Friday, July 29, 2016

This column is offensive

I believe in free speech. But like most Trinbagonians I know that free speech comes with responsibility; and by that I mean the responsibility of the person speaking freely to me to validate all my opinions and prejudices. That’s why as a writer it’s important for me to understand those issues which I need to be careful of when writing, so as not to offend anyone. After all, as Trinbagonians also know, the whole purpose of a newspaper is to present ideas and opinions that everyone agrees with. In fact, the constitution of T&T guarantees citizens the right not to read anything in newspapers that offends them; be it satirical columns, horoscopes, or even cinema listings that conflict with their schedule.

One such topic to avoid writing about is religion. There are many religions that are practiced here in T&T; Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Tribe Mas, just to name a few. Religious people live their lives with morality, peace and love. That’s why if you write articles that offend them, they might want to kill you, or at least get you fired from your job. After all, an all-powerful supreme being that controls the universe needs people to defend it. Especially if those people are political hacks, talk show hosts or foreign used car dealers. If you value your job and your life when writing about religion, it’s best to simply mindlessly repeat their slogans, such as ‘Jesus is love’, ‘Sita Ram’, ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ and ‘Tribe costumes look really original this year’.
Another topic to steer clear of is science.

 Most Trinbagonians are fine with science as long as it involves Facebook, cable TV and downloading porn off the internet. But there are other aspects of science that most people are uncomfortable with and find offensive. Such as the fact that genetically modified crops have been proven to be 100% safe. Or that vaccines do not cause autism. And of course that alternative medicine practitioners are completely insane. Pointing out that only morons believe in things like acupuncture, homeopathy and Deepak Chopra, is a surefire way to receive hundreds of angry letters calling you a shill for “big pharma”. Think about it. Isn’t calling someone an idiot for saying soursop cures cancer offending their deeply held beliefs that facts and evidence don’t matter?

Dead politicians also present an explosive landmine of offense that one must make sure to avoid. When a politician dies, proper etiquette dictates that only good things are written about him or her. And a writer should feel free to make things up.
Bringing up nasty facts like economic mismanagement, cronyism and a sneaking suspicion that said politician harboured delusions of becoming King Patrick the First is just offensive.  

Plus, as all Trinbagonian politicians know, saying only good things when people die is a surefire way of ensuring only good things will be said about you when you die. Which explains why opposing political parties are always in full praise of each other when a member dies. Because in T&T, history is written not by the victors or for that matter historians, but dictated by state approved inoffensive talking points.

All intellectuals, socialists and unemployed hippies know that the height of human civilization can be seen in the fetid autocracy that is Cuba. Which is why they get very offended when writers write about things in Cuba like the atrocities in  La Cabana prison, the continuous crackdown  on human rights campaigners and the lack of toilet paper. 

Writing offensive things like these is a surefire way to get called a capitalist pig and a sellout. Or if you live in Cuba, get a brutal beating. Everyone has the right to say that Cuba is totally awesome. Except of course for Cubans, who have no choice.  Offending people who love Cuba is never a good idea, particularly if you want a job teaching at UWI, or being a Caribbean intellectual or just trying to score with a loose hippy chick at an art gallery.

If we want to progress as a nation and as a people, we have to realize that not offending people is the key. And we should promote writing that is inoffensive for all. Like Boyo and Carla. Unless of course little girls and boys offend you. In which case I am really sorry. Please don’t come protest outside the Express. I promise I won’t do it again.

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