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Let me take up the issue of safety again. First observation: to be safe is more a practice than it is a condition. For example, “Go the speed of the traffic,” is a safe practice. Thus forty miles an hour may be safe under some circumstances, unsafe under others. Because conditions change, assessments of safety change as well.

These are definitional matters. A more serious problem is that many define safety as a social matter, not a matter of natural phenomena, safe practices, political uses of power, or criminal predation. Under a social definition of safety, I am justified in removing your livelihood, and in ostracizing you, because you make me feel unsafe. This feeling is not based on any threat you might have made. It cannot be based on that, since if you had made a threat, we would be in the realm of politics and crime, not society. My feeling of danger, like all my other feelings, is entirely centered on my own experience, and my own judgment. No one can tell me my feelings are invalid.

Suppose you tell a joke or use a word I find offensive. I have a lot of options available to me. I can ignore it, avoid you, or tell you why the speech bothers me. More commonly now, people assert such speech is a form of violent aggression, and as such threatens not only my safety, but everyone else’s as well. That is, they take forms of social communication, such as language, and redefine it as a type of malicious weapon. Thus the ready use of terms like aggression or hate speech. Only in this light can you call word choice a threat to others.

This redefinition of safety is absurd. It has no foundation in logic, and in fact has only one point. If my charge of aggression sticks, I have grounds to retaliate. If you make me feel unsafe, I will act to get rid of you, just as a policeman shoots a dog that bares its teeth, or wags its tail suspiciously. Nothing adds to the rush of a home invasion like whacking a dog.

The purpose of social retribution for social missteps has nothing to do with safety. This redefinition of manners – let’s put it clearly, this barbaric redefinition of manners – merely enables my accusation, and justifies my response. If word choice, or any other form of communication, makes me feel uncomfortable purely on social grounds, would I ever escalate my response to ostracism without a thought? Of course I would not, nor would you. This kind of response only makes sense if your purpose is to exercise power.