even voltaire agreed that being offended is important to human dignity

One of the best explanations of getting offended I’ve ever seen here:

Bourgeois men succeeded in challenging aristocrats only when they had already received some formal recognition of status, either via legal equality or admission to some institution (eg, officer corps, universities) on an equal footing with aristocrats. Official recognition of equality is what enabled them to defend their equal status, by duel, in the broader social realm. When the hierarchical division between aristocracy and bourgeoisie was fully intact, bourgeois men would not have thought to take offence to slights from their betters, and their betters would not have listened if they did. Official equality establishes the norm in virtue of which men can demand respect. Equality made their skins thin. Thick skin is for unequals.

The current proliferation of offence-taking by members of marginalised groups has caused a lot of anxiety and discomfort. There is a real fear on the part of nearly everyone that they might be called out, and this has led to a sense that worrying so much about offence represents a regression to a more censorious and stifled society. Offence-as-insult does not deny that this can make social relations more tense, but adds another perspective. The history of duelling suggests that the very fact that offence is taken so seriously is a sign of progress. For men of honour, to be taken seriously when one took offence was a sign of equality.

Offence-as-insult suggests that those who take offence today should not be thought of as exceptionally fragile. They are sensitive, but only because they insist on the respect that, according to our norms of status equality, they are owed. Voltaire, in his role as persecuted gadfly, is most often namechecked in support of free speech against offence. Yet the Voltaire who challenged Rohan might be made to stand for the other side of the argument. He risked his life and suffered persecution for daring to challenge the contempt visited by the high-born upon the common. If offence is about insult, then those who take offence today might be like early bourgeois duellists who began to stand on their pride after being made made to swallow it for so long.

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