Sunday, July 28, 2013
Of fairies, Witches, Wizards, and the Patently Offensive
For the sake of delivering my message in a family friendly blog, let’s assume the patently offensive phrase is, “you’re a jerk,” but you can use your imagination, or any PG-13 movie script and come up with much worse. Isolating offensive phrases might be even easier if you belong to certain minority groups. I’m sure you’ve heard them all.
So, how should a trained martial artist respond to “You’re a jerk!” (or worse). My answer lies in your belief in fairies, wizards, and magic incantations.
What if I were to tell you that I am a wizard and that I can, through the mere utterance of certain magic incantations, cause you to behave in anger, possibly invoking a violent reaction? Would you believe it if I said, I can wave my hand, utter a few syllables, and you would be helplessly under my spell. My magic would invoke anger, you would lose your cool, possibly your temper. I could get you to throw the first punch!
You would deny it. You would suggest that I have been sniffing the mushroom garden again, and that such power does not exist. Magical incantations are myth, the subject of Hollywood, and J. K. Rowling.
And yet, we hear that phrase used all the time; “Patently offensive.” It is not possible to claim that something offends you and does not lead to an emotional reaction. The words offensive and emotion are inexorably linked. You cannot have one without the other.
Some things should be patently offensive. Genocide for example. Child cruelty. Animal cruelty. Physical abuse. There are some things that should cause an immediate emotional response.
But words? Name calling? How can it be, that a person would allow their very emotional infrastructure to be spontaneously activated by incantations? I would never give that power to another person. I would never give control of my emotional state over to another person, and certainly not a person who intended to cause me harm.
There are no bad emotions, except those that cannot be channeled to your benefit. Allowing another person to “push your buttons” with “magic” words, names, or phrases shows a lack of discipline, and frankly, incredible vulnerability. As a martial artist you should feel capable of defending yourself against a physical attack, so unless and until one starts, stay cool. (You should stay cool then, too!)
There is no value in giving an adversary the power to invoke your anger through archaic words and phrases. These words have no magic unless you provide it. Simply choose not to care.