I’ve been following three controversies and the accompanying online outrage, peripherally. The unfortunate interaction between Ngozi Fulani and Lady Hussey, the Balenciaga debacle and finally, the continuous cancellation of Chris Brown. They demonstrate the limitations of online outrage and then highlight the concrete actions those conversations often instigate.

Ngozi Fulani

I found out about the Ngozi conversation on Tiktok and she has granted mainstream interviews. One conversation thread that emerged was why Fulani didn’t use the conversation as a teaching moment for Lady Hussey. Why she only addressed the alleged racism after the fact, in the media. I’ve heard this line of thinking before. For instance, why the abused wait years to call out their abusers and then do so in spectacular fashion.

First, in this specific instance, we all have opportunities to learn social skills. If we are honest, we are potential bigots in one way or the other. This is because of our strong cultural backgrounds or beliefs. However, we’ve learnt to get along with others using agreed social norms. In many cases, we did not participate in creating those norms but are expected to adhere to them. We learn “acceptable behaviour” at home, by reading or watching movies, and in many other ways. Therefore, when a person publicly misspeaks at an old age, their slip-up ends up being addressed openly too. No one owes them private counsel. There are also issues of power dynamics, context and occasion, which determine whether an immediate correction can even be attempted.


For Balenciaga, let’s call the ad campaign what it appears to be – a very insidious attempt at mainstreaming evil. Like many commentators have shared, the photoshoot was approved by leadership, which demonstrates that the problem was the culture at the top.

Here’s why this scandal was particularly disturbing for me. Children are the last bastion in a world many consider morally bankrupt. In terms of disrespect, religion has come under fire many times. Even sex is no longer sacred. But the world agrees that the improper representation of children is wrong. It’s the reason Jeffrey Epstein and R. Kelly eventually got their comeuppance. It’s why even in Africa, using religion as an excuse for underage marriage is slowly wearing thin.

Sexually suggestive acts featuring children will not fly and trying to pass that off as art, is evil. Creative expression has leeway. After all, people have exhibited faeces under the banner of art. This is because creativity is subjective. Others have cursed God, gone completely nude and even used hate speech and successfully gotten away with it, because it was presented as art – whether as a movie, song or graphic. Apparently, Balenciaga wanted to use the same strategy to introduce insane ideas about children. The punishment that the brand receives for this, will determine how long it is before someone else tries it.

The “Unforgiven” C. B.

On Chris Brown, the third controversy, some wonder why the media can’t forgive him for his past misdeeds and move on. He’s apologized, done his time and his victim has also allegedly forgiven him. So, what’s the problem? Why are we “taking Panadol for another person’s headache”? Why won’t predominantly female pressure groups leave him alone?

The reason is a bit complex and goes to the nature of the crime. In some quarters the reasoning is, because victims have no timeline for recovery, neither should the perpetrators. Abuse doesn’t just affect the present; it colours a person’s entire future. For some sufferers, no amount of therapy can help them move on. It’s just something they bravely live with. So, perpetrators have no right to move on too. It’s very complicated.

Finally, does excessive political correctness actually move society forward? Is arbitrary cancellation the best way to enforce social norms? I don’t think so. What it achieves is, it makes people hide rather than change their minds. Once the political climate alters and they feel emboldened, their true nature comes out.

Controversies and Cancel Culture

Respectful dialogue over differences is hard and that’s why we rarely do it. Instead, we prefer to listen to respond and not to understand. But it’s not every time one ought to take offence. It’s alright to say okay and choose to fight another day.

In some conversations, you can opt for tolerance instead of a response. Tolerance is the capacity to bear things and shrug because “It’s really not that deep” and you can be the bigger person.

Ask yourself, does this person’s opinion matter to me, my self-worth, loved ones or career? If not, why do I have to prove them wrong?

If you have true regard for differences, then you should respect people’s opinions too. And if you’re a good citizen, you should honour what the law says, even if you intend to legally lobby for future changes. You ought to respect legal rights whether you personally like them or not. Or else, society will devolve into lawlessness as we pick and choose what we want.

For more, please read https://subomiplumptre.com/opinions-and-relationships

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