I think Ayn Rand was right about something. Wait, stay with me. I still hate her guts, but the basic premise of her “philosophy” is correct, even if nothing else is. We humans really do spend most of our time thinking about ourselves. It’s how we survive. You’re not a bad person because you declined to give money to charity on the grounds that you needed that cash to buy yourself some dinner. If you buy yourself some dinner first, you will have the energy to go out and make some more money, a small helping of which you might be able to donate to charity. Everybody wins. There are selfless acts and selfish ones. Ayn Rand’s mistake was in painting the world in absolutes, and in the messy, morally ambiguous universe that we live in, there aren’t too many of those.
The truly dangerous people, in my experience, are the selfless ones–you know, the ones who could go out and live their own lives, but choose to live yours instead because they’re so worried that you’ll fuck up. I fuck up all the time, but what the selfless ones are really trying to do is prevent me from offending anybody. Offending people is good. It means that you’re challenging them. Of course, you still might be wrong, and in the course of debating with the offended party, you might discover that both of you have valuable lessons to learn. But as John Adams said in 1776, in a revolution, somebody has to be offended. So if your only contribution to the discussion is that what I’m saying might offend somebody, please fuck off. You care less about me than about preserving the status quo. And I’m not a fan of the status quo.
It’s what douchebags don’t say that angers me far more than what they do. Any moron can let loose with a vicious stream of invective, but it takes a truly hateful soul to do so without even acknowledging the person they’re yelling at. It’s like they’re angrier at what I represent to them than anything they’ve done. My mere presence is a threat to their existence, so they do their damndest to tame and castrate me so that I have to get their approval every time I want to use the bathroom. That’s no kind of life, and it’s hard to explain that to people whose entire purpose in life is to control others. Since they’ve never treated anyone with respect, they don’t understand why you’re so angry that they’re not. It’s not quite the same as trying to explain colors to a blind person, as blind people didn’t choose to be blind. But somewhere along the line, every bigot chooses to be a bigot. They may not use that word–in fact, it’s far more likely that they’ll use some euphemism like “advisor” or “mentor”–but basically, the one thing they have in common is that to them, any disagreement between the two of you is the result of you being unable to handle the truthfulness of their actions. If you think what they said was offensive, you obviously didn’t understand it. If you reject they premise of their argument, it’s because you’re too young and naive to know better. They won’t admit this even to themselves, but in reality, they feed off of your negative feelings. As long as you stick around and allow yourself to be hurt, abused, and dismissed, they’re happy. And they will say whatever they have to say to convince
themselves you that it’s all for the better.
I think a good general rule when it comes to figuring out what’s over the line and what isn’t is not to try to take offense for anyone else. The editor of The Onion apologized recently for a tweet about Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis. I’ve got a screencap here, and I’m not proud of this, but I cracked the fuck up when I saw it:
Tasteless? You betcha. What did you expect from The Onion? I’ve been reading a little bit about this “controversy”, and much of the outrage is centered around the age of the actress in question. What does her being nine years old have to do with anything? If she’s old enough to star in a movie, she’s old enough to take a little ribbing. (This is, of course, assuming she even saw the Tweet, which I doubt. If she did, it means either that somebody showed it to her, in which case any harm she suffered was the fault of that person rather than anyone at The Onion, or that she reads The Onion, in which case her parents are at fault for letting her read something way too advanced for her age.)
Every time a funny person says something that shocks people, we have this debate about how far is too far and how the purpose of humor is to challenge people’s assumdfjkdfjbkljdflkjdkfljdfjdfd.lkjfkldjfdfOh, what? I’m sorry, I fell asleep with my head on the keyboard because this conversation bores me to fucking tears at this point. Yes, I think Daniel Tosh’s rape jokes were over the line, because even though I am not a woman and have never been raped, the thought of being gang-raped while people laugh at me terrifies me. But I’ve been called far worse than a cunt by people whose opinions actually matter(ed) to me. Does anybody seriously think that the writer responsible for that tweet thinks Quvenzhané Wallis is a cunt? They wrote it because they were tired of seeing her coddled by the media. That is the satirical point that was made by that tweet, and if you can’t see that, you’re part of the problem. If I thought for one instant that Quvenzhané Wallis was in the least bit damaged or distressed by this incident, I’d boycott The Onion until they issued an apology. (Well, they already did, but you see my point.) But at the end of the day, I just don’t care. Let the finger-wagging folks of the world bother somebody else. It’s not their place to tell the rest of us where humor ends and insults begin.