Do You Want to Be Powerful or Empowered (Because You Can’t Have Both)?
“The best revenge is living well”, someone once said. So well, I might add, that one does not even think of her offender.
And yet thinking of our offender seems to be about all that some in our society can do today.
But, truthfully, I can’t relate. I can’t remember the last time that I was truly offended by someone. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I disagree with people all the time, and they often disagree with me. I participate in some passionate debates, but my opponent almost never “offends” me, at least not anymore. I might deem her to be ignorant or ill-informed or asleep, but why would those shortcomings offend me? Or, I might deem her to be brilliant, in which case I might learn something. Why would that offend me?
Taking offense is, it seems to me, one of the most childish of traits. Only a child is so invested in controlling the thoughts, opinions and beliefs in another person’s mind, or at least in controlling the outward expression of those things, that she is outraged when another actually exercises intellectual autonomy. Only a child is so uncertain of her position or identity that she must shame or coerce others into ratifying it, or at least into hiding or disguising their refusal to do so.
And alas, we’ve raised a whole generation (and going now on two) to be intellectual children! We’ve taught them that others have a duty not to offend their unique and special sensibilities. We’ve taught them that such sensibilities are not just entitled to deference from others but even to adoration and celebration. Others are to blame whenever you are offended, we have taught them.
Not only are you entitled to your beliefs, but you are entitled to have those beliefs honored by others. And if those others don’t share them, then they must at least remain silent and adopt them out of courtesy and deference while in your presence. If not, then they are being extremely “rude” and you must attempt to silence the “offenders” or the “haters” through shaming or even compulsion. Don’t hesitate to demand that teachers and politicians do the dirty work for you!
Do you have nontraditional views about gender identity? Not only are you entitled to those views, but you are entitled to have others reflect your views back to you. If they don’t, you should be righteously outraged and demand their submission.
Do you believe that people should be able to come to American in violation of its immigration laws and without risk of deportation or other sanction? You’re not only entitled to those beliefs, but you’re entitled to call anyone who disagrees with you a “racist” or a “xenophobe” and to demand that they be silenced.
Do you believe that men enjoy special, unfair privileges that are not offset by additional burdens? Then not only are you free to believe that, but you should shame anyone who challenges your opinion as “misogynistic”, a “hater”, and/or as a proponent of “the patriarchy”.
Over the last two decades we have used our children in a grand social justice experiment. We believed that we could reform society by raising little social justice warriors. Consequently, we’ve not taught our children to be happy and confident individuals, but rather to be constantly frustrated, disaffected and depressed SJWs.
As a consequence, they live lives of near constant offense. They feel constantly insecure and “attacked” just because someone else has a different worldview than then do. They feel threatened and anxious whenever they experience diversity of opinion. Despite that we live in the most peaceful and prosperous time in world history, our children are anxious, dissatisfied and dysfunctional.
Is this really what we want? For instance, do we really want to be teaching our daughters that they should feel threatened, offended and anxious anytime someone looks at them for more than five seconds? (Netflix just this week announced a new policy in response to the #metoo movement where nobody on film sets may gaze at another person for more than five seconds. No kidding!). Can somebody explain to me how the hell that’s supposed to create powerful women?
No! A powerful person is one who recognizes, or who at least has been taught to recognize, that offense is taken, never given—that offense is within her control. A powerful person is secure enough in her own beliefs that she need not demand the world reflect them back to her. Consequently, she can engage in debate without resorting to labels and name calling. A powerful person is one who has been taught to recognize the opportunity and influence that come from others attention or affection, and how to wield those things with grace and compassion. A powerful person knows how to take care of herself in the world and doesn’t need teachers, politicians, parents or other “superiors” to enforce deference to her childish sensibilities.
In short, the “empowerment” movement has it all wrong. We shouldn’t be looking to raise “empowered” people, but powerful ones! Empowered people receive deference to their agenda only because some superior imposes the requirement. To be “empowered” is to be the passive recipient of power, to have power bestowed by some superior. By contrast powerful people earn their societal influence directly. They are not reliant upon another to enforce deference to their sensibilities but instead earn a following of others by their great presence and example.
A powerful person isn’t outraged when someone gazes upon her for more than five seconds, but a wannabe empowered one is. A powerful person isn’t offended when an outsider adopts the accoutrements of her culture, but a wannabe empowered one is. A powerful person isn’t outraged when someone refuses to bake her a wedding cake, but a wannabe empowered one it.
In short, offense and outrage are anchored in a childish, egoic desire to control what happens in other people’s minds—what they think, what they believe, and certainly their opinions of us. Living a life of constant offense and outrage is a result of seeking to control the uncontrollable. As a result it is is frustrating, depressing and disempowering. It inhibits personal growth and freedom in the most insidious of ways.
So, rather than teaching our children to be snowflakes who are easily offended, and to appeal to higher authorities to assuage their outrage, we should instead be teaching them that offense is always taken, never given. Every feeling of offense is an opportunity to reflect inward. Why do you need the approval of others, we should ask? Why must others accept your views in order for you to be fulfilled or content. Perhaps if you were secure enough in your conception of Self, you wouldn’t feel compelled to demand that others reflect it back to you? Don’t you feel like you’re capable of persuading people to your way of thinking without shaming or coercing them?
Those are the questions we should be asking our children and each other. That’s the life training we should all receive. But, since an entire generation has been consciously deprived of it, we’ve much work to do.