Mark Strong is just about the luckiest person in the world. Not only is he white, male and (probably) straight and cis, he also has a column in the finest student newspaper at UCSB that isn’t The Bottom Line or The Daily Nonsense. And if that weren’t enough, ideas for his columns simply fall into his lap wherever he goes!
I was digging into a new novel on the patio outside Nicoletti’s a few weeks back when a single word in a nearby conversation caught my attention: divestment.
The pair—a guy and girl, both college-aged and bespectacled, sipping coffee and picking at muffins—was sitting directly behind me. Not one to eavesdrop, I tried to find my place on the page in front of me, but before I could, I heard the word again. Divestment.
Muffins, coffee, and spectacles? Hipsters, surely!
“I can’t believe they took it off the table again,” the girl was saying.
“I know,” the guy said. “I’m personally offended. It just goes to show how the ignorance in the …”
Words kept coming out of his mouth after that, but I found myself suddenly engrossed and mulling over that two-word phrase. Personally offended? Offended … personally? What the fuck does that even mean?
Lest you thought that Mark Strong’s success in life is only the result of the incredible privilege he was born with, here he demonstrates that hard work has also played a part. Ben Moss needs at least 450 words of clickbait to inspire his articles, but Mark Strong can get by with just two poorly-chosen words from a hipster. “Personally offended? Offended … personally?” He plays around with them, rolling them over his tongue, and through some alchemical process, a column emerges. Compare his thought process to Tom Friedman’s, and it becomes clear that they are related by something more than blood:
As I left the Infosys campus that evening along the road back to Bangalore, I kept chewing on that phrase: “The playing field is being leveled.”
What Nandan is saying, I thought, is that the playing field is being flattened … Flattened? Flattened? My God, he’s telling me the world is flat!
(What the fuck does that even mean?)
After wondering for some time what it could possibly mean to be personally offended (he having been lucky enough to avoid that feeling), Mark Strong asks the question that has largely defined his life:
When did we start taking things so goddamn personally?
Mark Strong yearns for the days when lucky men like him could rationally debate the issues of the day without having to suffer the emotional outbursts of those personally affected. These hysterical children should be ignored, for “in personalizing the issue, [they] eradicate [their] ability to think of it objectively.”
Happily for Mark Strong, he doesn’t really care very much about Palestine, abortion, and other vitally important issues (in this way, he’s something of a hipster himself). They’re interesting things to play Devil’s advocate with, but ultimately (luckily!) they don’t affect Mark Strong’s life, so why would anyone get worked up about them? Just let it go.
I finished chapter seven and stowed Stephen King’s Misery in the front pocket of my backpack, leaving the pair to bicker in peace on the patio in the bright May sunshine.