I remember having an argument with a school friend many years ago after he called me “Shithouse” on the bus home. The argument was pretty short lived as I punched him in the face and he bled a little causing some schoolgirls to laugh and my hand to swell up enormously prompting a trip to a&e and a few days off school. To avoid telling my mum of the scuffle I told her I’d fallen over leaving my form room and much to my amazement she believed me. When I returned to school the ‘victim’ of my punch summoned up the courage to come over to me and call me a ‘virgin’.A strange insult I thought given I was 14 and clearly useless and inexperienced with girls despite once having my face snogged off by ******** ******** at a school disco which clearly angered the catholic teachers so much that the following day one of them told me that promiscuity was a sin.
Anyway I digress! The point is that me and the other boy solved our problems, injury lawyers4you were not needed, no social workers were called as a result of turning up at a&e with a strange injury, I never contracted anything from snogging and to my knowledge neither him nor me suffered any long lasting effects as a result of the name calling. What did happen though is that I learned that whenever I was called a name ever again I could deal with it,I could either laugh it off or not allow it to get to me. In effect I grew what back then was called a thick skin.
Fast forward a decade or two and things are different. I can’t remember the rules changing or the exact date when life as we know it altered but all of a sudden the ‘thick skin’ no longer exists, we’ve all apparently become very sensitive to being called names. Words like ‘outrage’ or ‘devastated’ are often used to describe how people feel after being called a nasty name. In the last week we have seen the news full of trouble in the middle east as a few fanatics take offence to the prophet mohammed being ‘ridiculed’ causing thousands of other fanatics to go on a killing spree in the name of their peaceful spiritual leader. Also an MP has found himself in the news after calling a policeman a ‘pleb’! This was I’m guessing a conversation between two people so what turn of events, what agenda is behind this becoming broadcast in the news? Was he really that upset? A man who is presumably a hardened cop guarding the countries leader feels the need to make this public?
We’ve also even seen a rise in the phenomenon of those who are apparently offended on behalf of somebody else! A few years ago when Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross made some ill advised jokes about Andrew Sachs granddaughter the woman herself kept a fairly low profile and Mr.Sachs himself kept his silence. However 3 people felt so upset they called the bbc to complain and 27,000 others who hadn’t realised they had been offended called the bbc and the daily mail to announce how ‘horrified’ they were
And then last week we saw families and survivors of the Hillsborough tragedy finally getting the justice they deserve after being publicly called the most offensive names by the country’s top selling paper but after years of dignified silence they had their names cleared. But at the weekends big game Anton Ferdinand Ashley Cole and John Terry can’t shake hands before kick off because one allegedly called the other a nasty word and the other one testified for his innocence.If I had a gazillion pounds in the bank you could call me anything you wanted frankly and I couldn’t give a toss what it was. I’d purposely carry around a bank statement to show how rich I was and then tell anyone to eff off.
There is no place for offending people in a modern civilised society but if we hold the principle of free speech close to our hearts we have to accept that these things happen. Surely we need to all calm down and be less sensitive. Surely we need to grow a collective thick skin and not allow words to hurt us.