I’m offended by all the people who keep saying they’re offended.
Actually, I’m just bored of it. Really bored of it.
‘Outraged’ and ‘offended’ are the mots de nos jours.
Hypertense, strangulated tones surround us. It’s like everyone in the country is engaging in their own equivalent of being the nutter at the bar; coiled springs goading you into spilling their pint so they can feign ‘offence’ and have a swing at you.
Being offended is the opposite of being tolerant.
And tolerance is the goose that lays the creative golden egg.
Tolerance is a precondition to novation; the willingness to think that little bit differently, to accept new ideas from new places. It’s what produces genuinely fresh thinking.
Orwell’s Big Brother knew that if he stifled freedom of speech, he ultimately stifled freedom of thought, which in turn would mean no creativity – just what he wanted. ISIL are trying to pull the same stunt, albeit more clumsily, barbarously and murderously.
Thankfully, the history of the world is pretty clear that murderously intolerant regimes like ISIL, whilst brutal and hugely damaging, just do not last over the long term.
The same is true of corporations run on an overzealous ‘command-and-control’ model. They ultimately break down.
This is because humans need something different.
We need to feel that they can thrive. Together, for sure, but also as individuals.
Smart leaders, political, religious and corporate, know this. And they create structures and cultures that enable and underpin tolerance.
Ironically, perhaps, given ISIL’s desire to recreate the ‘Caliphate’, the ‘Golden Age of Islam’ was one of the most tolerant civilisations ever. And it was because of this that muslims were able to dominate, over centuries, an empire that stretched from what is now Iraq in the east to Southern Europe in the west.
The Caliphs of the Golden Age deliberately filled their jasmine-scented, fountain-adorned courts with astronomers, doctors, mathematicians, physicists, philosophers and thinkers of all kindsl
They tolerated other ideas, other religions – not pointlessly, but because they recognised that the resultant technologies and truths that would emerge from such tolerance could be leveraged to ever-strengthen power and dominance. They saw that progress, development and growth were good: good for individuals, and so good for society overall, and so good for its leaders too.
Historically, at least, we Brits have also been famous for our tolerance. And there can be little doubt of the extent to which this fuelled the success of our own empire too.
We Brits don’t like the state-knows-best dirigisme earnestly pursued by some of our European neighbours. We prefer instead to put our faith in the eccentric ingenuity of our (often odd, and quirky) people.
Tolerance is the Magna Carta; tolerance is John Stuart Mill, the Non-Conformists, the Suffragettes, Alan Turing, Quentin Crisp, Sid Vicious and Vivienne Westwood.
Tolerance is the creation, lauding and awarding of a TV spot that would never even get thought of in the US, let alone commissioned.
Tolerance is Britain and Britain is tolerance.
Tolerance is what makes cultures – national, tribal, corporate – truly sustainable.
So let’s stop ‘being offended’ and start ‘being tolerant’; reclaim it as our own.
Apart from anything else, tolerance makes the world a kinder, more fun and inextricably more creative place.
Nick Jefferson is a partner with advisory firm, Monticello LLP, and a curator of The Library of Progress.