9/29/2006

Indignation -- the vice of our generation

Lately my attention has fixed on a fascinating human disposition: indignation. In my last post I expressed my longing for an effective hate-word for white people. I mused that "honkey" and "cracker" were both fashionable slang. They sound hip and cool; therefore they are ineffective as they fail to elicit the desired response -- indignation. Even as I was snapping the next bullet mark, my mind was churning over honkeys and crackers. Why don't they give offense? That's their intent. When you make a wrong turn, wind up driving down Harlem Avenue and hear a roadside projects resident yell "you crachah-ass honkey," he's not paying you a compliment. Believe it or not, he's expressing hostility (and registering his complaint on the off-chance you're the banker who repossessed his family's farm home.) So a word desinged to offend is failing to disgruntle its target audience. What's happening here?

An important idea resided in that bulleted quip. And this cracker was going to get to the bottom of it, right after he called his broker, mailed a birthday card to The Man, and smeared some more mayonnaise on the sandwich he was eating.

At once the answer struck me. White people simply decided not to find the term offensive -- regardless of its intent. We didn't all sit down together and have a formal meeting on the matter. Independently we all decided that these terms don't rise to the level of offense. Some of us went a step further and decided to find these terms fashionable. In doing so we rendered the epithets harmless. We defanged them. Whites have effectively immunized themselves to epithets by resolving not to take offense. Could it be that simple? Can people simply decide not to take offense to offensive behavior? Could renouncing indignation go beyond epithets and into other points of conflict? If so, what are the implications? Could resolving not to take offense be the foundation of world peace? Of inner-peace?

Forget about epithets for a moment and take a macro-view. Look at entire cultures. It's fair to say that the more indignant the culture -- that is, the more likely it is to take offense -- the bigger the pain in the ass it is to the rest of the planet. Tip-toeing around indignant people is exhausting, painstaking work that rarely succeeds in keeping the peace. That's the disconcerting thing about indignant cultures: the more you yield to their sensibilities, the more sensitive they become, so that pin drops cause earthquakes. That's why America is having such trouble getting into the rest of the world's good graces. By merely wearing tennis shoes, eating Big Macs and giving our movies happy endings we've pissed off three-forths of Europe. And I don't need to enumerate the number of ways the successful sit-com Will and Grace agitates the Middle East. The Food Network alone has most of the countries in Africa frothed. We've got like 2 countries on the planet who don't hate us yet -- Canada and Australia. And we're one mocking "eh" away from Canada beating us to a pulp with their hockey sticks and snow shoes. As far as Australia goes, let's just thank our lucky stars that sting ray wasn't an American citizen. Anyway, there's so much indignation out there, we can hardly degrade the ozone layer without somebody planning our demise. Just what are we supposed to do?

If indignation is a threat to foreign affairs, it's cancer to personal relationships. The more indignant the person is, the more annoying he is. You know whom I'm talking about. This is the person who throws a shit-fit because the guy in front of him ordered his Whopper with no onions (Have it YOUR way, mother fucker! Not the douche-bag-behind-you's way!). Indignant people suck. Conversely, whom do you admire most? Whoever he is, he's forgiving, even magnanimous, bigger then the petty offensive bullshit the rest of us fret over. He doesn't have the patience to nurture indignation over stupid shit like whether somebody was talking on a cell phone when he cut him off in traffic, or whether Clay Aiken met with more success in the music industry than Bo Bice. [I'll just have to get over it. That twerp Clay Aiken is selling millions of records an swimming balls-deep in adolescent cooter. Bo Bice is going down on the landlord for a week's rent. You got such pretty long hair, Bo. Now suck it before I have you evicted.]

Indignation is an encumbrance. You're forever having to become angry, to fight the good fight, to defend the honor of this and that. For instance, you have to declare your moral outrage every time someone at work takes a second bagel "before everybody has had a chance to get one." Relax, Denise. I'm eating the onion bagel. Nobody ever wants the onion bagel, you busy-bodied twat. I'm not suggesting that feeling anger from time to time is detrimental. You naturally feel anger when you rack your head on a shelf, learn your car battery is dead or clog the shitter. It's indignation -- anger with the component of perceived injustice -- that's detrimental to one's relationships with others and to one's own mental health.

The more indignant one is, the more vulnerable to manipulation one is. After all, what's more tempting than annoying somebody? When somebody gives you the power to annoy them, it obligates you to seize the opportunity. Remember the one neighbor who posted a KEEP OFF THE GRASS sign on his lawn? Remember how you would make a point of playing Smear the Queer with seven of your buddies on his lawn just because of that sign? Case in point. Did you ever ding-dong-ditch the house belonging to the easy-going hippie? No. You hit the cranky old lady at the end of the street who was always shooing you off her segment of the sidewalk. She's the one who got the flaming bag of poo on Halloween, or was it Christmas Eve? Ah, I remember now. It was both. Looks like Comet left you a flaming bag of his own Christmas sentiment, Mrs. Anderson.

For both personal and geo-political reasons, we must renounce indignation. But refusing to become indignant doesn't mean becoming others' punching bag. During the Second World War, we had a problem with the Germans. We didn't become indignant and lather ourselves into a righteous frenzy over their ambitions to conquer the region and persecute millions of Jews. We simply recognized that Germany had become the boisterous drunk at the end of the bar and we needed to kick his ass to sober him up. In fact, if we immobilized ourselves with indignation, wringing our hands over "the injustice of it all," we may have lost the war. Instead, our attitude was , Yep, looks like we need to go over there and kick the shit out of them. During the entire Atlantic campaign, American soldiers were known for their cheerful dispositions. Contrast this with French soldiers who became so indignant over German occupation that they could barely muster any contempt for American liberating forces dying to recapture French freedom. American soldiers' ability to maintain their sense of humor under the most miserable of circumstances was the key to their success. I think it was Buddha who said, If you can laugh while you're kicking the crap out of somebody, you're a truly enlightened being. Amen.

I believe the heaping pile of indignation Christianity carried around for so long gave rise to the contempt many have for it nowadays. Christianity damns a lot of normal, harmless behavior and does so in righteous indignation. For a long time, this was a pain in the butt to everyday folks, who felt moved to question the Church. Martin Luther had to meet the Pope in the Thunderdome just to back the Church off. Two Christians enter; one Christian leaves. But Christianity is relaxing its indignation. Take Catholics for example. Many non-Cathoilcs denounce the entire doctrine of Catholicism because 1/100 of one percent of priests may have victimized children. Forget the wonderful virtues Catholicism teaches. Forget the millions of Catholics who live virtuous lives, care for their neighbors, give generously to those less fortunate, and have the good sense to whip their children with wooden spoons when they sass the parents. Father O'Reilly touched a kid's pecker. So screw the lot of them. Catholics appear to be taking the criticism in stride. No crusades the last time I checked. They're learning to let go of indignation. Meanwhile, if you sneeze on the Koran you could start a holy war. So with organized religion, too, we need to tone down the sense of indignation.

Let's do our best to squelch indignation from our collective psyche. How dare you not agree?

36 comments:

Danke Shane said...

Holy Crap. I think you may have just taught me a "sitcom" lesson. A nicely packaged, well presented truth that is going to affect my daily life more than i will ever admit to my peers. You have hit the nail on the head for inner peace! Way to ruin my winning streak of not learning anything valuable on Fridays...

Spinning Girl said...

I think you might be onto something. Truly.

Also, I think Denise was reaching for the Everything bagel.

Miss Cellania said...

Its not that simple. After 400 years of slavery and another 100 years of fighting for equal treatment, its more than just a matter of "choosing" to be indignant. The offensive words whites use for blacks are the result of a history of aggresive putdowns, or to use the term from the last century, "putting them in their place."

White people don't take offense at racial terms we are called because we are the majority in this country, and a putdown (no matter how vicious the intent) doesn't really affect our lives.

Yasamin said...

Thank you after school special guy. :)

Honestly, lets you and me and a few other worth while people move to canada and hide. it'll be fun! like one big slumber party with people who speak french! rock on.

ps... I have an anger problem. I know, alot of people know it. I drink margaritas, and it all goes away lol

Memphis Steve said...

It's because I'm black! It's because I'm a woman! Remember when these phrases struck terror in any white man's heart? Yeah, now they're just good T-shirt slogans that white boys wear as a joke. Of course, they're also the motto of tax-payer funded government departments of hate and professional indignation, but that's another problem.

Lately I've been too tired to get indignant over all the niggas and bitches who call me a cracker honkey white bread chauvanist patriarchal oppressor. I just don't have the energy to give a shit even though I know their hate groups have billions of dollars and most of the judges up their asses and I ain't got shit. What's up with that? Could just making the world too damned tired to care solve all our problems? It's worth considering.

If we can't all get along, let's all just work harder until we're too damned tired to fight. Peace out.

tornwordo said...

It's true those words have been defused. And if I may sum up your points.

Chill.

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

(And that Koran remark just earned you a jihad.)

Anonymous said...

As far as Australia goes, let's just thank our lucky stars that sting ray wasn't an American citizen.

Ya sure got that right Bugs.

Violet said...

I like your point about how indignation can affect personal relationships. In addition to relationships with people who you do not know, it is indignant person and the wife/husband/child/whatever who learns that in order to survive, the skill of walking on eggshells must be learned. There is nothing worse than becoming the target of the wrath of indignation, whether it be personal, professional, or societal.

Violet said...

oh, and by the way... bo bice is doing quite well for himself. i can't turn on the freakin' radio without hearing that song "is this the real thing?"

jules said...

LBB for President?

MIA said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MIA said...

I'm just a white thin christian educated chick that happens to have nice boobies and has probably recieved better teatment than most because of it. Nope I'm not indignant.

MIA said...

Oh by the way. "balls deep" very good unit of measurement.lmao

Anonymous said...

not bad, bugs...especially for a crackah-ass honkey like yourself. ;)

Evydense said...

Have you noticed how we've become so goddamned sensitive and indignant that we don't even use words like 'goddamned' any more in case it might rile a few right-wing, pro-life, redneck zealots. And we've changed our language to invent new half-words like "the N-word", or the "C-word". I'm trying to figure out what happens when we reach the 27th word we want to sterilize.

And just a little reply to Yasamin up above....The English and French in Canada have a bit of angst going on between us. Our French friends hate how we tell them to run their lives so much that they're threatening to set up their own country. Go figger! Fuckin' frogs.

C said...

I know that is a direct parallel to parents/adults that look at you and your non standard child and think indignant thoughts. Why should my kid be like anyone else's - then he'd not be mine and he would not be special. I don't want a clone of someone else's brat. I want my own brat.

keda said...

yeah great and all that but didn't i tell you before what i'd do for the onion bagel?

or was i wasted. damn you you forced me to stay up and get souced again.

i hate you!

Evil Genius said...

Political correctness can kiss my ass. I'm just too tired and my brain is too addled to remember what I can say to whom.

In the words of the infamous Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along????"

:-)

Blessed said...

ok, honkey and cracker do not offend me. I think that it's quite funny actually. It takes alot to offend me...guess I consider the source.

mcBlogger said...

I agree whole heartedly. By taking offence to harmless offences, we are giving power to those giving the offences. If that makes sense in my tequila induced logic.

Junebugg said...

Damn, point well made! I'm impressed at this post, you did good.

Ari said...

I am deeply offended by this post, LBB!

Nah. :)

I think the reason "cracker" isn't offensive to white people is that there's not a deficit of power or status for us right now. For the moment, we're secure in our place as the majority, so it's hard to undermine our collective confidence.

If you call us names, we'll just put on the Rolex, get in our BMW's and go buy some more stock on our way to the spa, and if someone cuts us off on the way there, we'll get all indignant about it.

Snooze said...

It's not the small percent of priests that committed the crimes, but the church hierarchy that protected them which disgusts many about the Catholic Church. I think that's why most people are indignant (and fed up with) all the hypocrisy coming out of the Vatican.

Dave Morris said...

Yep. Lighten the fuck up.

Righteous indignation is the most sickening of all indignations, if I had to pick one. :)

Gregor said...

Probably the most serious post I've seen you write, and yet still hillarious. you never cease to amaze me, man!

NWJR said...

I'm saving all my righteous indignation for Senators who pass "child protection" legislation while hitting on underage Pages. If I ever find someone like that, he's gonna be on the receiving end of a whole pile of whup-ass.

Becky said...

Pride will definitely be the down fall of this generation! Stubborness!

jali said...

Okay - I read the "Indignation" post.

Can we talk about indigestion now?

Oh great One said...

Amen brotha! Preach it!

Purring said...

Awesome.

exile said...

as far as the new word for whitey goes i think we are not the ones who can find it.

there is only one man who could find the new phrase, one man who's destiny is neigh...

Dave Chappelle

Miss Sassy said...

Indignation has been my word of the week... how did you manage to pull it from the cosmos and conceed the points I hadn't yet made???

love the topic, love the topic, love the blog, love you.

(its been an exceptionally good day, take the good vibes while I have them)

Mom of Three said...

In a day where a cartoon will get people dead kilt in a riot? Hell yeah, everyone should lighten up.

My vote for offensive white man name: Caucasian Dick.

Of course, that doesn't apply to Slave Hubby.

Bug said...

*chuckle* Amen to every last word ;o)

Matt said...

Yeah, a black guy yelled "white boy" at me and I was confused. How is THAT an insult?

Some people don't even know there's such a thing as a white racial epithet.

Memphis Steve said...

I know one that works. I was downtown in Memphis and I was late for something, so I started running. A black boy yelled, "Run Forrest, run!" That was pretty good.