It doesn’t matter if you meant to hurt someone. As long as someone was hurt, then harassment took place.
Now at the end of all this, the facilitator — who is clearly a lovely person, for this is not aimed at her — smilingly told us not to be paranoid but just to be careful not to offend anyone. And the other 23 people nodded happily and made jokes and goofed around to show how lighthearted and un-paranoid we suddenly all were. And yet, this harassment and sensitivity training did not succeed fully, because there was one person who was offended, and who in point of fact felt extremely harassed. And that person was me.
Perhaps, in future editions of the handbook, we can add another victim group to the protected category: rational adults.
Perhaps I might contribute a chapter to this sensitivity training. Something like:
“The rational adult is a small and shrinking minority in the workplace. His cultural heritage — which is just as valuable as anyone else’s! — has taught him that “personal responsibility” means he has a right to feel insulted, offended, and harassed when being lectured on things that he did not do, nor would ever contemplate doing. In this ancient and primitive culture, a person’s “honor” and “integrity” are relied upon to govern behavior. If such a person unknowingly gives insult, they will “apologize.” According to their tribal ethics, people who intentionally harm, insult or harass others deserve to be fired on the spot.”
I am told this course was “preventative” — to stop harassment before it happens. Fair enough. Tomorrow, perhaps, we can have a course on how to prevent office electrocutions by sticking screwdrivers into the sockets, or a poison-prevention class involving two role-players and a gallon of copier toner, or perhaps we can facilitate a upper-level meeting to try and determine what warning placards may be missing from every object and sharp corner in the building, or a support group for those people rendered incapable of speaking or smiling for fear of giving some kind of unintentional offense to someone. These are all areas ripe for new legislation and demanding of state funding. Because when you really get down to how much unintentional offense there remains left to give, you can see we have a genuine crisis on our hands.
Look, there are two ways to prevent young children from drowning:
Place barricades, gates, locks, and other restraining devices around any body of water large enough to immerse the child’s head in; in addition, provide education, audio-visual instruction, role-playing, and other methods to inform young children on the dangers of inhaling large amounts of water — whether it be fresh water or sea water — and to provide the funding, continuing outreach and community activism necessary to make sure that ALL Americans are prevented from encountering these deadly dangers wherever they may be found.
Teach your kid how to swim.
My parents — remember them? — taught me at an early age that what people said or thought or wrote about me did not have the power to hurt me — only I can allow them to do that. My self-worth, self-respect, and self-esteem are earned, and not given, and are therefore mine — impervious to anything in the outside world, which is why I am willing to sit at this desk, as the only one of 24 happy, smart, creative people, and look like some reactionary nut case for being enraged about the fact that we willingly submit ourselves to insults to our personal honor and integrity that our forefathers would never, ever have countenanced. And I am ashamed on behalf of them. But just me. No one else thinks anything of it at all.
And so, with smiles and good will all around, behind a plate of donuts and cartons of morning orange juice, we again fall another step from the adult world of action and consequence, to the warm, friendly, everlasting childhood of kindergarten, where no one’s feelings can ever be hurt and teacher is always there to make sure — in her gentle but firm way — that there will never be harmful consequences to your actions because your actions will be so curtailed in advance that offending someone — like feeding and housing yourself — are things that we simply no longer have to worry about any more.
And the endless sleep, in the warm, clean, fluffy bed, continues unabated.
– Bill Whittle lives in Los Angeles. You can find him online at www.ejectejecteject.com.