Truth is offensive
Truth tends to rock the boat, or, if you like, cause drama.

Humans  are smart social monkeys. As long as you have the group’s favor, you  really don’t need to worry about anything, because the group of humans  surrounding you has the power to insulate you from (most) threats. They  can also give you things. And in modern first-world countries where  things like plagues and foreign invasions don’t happen a lot, there are  few to no external threats that can kill you, or even inconvenience you  very much. So your lot in life is, for the most part, determined by  other people’s opinion of you. You’re protected from the things that  could hurt humans in the past, and the goodies you want also come from  other humans, so you get ahead by getting them to like you. You keep  your job by making sure your boss likes you; you get more money by  making sure management likes you enough to promote you; you keep your  friends by making them like you; a salesman makes money by schmoozing; a  lawyer convinces by looking trustworthy. This is human interaction.

This  is, by itself, not a bad thing. Humans are, relative to other animals,  pretty clever and their social systems allow for a lot of nice things to  happen. For example, humans who are really good at math and science get  paid a lot of money for being engineers and doctors because the other  humans need roads and bridges and surgery and so on, and the engineers  and doctors have a lot of prestige, which is good. Humans are successful  because of their social systems, and the whole thing with social status  isn’t all bad.

The problem lies in  what is commonly called the Rube-Goldberg principle, which states that,  the more moving parts a machine has, the more likely it is to  malfunction. This applies also to the “machine” (i.e. system) of human  social interactions. Once it reaches a certain level of complexity, it  starts to screw up and not always work properly for the same reason that  computers malfunction more often than wrist watches and the same reason  that a complicated system of pipes is harder to fix than a single pipe.  More complexity is more problems. Now, especially among the middle  classes and above, and especially in rich industrialized countries,  there are almost no threats outside of other humans, and there is almost  nothing that you want that you can’t get from other humans. As a  result, other people’s opinions become more important than reality, and this is where the trouble starts.

Humans  in rich countries know instinctively that their fortunes depends almost  entirely on the group’s opinion of them. So they avoid saying anything  that would “rock the boat” or “cause drama.” When social disharmony  happens, the people who experience the social disharmony will have a  negative reaction to whoever caused the disharmony. This causes groups  of humans to ignore things that ought to be fixed, because pointing out  the problem will cause a bad reaction. A banal example of this is the  guy who drinks way too much every time he goes to the bar with his  friends; nobody wants to be the bad guy who tells Mr. Drunk-ass to tone  it down, or even if they do, they won’t push it too far because doing so  will make him freak out. And when he freaks out, the other people in  the group will come down on the person who made him freak out, for  causing social disharmony. Thus, bringing up the objective truth — that  Mr. Drunk-ass drinks way too much whenever we all go to the bar — is  likely to cause social disharmony, so nobody mentions it, and Mr.  Drunk-ass turns into Mr. Sad Middle-Aged Alcoholic after a few years.

I  venture to guess that this is one thing that kills civilizations.  Whenever a society becomes rich and powerful and successful, this  dynamic kicks in, and then nobody mentions the barbarian hordes on the  northern border or the rebellion in the western provinces or the fact  that the currency is being devalued, because who wants to be a downer?  It’s much easier to schmooze at banquets and make a killing off of  selling silks or focus on studying for your examination to become a  bureaucrat, make a butt-load of money, and then head for an isolated  villa with some slaves and a nice little vineyard where you can ignore  the problems of the world. Kind of makes you wonder why the media  suddenly begins screaming about celebrity gossip whenever something  potentially significant is happening in the world, as if they make more  money off of pleasant distraction than reporting potentially bad news.  Humans don’t like bad news.

Now, to wrap all of this up, I want to examine the terminal phase of this problem, which is where every truth  becomes offensive. Why is this? Why do people suddenly become offended  by anything that is true without reference to the group? I think it’s  because, once you’ve been insulated by the group for long enough, you  unconsciously know that you’re living in an artificial reality. You know  that everything you discuss with your friends and coworkers or  colleagues or whatever is just self-referential group fluff. And you  unconsciously know that, if reality from outside of the group impinges  on the conversation, there’s a strong chance of disharmony. If all we  ever talk about is self-referential gossip, then we will instinctively  avoid anything that is too real, because that has a chance of rocking  the boat, and that’s no good if we’re trying to get ahead. This is where  truth becomes offensive just by being true, and this is where we are in deep shit.

If  I haven’t rocked the boat too much by writing this, or if this answer  felt like a much-needed breath of fresh air to you, feel free to show  your appreciation with a donation.  1$ a month helps because it makes it more likely that other people will  donate due to the bandwagon effect (social status!) and costs you less  than a cheeseburger at McDonald’s.

Additionally, I have a little fictional story that I recorded as a radio drama, which you can listen to on my YouTube channel: