Saturday, September 8, 2018

Galactic Housekeeping #6

No quote today, since the first topic does not deserve one.

I have a friend who informs me that while he enjoys my ranting, he does not care as much for the salty language that comes with it.

Additionally, his daughter is offended by the off-color remarks, as well.

This is a common theme. It was a constant complaint from others when I wrote the Lunatic's Asylum and just about everywhere else I've blogged or been a contributor.

The New York Times didn't like it, either.

There are three reasons why four-letter invective is a weapon in my arsenal, and why I will not unilaterally disarm for the sake of gaining a wider audience (I'm told this is something of a pre-requisite to acquiring a bigger following. Who knew?).

1. To paraphrase General George S. Patton: "When I want them to remember something, I give it to them loud and dirty. That way, it sticks".

There is something to recommend this method. It certainly gets people's attention. In fact, short of the sound made when a puppy is run over by a tractor trailer, few things get more attention -- and undivided attention -- than a good expletive, strategically placed.

I'm often accused of being gratuitously profane. This may be true. But this is a result of my upbringing and life experiences. I was born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn and Staten Island. New Yorkers tend to be very direct, they tend to use profanity a lot, and they don't particularly care if it offends someone's tender sensibilities. When it's important, it gets said, and how it comes out is a secondary consideration.

(Do you know the Brooklyn Alphabet? It goes like this: Fuckin' A, Fuckin' B, Fuckin' C....).

I also spent 25 years working on Wall Street in an environment that was ultra-competitive and pressure-packed. We're dealing with vast sums of money -- usually belonging to other people -- and mistakes are very bad for one's career. Mistakes caused by miscommunication are deadly to one's career. In this sort of pressure cooker, foul language is used for variety of purposes: to get the listener's attention; to stress importance; as dire warning not to fuck up (there, I just did it again!); to establish status among a pack of would-be Alpha Males all looking to backstab the other Alpha Males. The ability to creatively fling a string of perfectly-matched expletives is a sign of toughness and readiness to fight for one's ground. It is perfectly socially acceptable in such an environment, and some of the best at it have been females, in my experience.

Because they have to really work hard at it to get it right.

2. I actually SPEAK this way, and tend to write as I speak. This is a lifetime habit. I'm not changing it. You would be amazed at how many people find it charming, particularly with a New York Accent attached. It doesn't work for a Midwesterner.

Maybe they're jealous?

3. The absolute worst argument EVER is trotted out on such occasions, and it goes something like this:

"I agree with everything you've said, but your manner of delivery renders it all inoperative."

Oh, how I do despise this sort of person. They believe that facts don't matter if you've offended their sensibilities. They are capable of dismissing otherwise-cogent arguments for the sake of a single word they don't like. Sometimes, they believe that Objective Reality is altered by the application of a bad word.

Let's engage in a little experiment.

You go to see a doctor. He examines you, runs a lot of tests, and at the end of it all, tells you "you have cancer.  Incurable. You will die in a year."

Is the fact that you have cancer changed, has the shock of that news been lessened, could you possibly safely ignore what he's told you, do you believe your cancer would simply disappear, if the doctor had instead said to you:

"You have fucking cancer. You'll be a fucking stiff in a fucking year. You're fucked."

The presence or lack-of-presence of the F-bombs doesn't change the salient facts: you have cancer, and you're a goner.

Apply this dialectic to just about any other facet of life: people are incredibly stupid, government does not work as it should, you've given birth, I dislike your wife and/or kids, this burger is good or bad, I like/dislike you car, my Postman is a homosexual (I don't know, nor care, if he is).

The offending word changes nothing. It is intended to provide emphasis.

The majority of the people, in my experience, who make this argument aren't really upset with the language. Rather, they've seen something of themselves in what you've written and would rather you didn't add the cursing to soften the blow that comes with the epiphany.

It's also an indication that they cannot refute anything you've said. When you can't win the argument, nitpick the way in which it was made. Or, they take it as a lack of intelligence. A more-intelligent person would or could make his point without use of such devices.

I still have an IQ in excess of 150. F-bombs and all, so try again.

This clutching at pearls is a defensive mechanism. It is intended to stake claim to a higher moral ground through emotion (by attempting to shame you) that otherwise cannot be obtained via reason or argument.

Sorry, but I do not cede ground, moral or otherwise, to anyone who doesn't earn it.

I also will not change a thing for the sake of "popularity". Ideas aren't rendered better or worse depending upon how large the crowd behind you is.

This reaction is also indicative of a strange circumstance that pervades the Common Culture these days and which I would attribute mostly to both a degraded educational experience and as a sub-conscious revulsion/reaction to a cultural degredation.

It wasn't all that long ago that people, in general, GOT things. Like "hyperbole", "pathos", "humor", "ethos", and whatnot, without having to be led by the nose to them, or having to have them explained to them in great detail in a way that engages their emotions rather than their sense of reason. For centuries these were common literary devices. People understood that, for example, Archie Bunker wasn't meant to be taken seriously; they knew that when Dan Aykroyd began his "Point-Counterpoint" routine with "Jane, you ignorant slut..." that it was all for a laugh. They knew, on a sub-conscious level, that when Don Quixote tilted at windmills it wasn't intended to be a treatise on the mentally ill, nor to encourage people to laugh at them.

I find it fascinating that in a time when we live in a coarsened culture where literally no topic that would have formerly shocked and appalled is out of bounds -- abortions, homosexuality, killing Presidents, questionable sexual activities, what goes into or comes out of a vagina, openly fantasizing about harming political opponents, bathroom habits of the transvestite, drug use -- that the appearance of the F-word in written form would cause so many to shrivel like a garden slug covered in salt.

And then you realize that we also live in an age of identity and the word itself is not so much the telling factor as much as who uses it and in what context. Which is another thing people don't get nowadays: context.

Several weeks ago, I had a client who cancelled her contract because I made a comment in passing on the nature of the ever-changing requirements she kept foisting upon me. The offending phrase?

"I'm frustrated enough with this project to kick the neighbor's cat."

This brought a diatribe about how she could not do business with someone who would advocate hurting an innocent animal. No cat had been kicked; no plans hatched to actually punt a feline existed. It was an expression of fundamental displeasure.

You would have thought I just raped her children in front of her eyes. Actually, I've gotten the idea that doing so would probably be okay, so long as the kitty was safe. Ignoramus.

Just this past week, a man of my acquaintance, quite openly gay, remarked upon my lighting up a Marlboro:

"That's a filthy habit. You should quit."

To which I replied:

"So is anal sex."

He nearly cried on the spot. He didn't get the subtle hint: mind your own business.

No one gets this kind of  thing, anymore. And if they do get it, they pretend they haven't, and then throw a hissy fit and then get a lawyer. They aren't searching for a reasonable argument; they aren't trying to express a point of view as much as enforce it. Sorry, but I don't play that game. I will say what I want, when I want it, and you can deal. You demand the same from me, don't you?

People have always been stupid; they have always been self-absorbed. Now, they're humorless and incapable of grasping context, as well. There's some argument to be made that the whole thing is simply an act one engages in to signal your fidelity to your chosen group or ideology, and there is ample evidence for it, but it's also a very sad commentary on the modern human being that they miss forests for the concentration upon individual trees.

And the trees almost always come with an ulterior motive.

One almost imagines someone trapped in a burning building who refused rescue because the fireman said "Let's get the hell out of here", because that utterance was just too crude to take seriously.

Eventually, this kind of close-mindedness will be paid for. It always is.

While I appreciate the criticism (even the spirit in which is was made!), it is my considered opinion that sparing sensibilities in order to make a point more acceptable, or to get more page clicks and backlinks, is really a sin. Ideas have value, even ones delivered with profanity. If you cannot see beyond the offending word, perhaps you should consider why that is, and what it says about you.

If you haven't figured it out, already, I'm not concerned with what anyone says about me. I gave up worrying about what other people perceive a long time ago; I don't deal with ethereal perceptions, anymore, only with tangible results which are measured by my personal standards.

I have money, I have a home, I have work that I like to do, and I am happier than I have been at any other time in my life. Why should I care if you object to my language?

Podcasting Update: I have done a little more research and discovered what will be necessary to make an attempt to put The Overlord into your eardrums and eyeballs rather than just into the dark, untrammeled recesses of your mind.

Mostly, this is money.

Everything, eventually, comes down to money.

The essentials are cheap enough. The big sticking point is time. Production takes up a lot of time. Research takes up more time. Putting the cart before the horse, lining up guests to debate with takes even more time. If only because if you had to listen to me for an hour every week, all you'd hear is fuck, fuck, fuck, and FUCK, apparently.

This is now a goal of mine, and I'm pretty good at achieving goals. We'll play around with the schedule -- and maybe just totally neglect the invalid Mrs. Overlord -- (as if!) and see what we can do.