Yesterday, Australian writer Sarrah Le Marquand did a terrible thing. Unforgivable, it was.
She wrote a column about the recent spate of flare-ups in restaurants and cafes between customers with kids vs customers without.
But it wasn’t the subject matter that provoked outrage, it was her use of one word.
Once a word associated with the horrors of racial segregation in South Africa, a new form of apartheid has crept into the restaurants and cafes of suburban Australia. The divide is as simple as it is absolute: those who sit down for lunch in the company of their crayon-carrying offspring, and those who do not.
You don’t have to be that smart to see that irony and hyperbole were being used here in the same way that someone may have called this issue a first world problem.
But why debate the point when you can decimate the writer for her choice of words instead? It’s easier.
Today, US website Jezebel devoted an entire column to attacking and humiliating Le Marquand for her offensive use of the word apartheid, calling it:
Describing Le Marquand as, “offensively ignorant, desperate and ill-advised”, the Jezebel writer goes on to get even more worked up.
I honestly cannot figure out whether Sarrah le Marquand is trying to use the term “apartheid” (God, I shudder every time I type that), which, again, refers to a brutally inhumane decades-long system of racial segregation and violence, in a positive way.
Shudder? Really? We can’t even write a word down now without having to have a physical reaction to it to show your outraged empathy?
Please. I’m suffering from outrage exhaustion. There’s just too much of it going around.
I’m not exhausted by the big stuff. Peter Greste jailed for seven years for simply doing his job as a journalist. A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for marrying outside her religion.
A pregnant woman being beaten to death with bricks by a crowd of men including male relatives who felt ‘dishonoured’ by her marrying without their permission.
There are a lot of despicable things going on in the world deserving of outrage and at the top of my list are things like injustice, abuse and misogyny. Everyone’s list is different. Outrage is subjective.
But I’m finding myself exasperated and exhausted by the length of some people’s lists. It’s not that I’m trying to dictate what offends others, it’s more the expectation that to be a decent, thoughtful, considerate person in 2014, you must take on everyone else’s outrage as your own and attack everybody for everything, regardless of what they were TRYING to say.
I find this hard.
Here are some of the things I’m not outraged about: metaphors and analogies. Comparing one thing to another, more dramatic thing to help illustrate a point does not fire me up.
For some people, though….comparisons are RIGHT UP THERE on their list of offensive and outrageous slurs against humanity. And these people tend to shout very, very loudly giving them disproportionate power to distort public opinion.