By Phil LaDuke
“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth
I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth”—John Lennon
Okay, so some of you have already chosen to take offense at the title of the article, if you have the courage to read the entire work you may realize that YOU’RE the bad guy here, not me.
Several weeks back I wrote about the many people who work in safety who fret about their fates as long-suffering purveyors of the thanklessness of the job. By some standards it was a pretty tame, lame, and sycophantic. pablum. The kind of crap bloggers write when they are trying to curry favor with everyone who might someday shell out a nickel for their services, careful not to offend (or really excite) anyone about the subject. It was weak, and even then I got the usual parade of negative feedback. Some (at least I hope) were tongue-in-cheek, and some were the regular cranks, and some were the high and mighty who chose to take offense. Offense is offered by one and accepted by another so if something offends you, remember you chose to take the offense it wasn’t forced on you.
Coincidentally a friend of mine who is producing safety training videos that are funny. His idea, and I think it’s a great one, is to produce comedic training videos so that safety training can be enjoyed instead of endured. There is a lot research that connects humor with learning, and add to that the emerging “micro learning” field and I think it’s a hot idea (if you are interested in talking to him let me know I will connect you, and no, I have no interest financial or otherwise in the endeavor.) He came to me with the script for his first offering (something about making safe choices) and was worried that it might be too “edgy”. He worried that it would offend some potential customers (“what?!??! There is NOTHING funny about safety!!”) He asked my opinion; if I thought the material would offend potential buyers. I told him yes, it would most certainly offend some of the soft-headed mouth-breathers in safety, but unless you offend at least 10% of the population you probably don’t have a message worth the carbon dioxide it would take to say the words. I don’t advocate being deliberately offensive, I’ve been on the both sides of the inevitable ass-beatings that result from picking a fight for no good reason, but trying to please everyone results in something that sort of only pleases the kind of bland idiot that is like your wife’s friend’s husband who corners you at every party and wants to talk about Game of Thrones (I get it you like it now shut up about it.)
The question of whether or not you lose your soul when you dumb something down in the name of political correctness, haunts me. While I’m about as far from politically correct as one can get, I am not for using deliberately hurtful language, well at least not in a broad bigoted sense, if I’m calling you a “mouth-breathing below average gibbon” these are not words I chose to elevate you, but I mean in general. I just can’t keep up with all the changes; words that were once clinical terms but now offend. And it’s usually not the effected group that is offended. Take for example “midgets”, this was once a common usage term that described a person whose physical growth was stunted. The term was never meant to be pejorative, and then one day, almost magically it was an ugly word used only by bigots who hated “little people”. To be sure, if I met someone who said, I would prefer you would refer to me as a “little person” (or whatever the hell they want to be called this week) I would oblige them. Frankly most people would like to be referred to as “people” or not referred to at all. You’ll notice pituitary giants don’t have that problem. They have been called giants since the Brother’s Grimm but you don’t hear them grousing about it. It just goes to show whoever thought up the whole “pick on someone your own size” adage was a soft-headed idiot (also a word that was once a clinical term without being pejorative). Pick on someone smaller and weaker than you if you don’t want your ass handed to you. Although, I’m in favor of not picking on anyone, which is the point. Trying to be offensive is wrong, being offensive because someone is chuffed that you used a word that is not in there approved social lexicon is buffoonery.
Exactly how does it happen that all of a sudden a word used clinically for years becomes offended. It’s not like there’s a grand council of midgets that meet in Bern every year and settle questions like, “ what do we like to be called and what angers up our blood?” It’s absurd and no, I don’t believe one has the right to be offend on behalf of someone else because they person in question MIGHT be offended. It’s like writing for Saturday Night Live where the writers clearly must think, “well I don’t find this one bit funny but the idiots that watch the show will probably think it’s funny; it’s not, and it hasn’t been for a decade.
But as always, I digress. My point is that works of substance, the things that make us think and gnaw at our guts and seem to threaten our core beliefs, are most likely a little scary. Taking offense is a choice. It’s right there in the words “taking offense”. It’s true, of course that some will claim that I or someone else offended them, or that my style is unprofessional and in itself an affront to the staid dignity of the high and mighty Safety Profession, but to hell with them, I chose to take offense, which is apparently as self-evident a right as anything Thomas Jefferson ever thought up.
If all you do is read safe material that reassures your beliefs (I recommend The Giving Tree: spoiler alert the kid’s a real jerk), and watch news pundits what you already believe you have exceeded Orwell’s nightmare, Big Brother has stopped watching you because the Google algorithm will steer your search engines to things you already believe. So here is what I would like you to do this week (and really who cares what I would like, but consider it payment for whatever meager value you get from reading this) seek out something that scares you and challenges your most cherished views of safety, something that really digs in and attacks your life view and ask yourself why does this scare me so? Why does this offend me? Perhaps, it’s not the words that offend us, perhaps we are afraid that we secretly do want to call a little person a midget, a disabled person a cripple, or…well let’s just leave it at that. So for the 10% of you who chose to be offended by this, I look forward to your virulent emails, threats, and trash talk, but remember I struck a cord because somewhere in that uptight spineless life of yours I scraped the scab of your soul and you don’t like how it makes you feel, not about me, but about yourself.