Live and think differently and the world will be different

On being REALLY offended

Today I listened to the Today programme on R4 with some talk about a survey of 1,000 Muslims which suggested that around 80% of those surveyed are personally very offended by pictorial representations of their Prophet. I kind of get the faith thing (though as a rational human I have none), but the images are just that, they’re drawings, cartoons, they’re just made up, only made-up stuff, but that’s enough and thus serious, careful debate ensues as to what to do about that offence, how best in future not to cause offence. Offence must be taken seriously.

Lately, I was made aware that “some people”, faceless, nameless people, had taken great offence at my new book of poems, Deadstone. Those people had only ever seen the cover, they’d never read a word inside, but seeing it, the cover, was enough, that was bad enough, it caused offence… it’s only a made-up thing, a picture of a gravestone and a hand (my hand!), it’s just a photograph and a by-line (“poems to make you crawl back into the grave”) but even so, it’s enough, apparently, to harm and hurt and cause offence. Somebody told me that I needed to be more careful, to be mindful of the sensibilities of others. Offence must be taken seriously.

Channel 4 recently showed a “mockumentary” about what things might be like in the UK in the event of a UKIP electoral victory [for any who do not know, UKIP are a sort of political party, for people incapable of thinking for themselves], and many hundreds of people were offended. It’s a programme, and it’s made up, just made up stuff, but that was enough, people were outraged, people were offended. Ofcom (a UK regulator) will investigate. Offence must be taken seriously.

Made-up things. Stuff that’s not real. Cartoons and book covers and TV dramas – pretend things. But people react, recoil in horror, respond with outrage that something that is personal to them has been challenged or seems to challenge them, personally, and so even though the stuff of outrage is just made-up, the offence comes flooding out and people are supposed to sit up, bolt upright, take note and take notice, and do something about the offence, be deadly serious about responding to the offence…

Because people are offended by made-up stuff…

I’m offended too. Right now, sitting here, I’m feeling really quite offended. But not about made-up stuff, made-up stuff doesn’t bother me in the slightest; I couldn’t care less how offensive someone wants to be with book covers and cartoons and stuff on TV – it’s all pretend, it’s not real so what’s the big deal?

I’m offended by what is real – I’m offended by having the sick violence of “meat” and “dairy” shoved in my face, in my mind, minute after minute, hour upon hour, day by day… I can’t move around without seeing the damned stuff, I can’t walk through town without being bombarded by that crap, I can’t sit down anywhere just to have a drink or maybe some food without its stink being stuffed up my nose. I can’t turn on the TV or the radio without seeing and hearing cheery, smiley folks talking oh-so-jolly about the meat and the dairy and eggs; “happy” pictures of farmed animals, the lies spurted out about humane slaughter, the corruption of someone’s scream in the slaughterhouse into a laugh-and-a-half because, of course, the animals are so happy to die for us, are so desperate to be done to death for us, that they’ll hop and skip and jump into the pit and offer their necks to the knife. And I’m forced to hear, over and over, how it’s all done so humanely and with such gentle kindness and we’re oh-so-grateful that they “gave” their lives to us (even as people grab too much to shove in their mouths and dump half of the bits into a bin).

I’m really bloody offended, and offended by what’s bloody, and bloodily, real.

The filth and misery and relentless trauma on the farm are all real, and they offend me.

The pain of the beatings, the bruises, the scars and the torn flesh are all real, and they offend me.

The hammer smashed on the new-born calf’s head is real, and it offends me.

The pliers slicing the baby piglets teeth are real, and they offend me.

The crushing horror of the chicken’s life is real, and it offends me.

The rape of the cow is real, and it offends me.

The parched suffering of the journey to slaughter is real, and it offends me.

The trembling, tearful despair of those who wait to be murdered is real, and it offends me.

The agony of the bolt to the brain of the bull is real, and it offends me.

The blood on the slaughterhouse kill-floor is real, and it offends me.

The slashing to death of day-old baby-boy chicks is real, and it offends me.

Slaughterhouses exist, and that offends me.

That twat standing there eating a burger is real, and they offend me.

That dumb-fucker sticking his fork into pieces of chickens is real, and they offend me.

All that talk of “ooh bacon” and “lovely sausages” is real every sodding day, and it offends me.

I’m really fucking offended. And I’m offended by what’s fucking real.

Who’s going to take my offence seriously?

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January 2019
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