More Thoughts on the Dialectic of Personal Responsibility

The desire to be thought well of is a very real driver of human behavior in my opinion. We want other people to think well of us, to believe that when we say ‘excuse me’ after stepping on someone’s foot that we are genuine in so doing, that our contrition is heartfelt and that we meant no ill intent. However, if you havent moved at all and someone accuses you of stepping violently and repeatedly on their foot, is an apology warranted? Most of the time, I have an almost immediate ‘yes!’ that pops up in my head. Im sorry, you must have misunderstood me. Im sorry – I didnt mean to hurt your feelings, etc.. My slave wrote a piece describing a situation in which something very similar to this actually occurred. We were speaking our truth – holding opinions and in this case using particular words like masculine and feminine for example to describe how I approach my relationship and how my slave and I interact with each other – and then we observed that someone was literally trembling with rage at their perception of the usage of those terms, they related to us that they felt sick to their stomach over our willful and malevolent usage of and obvious support of the established gender binary in their presence.

That they felt oppressed by the very words we were using.

There have been some that have read my slave’s essay on the Dialectic of Personal Responsibility and have opined that words have been used to harm and to hurt for millenia and our recent shared past is no exception. They have intimated that perhaps it is we who lack understanding, and that by continuing to use any word that offends, we somehow are giving an approving nod to all offensive speech, everywhere without regard to the genesis of said speech and the intent with which said words are used. And in using this guilt by association argument – there persists a lot of hand wringing and finger wagging and ironically hurling of precisely the sort of negativity that the writer is allegedly railing against (go figure) of the ‘you are just trying to justify your wanting to be comfortable In your boorishness’ sort. There seems to be an intentional disregard of what is actually said in order to pursue a line of reasoning that assumes that we advocate going through life like the proverbial bull in the china shop without regard for anyone’s feelings – additionally this line of reasoning seems to also read into the piece that my slave is saying that if the ubiquitous ‘they’ don’t like it, why then they can just build a bridge and get over themselves.

That’s not what was said. At all.

If in fact she was being an advocate for hate speech, the casual hurling about of invective or perjorative statements, then all the sturm und drang would be warranted. But she is not, and has not. So seriously – enough with the pulpit thumping please.

The beauty of having a dialectic – a discussion about a particular subject in which both sides present their thoughts in a well reasoned manner, is that it can be very interesting and satisfying to compare and contrast different ways of thinking about a subject – any subject. However, I find that satisfaction is very slow in coming – in fact its neatly short circuited when the first criteria for participation in the dialectic is negated by ignorance. If one cant be bothered to read for comprehension so that one understands more than the basics of the discussion at hand….why then we must ever fail to arrive at that place of comparing and contrasting our thoughts, yes?

One comment;  “I’ve survived rape, but I’m not going to tell someone to not have rape play because it may trigger memories. I have triggers based on combat experiences, but I’m not going to demand people adjust for me. I’m going to ranger up and deal with it in my way or leave the area. I choose to be stronger than those things that have a chance of screwing up my chance to enjoy life. Otherwise, I’d be an angry, paranoid mass who fails to accept responsibility for my issues, attempts to blame everyone else, and expects people to control my emotions.”

Bravo. I think I understand where they are coming from. Basically, its not everyone elses responsibility to avoid my triggers. If they appear to be making choices that I wouldn’t make for myself in a similar situation, Im not going to make that an issue for both of us. Im responsible for my own feelings.

Another commentary; “It becomes your responsibility when you decide not to be a shitty person. Triggers are symptoms of disabilities. Accommodating them is like accommodating any other disability– by not parking in handicapped parking spots, by ensuring that public buildings have wheelchair ramps. No, you don’t have to care about people who are different than you, but you’re a huge asshole if you don’t.”

Um….what?

The ‘you are just trying to make excuses for your own bad behaviour’ camp fails the test of ‘well reasoning’ because they apparently dont understand what is being discussed in the first place. What is on the table is not a strident declaration to say what I want when I want it, regardless of the impact on other people. What is being discussed is that despite all apparent evidence to the contrary some people still feel like everyone else is responsible for how THEY feel and should adjust their behaviour accordingly to avoid hurting THEIR feelings.

Despite this – I really do believe that people are entitled to be offended by whatever they want. If however Im talking about myself in particular, their offense does not imbue them with special rights that include the expectation that anyone else stop speaking their truth because the very utterance of that truth offends them. 

Which is the primary point of my slave’s writing.

We should be free to talk about ourselves however we wish. To use descriptive terms that may resonate for us with the understanding that they might not resonate for anyone else. That’s okay. But why stop there? Isnt the ability to discuss things with civility, without invective OR perjorative statements part of a satisfying social discourse? If we arent attempting to hurt, wound or otherwise be an ass in someone elses direction it shouldn’t matter if we are talking about ourselves or something/one else. If we find civil dialogue threatening or offensive, methinks some of us have our ‘moral outrage’ filters set too high.