Depends on what you mean by worst.
If it means what most of it think it means—individual agony and suffering—then the culprits for worst are obvious: murder, torture and other bodily degradations. We needn’t go over the list because it’s too depressing.
But if we mean by worst “that which a multitude of people in their daily lives see as pervasive behavior in others”; that is, the crime that is committed most often, then our list whittles down to just one thing: offending.
Yes, offending, but not physically harming, some person or group of persons is the worst crime a person can commit in the sense that more people will condemn this crime than will condemn the more traditionally-defined worst crimes. Just ask those in line to see the movie Che if this isn’t so (“But Che only murdered people because he had solid leftist credentials!”)
Those who commit “offending” are more likely to feel the publics’ and press’ outrage and vilification. “Offenders” are more likely to be shunned. Too, people see evidence of offending everywhere.
For just one of very many examples—I’m sure we’ll revisit this topic often (remind me of “micro-racism” if I forget)—we have this story from Mother England.
“Salvation Army collectors have been told not to rattle their tins as it could be construed as religious harassment.” One volunteer “said she had been told it might also offend other religions.” The horror!
Why are they rattling their tins in the first place? To gather money for a good cause, of course, tapping into people’s enhanced sense of generosity during the “holiday” season.
What is the “holiday” that might cause the dreaded offense? It’s mentioned everywhere. Stores bedecked with colorful lights and ornaments make a point of telling their customers “Happy Holiday.” Yesterday, I received a card in the mail from a friend with a fir tree on its cover (not, as Ray points out, a “fur” tree). It also had the words “Happy Holiday.” In New York City, where I live, in Rockefeller Center stands an enormous “holiday” tree for all to see.
There are some clues to this mystery. However, I’ll spare you full details, and tell you that I figured it out by going to Pandora.com, which has a music channel called “Jazz Holiday.” On it, they play nothing but…Christmas music!
I should have guessed, of course. As we all know, use of this new “C” word is likely to bring condemnation and worried and disapproving looks from those within earshot of its utterer, in the same way that use of the other “c” word would now not.
Beyond the standard, probably correct, theories of cultural suicide that we hear about, I have nothing to offer on why the “C” word is now thought to be offensive. Thinking about it is as depressing as thinking of worst crimes.
But Merry Christmas to all; especially if it offends you, Merry Christmas.