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Allow Me to Offend You

Updated: Feb 12

The last few years have been earmarked by the rise of "woke" thinking in our society. Things like "cancel culture", "virtue signaling", and "identity politics" have become mainstream on social media platforms as well as in mainstream media. I grew up in an era where men were men, and behaved accordingly. Going on a date these days would probably necessitate one asking the person across the table from you whether they have always been a _____ (fill in your appropriate gender) and what their feelings are about a range of societal issues before one takes the plunge with that particular individual. Considering that this line of questioning may also necessitate one walking on proverbial egg shells, one may find that dating or simply grabbing a drink may be a minefield fraught with social dangers. It drives me crazy!

But, then, I need to take a step back and remind myself that this might not be as outlandish as it seems to me. After all, looking back on how my parents reacted to the subculture of the nineteen eighties in which I grew up, it was probably an adjustment for them as well. The time that we are living in may eventually be remembered as "the time of the entitled snowflake" but, as I need to remind myself, a lot depends on the eye of the beholder.

Allow me, then, to walk you back to the time which formed my way of thinking. Growing up, gender roles were shown to be pretty hard and fast. Gender stereotypes were the order of the day, but, as it was explained, these were the way they were for a very good reason. The nuclear family was all-important. This was reinforced in many social norms and mores, as well as by religious institutions. It was a far more conservative time but, at the same time, it was far less confusing.

South Africa underwent a profound change, politically speaking, in 1994 when we became a democracy. However, it has to be said that our liberal constitution was pretty much shoved down our throats by those in political power. There was, in fact, very little direct democracy applied in its inception as well it is its implementation. None of us were asked what we would like to have seen in its content or whether or not we agreed with it. It became law and that was that. Yet, for someone like myself, there were certain objectionable inclusions as well as stark omissions. The groupthink of the day was to say "create something which appeals to as many people as possible, and offends as few as possible". While this might sound quite lovely when said like that, I believe we compromised on some of our most sacred and deeply held beliefs. To some degree, I believe we sold our souls.

So, where to from here? Well, I would not be so arrogant as to assume that all my personally held beliefs should be accommodated first and foremost, but I will say this – taking a nation from being observant of a biblical value system to one which is secular and licentious is a slippery slope. You may argue, not everybody is Christian. Not everybody believes what you do. My response would be – what I believe does not require them to. There is nothing wrong with wanting to accommodate people when drawing up a constitution such as ours, but I do believe that if you are going to call yourself a democracy, those same people should at least be consulted.

As for me, I hold to a value system such as you might expect from a fifty year old, Conservative Christian. If that offends you, I am afraid this will be a difficult read for you. I hold to my convictions on the supposition that I live for an audience of one. I do not particularly care if someone else disagrees with me, or if my values have offended. People are people. God is God. Having said this, I also don't go out of my way to offend or shame people. Doing that would make me a hypocrite. We all have to walk out journeys in this life according to our own unique convictions. While I would tell you what mine are if you asked, I would not presume to shove them down your throat simply because, to my mind, I sin differently to you.

When all is said and done, I pretty much believe that we, as a society, need to become a little more thick-skinned. I also believe that we should learn to have the difficult conversations. Issues like sex, politics, or religion should not be taboo but, rather, should be discussed frankly, honestly, and with a decorum and respect to the opinion and conviction of others. I can see myself sharing my opinions on all of the subjects at some point, but I also concede that in doing so, I will have to field comments or accusations that are predicated on value systems that fall outside of my ambit.

To be clear – I welcome these and look forward to being afforded the opportunity to speak about them.

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