Annoy me for fun,
but with bigotry none.

It is fun to irritate people. I get it. The freethinker in me does wince at this acknowledgement as it is of course irrational and sadistic behavior, but I still get it. I have done it many times. And also have been source of fun to others. I enjoy RJ Naved’s murga show where he pulls pranks on people to frustrate them.

But there is a limit to its acceptability. People often find it funny to argue with me on a social issue just to annoy me. Enjoying my aggravation via bigoted behavior is not really all that funny, even if the bigotry is unintentional. And in this post I would like to tackle the pseudo-justifications that are explicitly or implicitly offered to me for such a behavior. Let us start with the most common one

1. It is funny!

The hidden premise in such statements is that “ridicule is harmless”. This is far from true. Mockery can be very regressive. Its use for undermining a serious issue, or to desensitize via trivializing a concern, or use as a bullying mechanism is no fun. Quoting from this paper [from this thread] – Exposure to disparagement humor does, however, have a negative social consequence: It increases tolerance of discriminatory events for people high in prejudice towards the disparaged group. Sunil, here, has given a very interesting exercise for readers to figure out themselves as to how some jokes could be totally unacceptable.

2. Why so serious son.

I feel strongly about certain social issues. And the reason is because it is no fun living in a society where racism, sexism, caste system, homophobia and scores of other systemic bigotry are normalized. Being a freethinker means being sensitive to these issues. And once one has opened eyes and seen the filth, it is not easy to close them and feign ignorance. At least not for me. Quoting from this beautiful article by Greta – Some ideas are morally repugnant. It is not antithetical to freethought to respond to morally repugnant ideas with rage. It is not antithetical to freethought to tell people with morally repugnant ideas that their ideas are morally repugnant, and that you will have nothing to do with them.

3. Oh, I wasn’t aware of this issue

And that is huge part of the problem. Ignorance and indifference is a huge contributor to normalization of evil systems. So lacking awareness is no excuse. I cannot get out a speeding ticket claiming ignorance, and similarly an adult cannot justify inappropriate behavior using ignorance. At the very least don’t defend yourself once somebody has pointed out your ignorance. Apologize, move on, and consider the criticism seriously so that you can improve your thinking, if need be.

4. Free speech, dude!

This is one of the most overused and least understood arguments. Free speech is a right accorded to an individual by a state enabling the individual to freely express her opinions without fear of persecution. Now this is NOT applicable to private spaces. So just like freedom of movement doesn’t give one right to barge into any stranger’s house, freedom of speech doesn’t mean one can walk in any argument and utter nonsense. But more importantly, it is intended to enable freedom for expressing opinions. And having fun is not same as expressing opinion. And if one is using this as a genuine argument, then it is a shitty argument.

Having covered the typically offered excuses, I will now try to address the real reason why most of my acquaintances really do it. It’s the teenage rebellion logic, i.e. just for the heck of it. Our society has issues around censorship, and a lot of people overcompensate for it. This behavior may be acceptable for teenagers, who probably don’t know anything better. But it is not insane to expect mature adults to outgrow such thinking. Every citizen has a responsibility to stand against social evils. If you think that something is not really a social issue, then participate in a rational genuine argument presenting your opinions and understanding the counter arguments. Ridiculing is not going to take anybody anywhere.

So next time if you feel like annoying me by calling people of African descent as Negroes [who were severely oppressed and tortured for their skin color], or by forwarding me a sexist joke, or by trivializing communalism, kindly consider the below alternatives that annoy me to the core, but are completely harmless as they are just my personal quirks:

  1. Using the word “badan” in Hindi.
  2. Praising Lord of the Rings or Five Point Someone.
  3. Ridiculing Inception or Andaz Apna Apna.
  4. Giving me ginger tea.
  5. Sending me a puzzle that doesn’t have a valid solution.
  6. Applauding mindless David Dhawan movies.
  7. Not appreciating my speaker system.
  8. Talking about how cats are better than dogs.
  9. Ridiculing mathematics or physics.
  10. Pointing out how I am older than you.

2 thoughts on “Annoy me for fun,
but with bigotry none.”

  1. Most of the people in the world want to eat, drink, reproduce and die. But at the same time, they have an urge to be called intelligent, civilised and socially responsible. So people say what they are taught to say (herd mentality). I rarely come across a freethinker. So if are one, congratulations! But it comes with a price. Sometimes, Knowledge is curse!!
    I am confident that you are able to pay that price and won’t lose on your originality.

  2. Thanks Jigar.
    Being able to think for yourself, free of dogma and tradition, is an absolute basic necessity for freethought!. I definitely try my best to build opinions using this freethought principle.

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