You offend me. Want to know why? Well, that right there is a good enough reason. You offend me because you don’t know anything. Like the reason for your being so offensive to me. But that’s okay because I offend you too. I am sure of it. If I don’t, then I’ve done something wrong. Our relationship depends on it. Indeed, our very national survival depends on it. So quickly, get offended by me, just as offended as I am by you.
Still nothing? Fine (tough crowd). You’re fat.
There. That should offend you plenty. Given the reaction to an innocuously written list published in this newspaper’s weekend magazine, apparently being criticised for being fat is the greatest insult issued in the history of the world. Sandwiched between pictures of the same 12 celebrities seen in every socialite pictorial and reviews of movies I illegally downloaded weeks ago, was a list of reasons why portly people should be hated. It was a response to a list published the previous week about why skinny people should be loathed and despised. Having spent most of my life sporting the physique of a famine victim, I skimmed the anti-skinny article and moved on. As did any other readers of the gaunt persuasion. The following week’s anti-obese piece, however, caused such offence that rotund people everywhere heaved themselves off their potato-chip-dusted couches and pounded out letters of complaint on groaning keyboards. They were offended and they were going to let the world know. Pick on the angular all you want, but have pity on the bloated. What if it’s a thyroid problem?
Being offended might as well be the theme of 2010. As this wretched year groans to an exhausted end, we can look back on its months filled with enough trauma to create a calendar of misery and see nothing but people being offensive and getting offended. Faisal Shahzad began it all by offending any Pakistanis with the hopes of travelling abroad without being vigorously unmolested. He also offended al Qaeda with his incompetence. Hamid Mir was offended by his voice, deciding to go off and advise terrorists. Facebook offended us, not just by adjusting its privacy settings and thus putting pictures of all the girls we secretly stalked off limits, but by supporting blasphemy. The Lahore High Court subsequently offended us by not understanding what the internet was and how it worked. President Zardari offended us by first remaining president and then by dodging a Birmingham bootie. Cricket offended us by… well, who can keep count at this point. Veena Malik offended us because we confuse someone promoting her celebrity status with our national identity. Fasi Zaka offended us by comparing us to insects and George offended us by misunderstanding why we love violence. Jamshed Dasti offended us by existing. The list goes on.
To our credit, we give offence as effectively as we suffer it. In 2010, we continued to offend any sense of humanity that might have once existed in us by ignoring the mass murder and continued persecution of Ahmadis. Our collective neglect of the flood-destroyed nationals in our midst is fairly offensive too. As is our continued patronage of a blasphemy law that justifies a murderous mindset. Every child raped and killed this year, every woman beaten and traumatised, every human lynched without trial. Offensive, offending and offended. That list too, sadly, can go on.
It’s enough to make one hungry for apathy. Maybe in 2011 we should resolve to go on a diet of offence, if you will. After all, we can only suffer and offer so much of it. Instead of expending valuable energy by causing and being offended, let’s try to limit the opportunities for it.
I hope that idea doesn’t offend you too much.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2010.
More in OpinionAfghanistan: A response to Musharraf — I