Offense Taken!

David Cowles

May 10, 2022

There is nothing more self-satisfying or self-aggrandizing than ‘taking offense’.

When I was growing up, we were taught, "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me." It was a tough sell even back then…but today, OMG! Names, and not even names but pronouns, have become the crypto currency of offense and resentment.

There is nothing more self-satisfying or self-aggrandizing than ‘taking offense’. (Let’s face it, we all love to feel superior.) It allows you to assume the high moral ground and to depersonalize your ‘offender’. To paraphrase the iconic words of Martin Buber, "taking offense’ transforms every potential I-Thou relationship into a semi-permanent I-it relationship."

I-it is the paradigmatic ‘pronoun-pair’ of depersonalization. It lies at the heart of racism, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, classism, ageism, and all forms of economic exploitation. It is ironic that those most likely to ‘take offense’ are those who imagine themselves most opposed to these hateful ‘isms’.

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