Make my day, stranger!

I don’t know when we began giving power to strangers. I think it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Maybe we watched too many Westerns during our formative years, learned from those steely eyed men in saloons that what strangers think about us is worth a gunfight.

Nowadays the extreme version happens in city traffic. Someone shoots someone else a bird. Next step is an exchange of gunfire.

Here’s how the scenario runs:

Some complete stranger pronounces a bias we don’t share.

Our thought response:

“This offends me.”

That thought process is driven by a deeper one:

“I want to be offended. I give this stranger the power to offend me. I assign enough value to what this stranger says, or believes, to allow it to trigger a negative emotional path within me. What this stranger says or believes matters.”

We know better.

Strangers cut too wide a swath in their traits to have any real value. They span the breadth of potential human biases. But even knowing this we give them the power to ruin a moment.

I say this is a recent phenomenon because humans of the past behaved differently. Our forefathers didn’t care what Brits thought about us because they recognized that Brits live within an entirely different set of interests.

Even today a Zuni doesn’t care what a Navajo thinks about anything because from the perspective of a Zuni, Navajos don’t have anything valid to contribute to any meaningful discussion. Navajos live in a different reality from Zunis.

Both Navajos and Zunis choose to allow themselves to be offended by the opinions of Anglos and Hispanics, but there’s a reason. They’ve found taking offense is a means of gaining power over those groups.

But neither a Zuni, nor a Navajo would bother being offended by the thoughts and words of the other because to each there’s nothing the other might think that carries the weight of validity.

Not long ago the same was true of people almost everywhere. The people in the town where I was reared cared about the opinions of people within that town, but they couldn’t have cared less what the people in Clovis, twenty miles away thought. It was generally understood that Clovis people were stupid and might think and say anything.

Today we care what everyone thinks about almost everything. We pretend to believe what they think carries value, but we know better. We just like the feel of being offended..

Make my day, Stranger! I’m handing you the power to offend me.

This leaves me cold.

Human opinion hasn’t held up well under scrutiny. It’s worth about what it costs. Mine aren’t that reliable and I haven’t found those of others to be any better.

Instrumental Theme to Dirty Harry:
http://youtu.be/ZDKRD2q3bYo

11 responses to “Make my day, stranger!

  1. Being offended requires too much energy. My bride is offended a lot and sometimes I think she is offended because I am not. I have tried to explain to her that my reality and hers too for that matter are so totally remote from that of others that it is just not possible to be offended.
    When I find something offensive to my eye I don’t look.
    When I find something offensive to my ear I stop listening.
    When I find something offensive to my nose I probably farted.

  2. Hi OF: Thanks for the visit and the observation. I haven’t found a way to deal with the last one you mentioned. If you come up with a solution I’d appreciate hearing it. Come winter all those blankets have a way of compounding the problem.

    Thanks again.

  3. I have basically decided that what other people think of me doesn’t matter to me anymore. Being old and realizing the precarious nature of my existence makes me more likely to ignore folks. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I will occasionally drop into high dudgeon over an offhand remark, but it is becoming a lot less frequent.

  4. Hi Degrigolade: Thanks for the visit and comment. I just went to your blog for the first time today. Love your perspective, what I saw of it.

  5. For what it’s worth, I learned long ago that most folks are very offended when they discover that their opinion doesn’t matter to you. As the old vulgarism goes, “…we all have them and they all stink.” Thanks for swinging by my blog!

  6. Jules, I really don’t care what you think. Hee Hee Hee
    Actually, this is a great observation. You are an insightful fellow.

  7. Acknowledged, Cletus. My insights are worth about what I charge for them, but I’m obliged to you for reading through it.

    Hope your day’s a good one. Thanks for the visit.

  8. I’ve been prowling around here the last two days checking things out. I like your perspective. I’ve been working on The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz for some time now.
    1. Don’t make assumptions.
    2. Don’t take anything personally
    3. Be impeccable with your word
    4. Always do the best you can

    Still working on them. I expect I will be for some time to come. Some days are easier than others.

  9. As a teen, I was offended by many people and probably offended at least as many others. After awhile, I was just too busy to expend the energy to be offended by very much. Not much later, I came across a small, framed copy of the serenity prayer, which I soon hung on my kitchen wall.

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