The right to cause offense

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robertk
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The right to cause offense

Post by robertk » Thu Oct 04, 2018 6:16 am

this is an extract from an article by Bhikkhu Pesala. Link to full article here
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=14926&start=45
and here

www.aimwell.org/error.html#TheRighttoCauseOffence
The Right to Cause Offence

There has been much debate in the media recently about free speech and the offence it may cause to others. In an article by Boris Johnson MP in the column that he writes for the Daily Telegraph he said that he felt “fully entitled” to expect women to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP surgery, and expressed his opinion that the burka is oppressive and that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.

Some were outraged at his comments, while others supported his right to free speech, even if it does cause offence. There are three separate issues here that need to be considered:–

Security concerns about covering the face.
The right to wear whatever ones wishes.
The need to conform to the society in which one lives.
There are legitimate concerns about security. In airports, banks, or wherever there are security checks, it should be obligatory to remove face coverings. The law must be enforced impartially. If a bank or shop requires the removal of crash helmets and masks, no exception can be made on religious grounds as this would make it too easy for robbers or terrorists to circumvent security arrangements.

The right to wear whatever one wishes has limits that are determined by laws and bylaws, dress codes, and local customs. There are naturist beaches where anyone can go entirely naked, but elsewhere one would be charged with public indecency. The Naked Rambler has spent many years in prison because he refuses to comply with the law. There have been many legal cases fought over the right to wear religious symbols or the right not to conform to dress codes at work. In most cases the right of a company to make a dress code a contractual obligation have been upheld by the courts.

The UK government rejected a claim to prevent firms requiring women to wear high heels, claiming that the existing law on sex discrimination was adequate. However, the law is not enforced universally and many dress codes for women still reinforce sexist stereotypes that are outdated. A dress code that requires a woman to look sexy is unreasonable in most jobs. Unfortunately, western businesses have exploited the sexuality of women for so long that changing cultural attitudes is now very difficult. Air hostesses, waitresses, bar staff, receptionists, etc., are expected to look attractive to men, and there is no doubt that the physical appearance of female employees does affect the profitability of such businesses. Dress codes to protect workers’ health, e.g. steel-capped boots are fine, but no dress code should damage a worker’s health.

The third point about the need to conform to local custom is not something that can or should be enforced by the law. It is a matter of polite and civilised behaviour to assimilate into the community in which one lives or wherever one visits. When tourists visit foreign countries and if immigrants wish to integrate into their chosen country they will need to adjust their behaviour. To be insensitive to cultural norms is a sign of an uncivilised person. Those who don’t communicate with their neighbours are rightly regarded with suspicion. Anyone seeking permanent residence in a new country one should learn its language, history, and culture. It is not a violation of one’s human rights if one is not allowed to smoke in certain places, to play music in a library, or to wear shoes in a temple, mosque, or gurdwara. Private businesses, professional bodies, public swimming baths, Internet forums, and many other organisations make their own rules that members are expected to follow and may exclude them if they refused to abide by their regulations.

#HateSpeechandIncitementtoViolence
Satire and Justifiable Criticism

The tradition of poking fun at authority figures has been around for a very long time in the UK. The novel “Gulliver’s Travels,” by Jonathan Swift in 1726 was a satire. It was published anonymously and some passages were cut by the publisher for fear of prosecution. Readers enjoyed the political references, finding them humorous. However, members of the Whig party were offended, believing that Swift mocked their politics.²⁵ The satirical magazine Punch was first published in 1841. Its name being taken from the anarchic puppet of ‘Punch and Judy’ fame, which dates from the 16th century. The word ‘cartoon’ was adopted for its illustrations, which at the time meant a large sketch on cardboard.²⁶ Almost every newspaper now includes satirical cartoons, mostly lampooning political figures or others in the public eye. Punch is no longer printed, but the satirical magazine Private Eye, founded in 1961, is still regularly published, and also regularly sued by its victims allegedly libelled by the magazine.

There is a fine line between critical comment that may cause offence, and libel that may cause financial loss and damage a person’s reputation. If it is true, it is not libel, even though it may cause offence and damage a person’s interests. If critical comment that insults or causes offence is suppressed by the law or by cultural and religious values it will be easy for corruption to flourish. If any teaching is authentic it will be able to withstand criticism and ridicule.

The followers of the Buddha might become upset or angry if the Buddha were mocked or disrespected, but the Buddha himself never became angry. In Buddhist countries, the monks are revered, but as in other religions some of them are corrupt and shameless. Some have girlfriends, drink alcohol, or even engage in criminality, but it is rare for them to be charged. Ordinary pious Buddhists are fearful of criticising wicked monks, so any corruption is easily suppressed. Buddhists should study the Dhamma and Vinaya carefully to learn how to criticise wrong-doing without incurring blame for themselves

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by retrofuturist » Thu Oct 04, 2018 6:32 am

Greetings,

Please note... discussion on this topic must make reference to Theravada Buddhist sources, or at least draw a clear inference from them.

If people wish to discuss this topic in a broader political context, I would recommend doing so in the Social Justice section of the Dharma Wheel Engaged forum.

Thanks.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Sam Vara
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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Oct 04, 2018 6:38 am

Many thanks to robertk for posting this excerpt, and of course to Bhikkhu Pesala for the whole article, which repays careful reading. Two little points relating to the last paragraph quoted:

1) Is the phrase
Ordinary pious Buddhists are fearful of criticising wicked monks, so any corruption is easily suppressed.
the wrong way around? Shouldn't it be that the corruption is not easily suppressed, or that the criticism is easily suppressed?

2)
Buddhists should study the Dhamma and Vinaya carefully to learn how to criticise wrong-doing without incurring blame for themselves
It might be useful to rehearse a few of those principles here. I remember several threads on right speech (the right time, the right attitude, etc.) but the idea of specifically critical speech in the suttas and vinaya is a bit narrower. Does anyone have any initial thoughts as to what sources might be relevant here?

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by budo » Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:13 am

The title and the quote don't really match up. The quote is about dress code and cultural etiquette, the title is about causing offense.

I would say one cannot cause offense in others, as people are usually looking to be offended, thus causing themselves to be offended. If someone says something wrong or foolish, I'm not offended as what they're saying has nothing to do with me, even if they make comments about my person. All I can do is show them the fallacies in their logic and then ignore them if there is no hope.

But to be offended requires a mind that is dependent on association and identification. Association and identification to a label, whatever it may be, whether a country, an ethnicity, a religion, a sports team, a body, etc..

It also requires an entitlement, that for some reason that some things are beyond criticism, but everything is subject to criticism, and the more you resist and censor the more that thing will get criticized.

Lastly, it requires possession, if someone takes what's yours then of course one will be offended.

Someone who is not attached to this world or existence, is not bothered in the slightest by the words and actions of others.

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by Mr Man » Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:30 am

budo wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:13 am

I would say one cannot cause offense in others, as people are usually looking to be offended, thus causing themselves to be offended. If someone says something wrong or foolish, I'm not offended as what they're saying has nothing to do with me, even if they make comments about my person. All I can do is show them the fallacies in their logic and then ignore them if there is no hope.
This is very obviously untrue. It is actually very easy to offend people.

The Buddha recognised this and implemented many rules to prevent the laity taking offence.

To say one "cannot cause offense" does not seem to be in-line with the Buddha's teaching or the reality of living in relationship to others.

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:44 am

Mr Man wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:30 am
budo wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:13 am

I would say one cannot cause offense in others, as people are usually looking to be offended, thus causing themselves to be offended. If someone says something wrong or foolish, I'm not offended as what they're saying has nothing to do with me, even if they make comments about my person. All I can do is show them the fallacies in their logic and then ignore them if there is no hope.
This is very obviously untrue. It is actually very easy to offend people.

The Buddha recognised this and implemented many rules to prevent the laity taking offence.

To say one "cannot cause offense" does not seem to be in-line with the Buddha's teaching or the reality of living in relationship to others.
Would it be more accurate to say that one can contribute to a situation where a person is offended, but one's actions in so doing are not in themselves a sufficient condition? There must also be a readiness or predisposition on the part of that person to take offence. Thus, some of what the Buddha taught refers to us not contributing to another person being offended (by being polite and non-confrontational, etc.) and some of his other teachings refer to our own responsibility to not respond to potentially offensive behaviour by others.

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by SarathW » Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:57 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 6:32 am
Greetings,

Please note... discussion on this topic must make reference to Theravada Buddhist sources, or at least draw a clear inference from them.

If people wish to discuss this topic in a broader political context, I would recommend doing so in the Social Justice section of the Dharma Wheel Engaged forum.

Thanks.

Metta,
Paul. :)
:goodpost:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by robertk » Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:24 am

Here is another extract from the article by ven. Pesala:
One should criticise regarding known facts, and not repeat what is only hearsay. One should blame unwholesome states with one’s intention clearly set on benefit, not on disparaging others. Satire can also do this if it is well written such as this piece in a Burmese newspaper regarding a religious discussion that went awry.

“Four or five elders from that town were chatting on a religious topic. It is customary in Burma among knowledgeable elderly people to meet whenever there is any social or religious function such as a memorial service for the deceased. They usually discuss religious topics while the reception is going on with light refreshments such as green tea and some delicacies like pickled tea-leaf (laphet). Sometimes, heated discussions take place, and the participants disagree on controversial points. On this occasion, the elders became indignant and assaulted one another, ending up with them being interviewed by police officers. The news editor who reported the story, remarked that the elders concerned had been placed in police custody, but ‘a redeeming feature’ was that the topic of discussion happened to be on patience (khantī).”

Perhaps those elders might have taken offence at being publicly humiliated by the Newspaper article, but their behaviour was blameworthy and the article is good advice to all of its readers to maintain their equanimity and decorum when engaging in discussion on controversial topics. Far too often, discussions, debates, and television interviews decline into heated arguments because the participants are strongly attached to their views.

If one sincerely wishes to pursue knowledge, and is not intent on winning arguments, then one should discuss like a scholar, not resorting to insults and sarcasm when others disagree with one’s point of view. It is not easy to achieve genuine wisdom as opposed to mere intellectual knowledge. Many very erudite and intelligent debaters are deeply immersed in ignorance and strongly attached to their views. If something is really true there should be no need to get angry when defending it. The vast majority of humanity is not free from attachment to views so there is never going to be a time or place where everyone is enlightened and therefore understands reality as it truly is. For a society of individuals to live together in harmony, therefore, there has to tolerance of different views. If the majority impose their views on minority groups with oppressive laws forbidding the dissemination of alternative views it will only increase the divisions in society.

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by budo » Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:59 am

Mr Man wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:30 am
budo wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:13 am

I would say one cannot cause offense in others, as people are usually looking to be offended, thus causing themselves to be offended. If someone says something wrong or foolish, I'm not offended as what they're saying has nothing to do with me, even if they make comments about my person. All I can do is show them the fallacies in their logic and then ignore them if there is no hope.
This is very obviously untrue. It is actually very easy to offend people.

The Buddha recognised this and implemented many rules to prevent the laity taking offence.

To say one "cannot cause offense" does not seem to be in-line with the Buddha's teaching or the reality of living in relationship to others.
Yes, as you said prevent the laity from taking offense, not the enlightened monks who do not take offense. It is the laity who are deluded and are thus suffering, not the enlightened monks. If they are deluded then they do not have an objective view of reality, hence it is true that they are causing themselves to be offended through their delusion.

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by budo » Thu Oct 04, 2018 10:12 am

Furthermore I'd like to add that the rules exist for the deluded ones, not for the enlightened ones.

Sutta quote:

Ven. Bhaddāli: “Why is it, venerable sir, that there used to be fewer training rules and more bhikkhus established in the knowledge of Awakening? And why is it that there are now more training rules and fewer bhikkhus established in the knowledge of Awakening?” [Bhaddāli, who has been unwilling to abide by the training rules, seems to be suggesting that the rise in the number of training rules is itself the cause for fewer bhikkhus’ attaining Awakening. The Buddha, however, offers a different explanation.]

The Buddha: “So it is, Bhaddāli. When beings have begun to degenerate and the true Dhamma has begun to disappear, there are more training rules and fewer bhikkhus established in the knowledge of Awakening. The Teacher does not lay down a training rule for his disciples as long as there are no cases where the conditions that offer a foothold for the effluents have arisen in the Community. But when there are cases where the conditions that offer a foothold for the effluents have arisen in the Community, then the Teacher lays down a training rule for his disciples so as to counteract those very conditions.
https://www.dhammatalks.org/vinaya/bmc/Section0006.html

Therefore, the rules exist because delusion exists, not because one should not be offended. In other words, if no one was causing themselves to be offended, there would be no delusion, and thus no rules.

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by Pseudobabble » Thu Oct 04, 2018 11:24 am

Mr Man wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:30 am
budo wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:13 am

I would say one cannot cause offense in others, as people are usually looking to be offended, thus causing themselves to be offended. If someone says something wrong or foolish, I'm not offended as what they're saying has nothing to do with me, even if they make comments about my person. All I can do is show them the fallacies in their logic and then ignore them if there is no hope.
This is very obviously untrue. It is actually very easy to offend people.

The Buddha recognised this and implemented many rules to prevent the laity taking offence.

To say one "cannot cause offense" does not seem to be in-line with the Buddha's teaching or the reality of living in relationship to others.
Imagine I am fat. And I don't care about that.
There is another, also fat, who feels bad about it.

Imagine you call me fat. I am not offended.
Then you call them fat. They are offended.

Why am I not offended? Because I don't care.
Why is the other offended? They do care.

Clearly offense is not a property of the words you say to me. Nor is it a property of the condition of having some negative attitude towards oneself (the one who cares is not offended when nobody calls them fat).

Taking offence is a result of the attitude of the offendee coming into contact with the offending words. One has control over one's attitude, but not the words of others.

Akkosa Sutta wrote: I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Sanctuary. Then the brahman Akkosaka Bharadvaja heard that a brahman of the Bharadvaja clan had gone forth from the home life into homelessness in the presence of the Blessed One. Angered & displeased, he went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, insulted & cursed him with rude, harsh words.

When this was said, the Blessed One said to him: "What do you think, brahman: Do friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to you as guests?"

"Yes, Master Gotama, sometimes friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to me as guests."

"And what do you think: Do you serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies?"

"Yes, sometimes I serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies."

"And if they don't accept them, to whom do those foods belong?"

"If they don't accept them, Master Gotama, those foods are all mine."

"In the same way, brahman, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don't accept from you. It's all yours, brahman. It's all yours.
"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is perception...such are fabrications...such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.'" - Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta


'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.' - Genesis 3:19

'Some fart freely, some try to hide and silence it. Which one is correct?' - Saegnapha

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by Mr Man » Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:23 pm

budo wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:59 am
Mr Man wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:30 am
budo wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:13 am

I would say one cannot cause offense in others, as people are usually looking to be offended, thus causing themselves to be offended. If someone says something wrong or foolish, I'm not offended as what they're saying has nothing to do with me, even if they make comments about my person. All I can do is show them the fallacies in their logic and then ignore them if there is no hope.
This is very obviously untrue. It is actually very easy to offend people.

The Buddha recognised this and implemented many rules to prevent the laity taking offence.

To say one "cannot cause offense" does not seem to be in-line with the Buddha's teaching or the reality of living in relationship to others.
Yes, as you said prevent the laity from taking offense, not the enlightened monks who do not take offense. It is the laity who are deluded and are thus suffering, not the enlightened monks. If they are deluded then they do not have an objective view of reality, hence it is true that they are causing themselves to be offended through their delusion.
So is it possible to cause offense or not?

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by Mr Man » Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:25 pm

The idea that the results of action is incidental is not consistent with the Buddha's teaching.

For example Parajika 3 is dependant on the end result that murder is completed.

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by Pseudobabble » Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:50 pm

Mr Man wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:25 pm
The idea that the results of action is incidental is not consistent with the Buddha's teaching.

For example Parajika 3 is dependant on the end result that murder is completed.
"In the same way, brahman, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don't accept from you. It's all yours, brahman. It's all yours.
"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is perception...such are fabrications...such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.'" - Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta


'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.' - Genesis 3:19

'Some fart freely, some try to hide and silence it. Which one is correct?' - Saegnapha

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Re: The right to cause offense

Post by Mr Man » Thu Oct 04, 2018 1:24 pm

Pseudobabble wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:50 pm
Mr Man wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:25 pm
The idea that the results of action is incidental is not consistent with the Buddha's teaching.

For example Parajika 3 is dependant on the end result that murder is completed.
"In the same way, brahman, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don't accept from you. It's all yours, brahman. It's all yours.
Are you saying that the results of action is incidental?

What is the relationship between your quote and what I have written?

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