Saturday, January 19, 2013

Profanity And Politics

When we say, "He's got an issue with his wife", what we mean is he's not happy with her in some undefined way. The lack of definition is part of how we are using the word "issue". We do not mean that there is a significant dispute over principles of life and love. "He's got an issue with his wife" means something close to saying he's got a grudge against her, he's not going to let things stand. His dissatisfaction is going to be part of a negotiation which will decide whether the "relationship" will go on. Marriages, friendships, loves don't have issues: they have dramas, conflicts, collapses, reconciliations. Words which indicate that what happens is significant, tied to the history of the particular people involved. What issues out their past will be resolved, or not, in relation to that past. It is not a matter of public, impersonal debate on the subject of what one should put up with in an impersonally defined "relationship".

Political jargon brought into private life functions like profanity. When we swear, we break a taboo of conventional speech, and thereby in our self ostracism give ourselves a vacation from our regular life. When we break out in profanity, our personal life becomes no more than issues which could just as well have been someone else's. We temporarily escape from them in the minor ritual of re-birth into freedom that the use of profane language accomplishes.

Profanity and political jargon in our personal lives are complements. Using political jargon we imagine we have power in our personal lives, then when that imagination fails, we imagine ourselves, intoxicated in our profanity, escaped from that politically described failure.

Language can condemn us to futility.