Towards eliminating femtoaggression

Dr Michael Johnston
Insights Newsletter
17 February, 2023

You may have heard the term ‘microaggression’. It means a very small act of aggression.

Despite being very small though, microaggressions are nonetheless very bad. So bad in fact, that if you commit one, you may be stood down from your job.

The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Dominic Raab, has found this out the hard way. According to anonymous sources reported in the Telegraph, he’s been giving people grumpy stares. Worse still, he’s been asking his officials questions and expecting them to know the answers.

The leader of the FDA, the union representing senior civil servants in the UK, has called for Raab to be suspended while these serious allegations are investigated. Fair enough. If he’s willing to give people hard stares, who knows what he might do next? As Deputy PM, he really ought to have known better.

For the rest of us, though, the risk of microaggression can make social interaction difficult to navigate. It turns out that it’s all too easy to commit a microaggression without even knowing it.

Medical News Today informs us that even failing to be offended by others saying stereotypical or derogatory things can be a microaggression. Not taking offense, it seems, can itself be offensive.

We might wonder where all of this is going.

Aggression in general has been on the decline for a long time. Historically, war was a constant of life. Now, thankfully, it is a catastrophic anomaly. Violent crime has also been on a long-run trajectory of decline.

Perhaps the focus on microaggressions flows naturally from the progress we have made in reducing actual violence. If so, now that we’re starting to get on top of microaggressions, what’s next?

The prefix ‘micro’ literally means ‘one millionth’. For example, a micrometre is one millionth of a metre, which is not very far.

Moving even smaller on the scale we have ‘nano’, which means ‘one billionth’. Then there’s ‘pico’ (one trillionth) and ‘femto’ (one quadrillionth).

In the interests of world harmony, then, I propose that we now turn our attention to nanoaggressions. Examples might include comparing hamburger brands in the presence of a vegetarian or breathing freely around asthmatics.

After we’ve sorted nanoaggression, we can move on to eliminating picoaggressions and, finally, femtoaggressions.

Then, everything will be just great.

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