there must be a reasonable middle ground somewhere between those brave souls and some of today’s professionally offended adults who need counselling because they saw a t-shirt that offended their sensibilities. At what point in our past was our sense of humour surgically removed? When did we become the “Apologist” generation and what can possibly come after that? It’s most likely not going to be good.

Terrace resident Steve Smyth is a past director of the Terrace-Kitimat Airport Society, which operates the Northwest Regional Airport, and a current board member of the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce.

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