No offence, but political correctness has gone too far

I’m sick of tiptoeing around liberal snowflakes

Cambridge cambridge opinion cambridge students Cambridge University offence offensive Opinion political correctness political correctness gone mad the tab university

There is a word that has, in the last few years, taken on special status above and beyond its literal meaning. ‘Offended.’

If someone is offended by something, heaven help the person who did it. The more eagle-eyed may notice that I myself tip-toed around the more natural and previously accepted phrasing ‘he who did it’ to avoid offending anyone.

To put this in context for those who feel that it is in some way relevant, let me just ‘check my privilege:’ I am a British mixed-race white and Asian cisgender heterosexual middle-class male who attended a grammar school. I do hope that doesn’t somehow undermine the value of my opinion.


I suggest as form of light entertainment in between revision, that the reader find an appropriate segment of text or speech, and replace the phrase ‘I am offended by’ and such like by ‘I don’t like it when’ or ‘I get upset by,’ preferably rendered in the tones of a pouty and petulant toddler. One will quickly realise how infantile it all sounds – hence the adoption of the rather more dignified ‘offended’ to clothe the jejune, arrogant and mardy complaint with a veil of authority.

For example, I find the whole incident of the Oxford pamphlet on racial microaggressions so utterly hilarious; firstly the item itself, suggesting that people be offended by something so small as not making eye-contact, and secondly the offence taken by people about eye-contact being difficult for autistic people.

No more of this, folks, it’s offensive and excluding

As a further exercise in reductio ad absurdum, let us consider the following. I, for instance, am quite a grumpy, miserable person. (‘Really?!’ – you no doubt respond.) When I see others being openly cheerful around me, it upsets me a little. Not a particularly venerable reaction I realise, but nonetheless, to use the language of the day, I am offended by it. Should I seek to have happiness banned in public spaces? Why shouldn’t I? Perhaps it triggers depression, the same way clapping apparently triggers anxiety. I’m sure there are plenty of other mopey misanthropes who might sympathise with me. Something to think about.

Mopey Misanthropes meet every Monday. Bring your grievances.

My point is not that one should never be offended. There are things one ought to be offended by. And my point is not that it’s alright to offend people; I think we can all agree that deliberately offending someone is generally in poor taste. But to seek to ban the offensive (often by social pressure rather than by law) is not only a weak, childish response that runs away from the issue and panders to the whims of those with the emotional backbone of a newborn, but an assault on freedom of speech, and by extension, freedom of thought.

There are those who would have us use some Orwellian Newspeak-esque etiolated excuse of a language, eliminating even the means of thinking an offensive thought. I am, however, convinced that the route to graciously accepting peoples’ differences is not through artificially removing all possibility of prejudice. It is a natural defence mechanism to develop a subconscious prejudice against those not like ourselves; anyone who claims they aren’t prejudiced is lying. But as humans, capable (I hope) of overcoming our evolutionary programming, we must learn not to let our prejudices influence our behaviour.

Is this what we’re headed for?

I realise that my commentary is by no means original. But, like the narcissist I am, I wanted to hear my own, albeit anonymous, voice ringing among the others. I doubt of course that any student paper will be willing to publish this, and not only on account of my poor word-craft.

But the very fact that I feel the need to omit my name from such an article, be it published or not, is indicative of the importance of the issue.