On when to cause offence

There is something that has bothered me for years.

Different groups of people who live by the idea that doing their best is good enough, but who actually fail to be good enough. Teachers, family, bahá’ís, friends, co-workers, academics, authors, activists. Many people whose heart is in the right place.
If I’ve learned anything in 2016, travelling in the United States, in China, in Japan and in Europe, it is that people mean well, but expect that change comes about through intentions alone.


I know I’m impatient. It is why my research and writing a dissertation about the nature of real change, radical change, has left me at time depressed and desolate. Not because I had no more motivation, but because I saw no way out.
Relativism is the easy way out of the nihilistic tendencies that sarcasm and science seem to promote. But relativism is just another way of nihilism. Yes, people are all different, and should be free to pursue their dreams. But only within a specific frame, with limits. And yes, setting limits is dangerous – the Hitler-argument can be made. But it can be made both ways – to the setting of limits to what is acceptable in society, and to the lack of people who are willing to stand up to what cannot be accepted.
Some things cannot be excused. Never.

  • Allowing for a discourse in which rape is at least partly the fault of the victim. (ex. United States)
  • Letting people be defined by their religious affiliation and to prevent them from getting an education, from jobs, from sharing their beliefs with others. (ex. Iran)
  • Allowing journalists who search for facts be imprisoned and killed. (ex. Russia)
  • Purging a country from people based on alleged affiliation with a political opponent. (ex. Turkey)
  • Allowing for walls and fences that keep people who need asylum out in the cold. (ex. Hungary, United Kingdom)
  • Changing constitutional systems in order to undermine the democratic process. (ex. Poland)

I agree with most of this article in the Huffington Post. And one sentence especially struck me, as the epitome of what has bothered me for so long:

“If your prime objective is not to cause offence, don’t bother.”

So to all the people out there who spread hate, without acting on it to make the world more the way they want it to be: stop it. And to all the people out there who spread love, without acting on it to make the world more the way they want it to be: please stop it.
Fortunately there are many people brave enough to act on their beliefs. I wish however there would be more people with love in their heart who would do the same.
I am one of those who often feel helpless on how to act. And my primary resolution for 2017 is to change that. I might not be able to change the world. But I can change myself.
(I hope.)
“O SON OF DUST! Verily I say unto thee: Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother. Say, O brethren! Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.” ~ Bahá’u’lláh

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