There have been many recent stories of famous people insulting each other and making remarks about how they feel about another race, gender, or caste. Madonna fought for years with Elton John. He responded with words that I can't write here. Taylor Swift felt insulted by Tina Fey's remarks about her relationships and retaliated through her Twitter feed. John Galliano, the high fashion designer whom I did fashion shows for back in the '90s, was caught on camera making anti-Semitic remarks while really drunk. And then of course there's Paula Deen, who was caught using the "N" word in the past. There is no shortage of examples, that's for sure.
Has our culture changed so much over the decades that people insult each other more, or has it always been this way and we are starting to call people out on it? What has changed? More stories are being covered in the press, so there's a greater opportunity to be spotlighted for our actions. I have observed, however, that our tolerance levels have come to an all-time low. Not only do we get offended when we're called a name, but very small and meaningless things seem to win our complete attention.
Most people have become so sensitive to any conversation or situation that doesn't align with their beliefs that they will start an argument about how someone else is misrepresenting an idea, insulting a person or group of people, or being politically incorrect. We have narrowed down and dissected what is and isn't sociably acceptable to such a great degree that every single person in every single country is in danger of being offended by another person, group, or religious doctrine at any moment.
We started to see this issue gain momentum and be on everyone's radar with the introduction of talk shows like Oprah and more recently with the explosion of reality TV. People are now given a platform and encouraged to speak up and come out about anything they feel is an abuse of their body, mind, or rights. We have TV, radio, Internet blogs, and organizations dedicated to being either anti or pro something. We have now made up names for different people, groups, and genders to be able to identify them or distinguish them from us. It has become a compartmentalization of ideologies. Rather than unite ourselves as a living race so that we can be a single unit, we have created division. We choose our label and see ourselves as different.
Within this political correctness we have a lot of double standards. When a black person calls another black person his "nigga," it is seen as a term of empowerment. But if someone who isn't black says this word, then they've insulted all black people around the world. But what about a black rapper who describes women as "hoes" and "bitches?" Should white prostitutes be offended, but black prostitutes less so? We can't use the term "retarded" for people who are (or who are not), so we have to refer to a person's retardation. In working on the set of my TV show we filmed a great episode about Zack, a lovely 24-year-old who isn't described as being Autistic but as having autism. This is in order to speak about the person and not the condition. In every direction we turn, there seems to be a person or people who have offended someone either by mistake or on purpose.
What do we do about all of this known or unconscious blasphemy, taboo, and insulting prejudices so we are not offended the next time we hear it coming our way?
Ignoring it won't work because there are always going to be moments where something hits a nerve and catches us off-guard. And before we even know to stop ourselves, we react. We could also put ourselves in the other person's shoes and identify with their suffering, but this requires a lot of patience. The best long-term solution is to change our opinion about words and what meaning they have to us. This would actually help us with all areas of our life, especially in all conversations and relationships.
Does a word really have any meaning beyond the meaning we assign to it? If a French person swore at us in French and we don't speak the language, would we be offended? Aren't we okay when a friend jokes with us and calls us an idiot, even though we have a problem when a stranger uses the same term? These examples demonstrate how we are choosing when and when not to be affected by words. If we don't give a word any power or meaning, then we will not even blink when we hear it. This is not easy to do, but if everyone gave less attention to words and paid more attention to why a person is expressing themselves through negative actions, then the mind would be involved with its cause rather than its effect. When we spend our energy understanding someone no matter our opinion of them, our attention will not be focusing on what they say but on why they are saying it. This helps us to move beyond words.
This philosophy and approach is visible in people who truly meditate and are on a spiritual path. There is no identification with other people's compliments or insults. It all becomes the same. But focusing on the other person's hurt and suffering negates our need to focus on how we have been insulted.
We are never going to stop others from saying things in public or thinking things behind the closed doors of their mind. But we do have a choice to not let ourselves be burdened by words. There is a tribe in the Amazon called the Piraha, and they only have one word to describe everything and everyone in their midst, be it in their village or the universe at large. In the English language, we have many words to describe a single thing. But in using one word the Piraha manage to communicate without any misunderstanding.
Maybe we need to start using one word. Maybe that word should be love.
Have questions for me? Comments? Visit me on my Facebook or Twitter page if you'd like to know more. And visit yogicameron.com to download a FREE sample of my latest book, The One Plan, as well as web-exclusive BONUS material.