(1949 / Fort Smith, AR)

! ! Are You Offended By The Word 'Offensive'? If So..

‘Cell-phone and sell’ is the new money-maker;
‘taking offence’ vicariously is the new morality…

switch on your mobile if you’re near
any ‘celebrity’ – best of all, backstage
or nervous from the make-up room;
you may catch some phrase that’s not meant
for your ears; or a private word that causes offence
between two people, but privately;

then put it up on YouTube; sell it to the Sundays;
the world can share it; and shiver with righteous delight
in ‘taking offence’; maybe a reporter will catch you
in the street so you can add your shock-horror quota
to the public outrage at a private word..

oh for the days when the gusty breeze of humour
blew these words away; who remembers now,
when the nation revelled in ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ on the telly
and ‘nig-nog’ and ‘whitey’ were thrown about;
(When will they dare to broadcast a repeat?)

or even the days when ‘Paki-bashing’ drew attention
to our vicious prejudices; and we could feel genuine shame;
or the time when ‘niggardly’ was practically banned
because it sounded like an insult?

If we go on like this, being called a ‘Northerner’
will imply some insult; as would ‘Southerner’…

As the cannibal chief said when he popped
a tasty missionary into the curried (oops, sorry..) stew:
‘It’s all a matter of social context, Rev…it’s
nothing personal…’

And whatever you’re called when you’re grown-up –
remember: it never hurts like those playground names...
or worse, nick-names that stuck for years…
from those of your own age, who
yesterday or tomorrow, might again be chums..?

Somewhere in Australia at this very moment
someone called Murdoch is calling someone just like me or you
a ‘whinging Pom’…remind me to take offence, would you?
Then I’ll sound off to the Sun…

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