People are really into being offended. About the slightest things.
People are really into being offended. About the slightest things. iStock

Is getting offended a waste of time and effort?

Informer suffered a shock the other day. It took the wind right out of me. What was it? Difficult as it may be to believe, I realised that at least three minutes had passed since I'd heard, seen or read about someone taking offence at something.

People are really into being offended. About the slightest things. And they can't wait to tell us aaaaaaall about it.

Of course, there's heaps of stuff that should offend us - intolerance, inequality, injustice and inhumanity, to name the Big Four. Plus the Manly Sea Eagles. Such issues demand our best efforts to overcome their worst, and clearly offensive, intentions.

Trouble is, people are taking offence at so much else these days and often it's just distracting piffle; offence as a trend. And Informer is as guilty as anyone. Like, I'm offended by modern parents and their stupid ideas, and by people who are always late, and by people who won't order what's on the menu and then still complain about the food.

But in the end, what has my offence achieved other than a total waste of time and effort? Which is why I've decided to go on the offensive about taking offence.

There's a difference between taking offence and going on the offensive. Remember Network? A wonderful film made in the 1970s, it's best known for the scene in which Peter Finch's character - TV anchorman Howard Beale - launches a live-to-air offensive that ends with "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore”. What begins as an act of apparent madness hits home among viewers and sparks a demonstration of unified societal discontent.

More than 40 years later, and despite Howard's unhinged delivery, much of his message is sound and has proven astonishingly prescient.

For an even better example of reasoned dissent, seek out the episode of US drama The Newsroom in which Will McAvoy played by Jeff Bridges bursts the bubble of America's illusions about itself.

When it aired in the US, the offence-o-meter went off the scale. In light of recent events, and all the lessons unlearned, I wonder if it would now.

Speaking of illusions, Australia's guilty of them too. We constantly bang on about being the land of the fair go and the larrikin spirit. Yet read the letters in the newspapers, watch the current affairs programs, listen to the shock-jocks, examine political policy and digest the social media feeds and it's clear we've never been further removed from fair go and larrikin. Some may find that offensive. It's still true.

Informer's not assuming the moral high ground. I'm just saying we should be wary of those who do, and recognise there is also a difference between calling attention and seeking it.

Over the years I've been known to trot out a line that goes: if only people would think about what they say before they say what they think. It's a good line, because it supports considered opinion rather than opinion alone.

Informer respects considered opinion and I welcome reasoned debate. However, I am not interested in offence for offence's sake and which, upon being weighed up, turns out to weigh nothing at all. I'm as disinterested as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore.

By the way, they shot Howard Beale at the end of Network. The offence rests.


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