A culture of nonsensical bits of offence
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
If this behaviour was so obviously racist, why weren’t the numerous black players also offended?
Over the past week or so a few things have made me wonder how it is that someone could be so out of touch that they would be offended or even be wounded by these events. In a way I have been wondering these things for years as I followed news and culture. There were always times that I would read of some angry people screaming or crying over some slight or impropriety and wonder: “is that all it takes these days?” I had wanted to write about this topic for awhile and when I had decided to do it, these events immediately occurred. I find it so unfortunately apropos that as I was turning this topic over in my head such obvious examples would organically emerge.
Enter Shannon Sharpe and the hapless watermelon. For those who don’t know him, Sharpe is a legendary football player turned football commentator. Sharpe was informed that Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy had organized a team motivational activity of smashing watermelons. Sharpe took offense to this, stating that the white America has historically used watermelons as a racial insult towards black Americans. He then spent a large chunk of his segment admonishing both Coach McCarthy and the black players on the team for engaging in this “racist” behaviour; but one must ask oneself, if this behaviour was so obviously racist, why weren’t the numerous black players also offended? Could it be that destroying a cheap and plentiful inanimate object is fun and not racist because of what the inanimate object is? Could it be that it’s wholly unhealthy to go through every moment of one’s life looking for offense in the behaviours of others? Sharpe exposes himself not only as one who is obsessed with the interplays of race, but also as one who sees the lack of this obsession in others as a failing. Why should any of these players have to look at their coach’s efforts at team bonding and motivation as anything but that? What makes Sharpe so omniscient that he can precisely determine the level of outrage that others must have in the situations that involve them? What makes him so special as to be offended?
But the overzealously hurt feelings are not constrained to the sports arenas and commentators—these hurt feelings extend into fields as far away as publishing. Indeed, reports from New York Post describe Penguin publishing employees distraught to the point of tears at the news of a new Jordan Peterson book. To be honest, I have no idea why. As someone who has watched a few Jordan Peterson interviews and a couple of his solo lectures, I can say with certainty that Peterson is not the “gateway to neofascism” that many easily bruised progressives believe him to be. He is little more than your standard old Canadian man, who having read all the books he owns two times or more, thinks he has the totality of knowledge necessary to steer young people in the right direction. Peterson has synthesized old good ideas and applied them to new problems. He proposes to have answers for others but is human in his failings—nothing more and nothing less. I say firmly that Peterson does not deserve either the idolization or the vitriol that he gets; he is just another thinker amongst many who have come, written, and gone. But the illogical ire and rage that he insights fascinates me, because it tells me so clearly that the people he “triggers” could never protect or serve as allies to the people they claim to care about. If the very thought of a Jordan Peterson book causes such reactions, you will be of no use should the real hatreds rear their ugly heads.
So here I am, wondering again how it is that some people are so easily offended and always over nothing. Some smashed watermelons enraged a 300-pound man, and a self-help book has caused tears. It’s a wonder that anything gets done these days.