Offense and the Iconoclast

I was listening to Ricky Gervais, a man I usually admire for reasons that will be elucidated shortly, talking about how he and his “mates” were looking around in an antique shop specializing in what he called “Iconoclastic art.”  I didn’t know what he meant at first.  For those of you who don’t understand, I’ll lay it down with the voice of Merriam-Webster; an iconoclast is:

  1. 1:  a person who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration

  2. 2:  a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions

Art generally is not iconoclastic, but it can be.  Of course, what he was referring to is the wondrous corpus of art within the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church that were sometimes termed “ikons” and therefore suffered at the hands of its opponents: “iconoclasm.”

It’s noteworthy that a man like Ricky Gervais, an entertainer who’s made a career of attacking people’s more dogmatic personal beliefs, was at any point talking about this on a radio show.  The fear in the mind of a genuine iconoclast is that the worshiper praying before the icon is not actually venerating what the icon represents, but is venerating the icon itself.  Those familiar with the ten commandments will be mumbling about graven images at this point.  A belief that is unchallenged, a dogmatic belief, particularly a belief or standpoint that stands in direct opposition of its supposed intention must be defamed, must be laughed at, must be destroyed, and humor is the best way of achieving that.

There’s a reason we have the right to free speech in what few free countries on Earth still remain.  It’s not to protect inoffensive speech.  Such speech needs no protection.  It’s to protect speech that causes offense, makes people shout, gives rise to violence, because that speech is the most precious there is on earth.  Ironically, I’m going to be creating an icon in smashing others.  If people aren’t free to attack established highly regarded and entrenched positions, we’ll never be able to test them in the free market of ideas.  If that can’t be achieved, the entrenched positions become dogmas and finally tenets.  It is by this means that people can be compelled to believe or outwardly hold that the naked emperor is wearing clothes for fear of the social and legal backlash.

Offense is the response of someone with an entrenched belief, either reasonable or unreasonable, when it is challenged.  Offense is part of a process of determining a belief’s validity.  Offense should not be the one stop shop for all assail.  And while it’s natural to feel offense in this context, it should never be enshrined in law that offense is the determining quality for where the bounds of free speech end.

Now for the author’s usual weekly update.  The truth is, I don’t want to become an object of pity; it’s certainly not how I perceive myself, and I don’t want people offering me the proverbial handkerchief.  Nevertheless, the truth is that things have been hard, and while we’ve been getting through them by sweat and tears, it nevertheless doesn’t negate the fact that I feel tattered to ribbons.  I’m sure I’m once again being hopelessly vague, but I’d prefer not to be pitied as aforementioned.  I’ll try to make myself clear.  The work never ends.  It’s what I’m fully prepared for.  I knew what I was getting into when I became a professional writer.  What’s difficult is all that’s tacked thereon.  More often than I’d like, life finds ways of adding complications, often of a non-work nature, and I have to negotiate them while I already feel at my wit’s end.  I think we all can understand what I’m saying when I say this.

There are so many times that disagreement cannot be resolved by words.  Sometimes the disagreement cannot be resolved whatsoever.  You find yourself a villain for just trying to work through the misery offered you, but you forget this or neglect that, and suddenly it’s long past time for apologies, and your friend has already left you.  The lord’s seat, the seat of responsibility, is so lonely.  At the end of the day, it can become difficult if not impossible to discuss with one’s circle what ails one’s mind.  People you’ve cared about and work with begin to resent you, but it’s almost like you’ve lost your collective tongue.  They say one thing, and there’s not a word you can say in return because your tongue no longer works that language.  My first experience of this was in high school.  Lost a close friend of many years because I was so buried under myriad responsibilities that not only did I neglect his friendship but also because I could not help but mismanage my adopted work as I was never equal to that task, inheriting it from someone leagues more charismatic.  I was always meant to advise, never to lead.  But that’s a different story.

That’s enough for now.

–Madsen