Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why I tend to swear

I try to avoid using filthy language because I know that swear words tend to drive moderate people and older people away from the debate, thus undermining the message I am trying to get across. I rarely swear on the actual blog, but I do occasionally lapse into profanity on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page.

There are two main reasons that I tend to resort to bad language. The first one is quite obvious and needs little explanation. Sometimes I just get so angry and frustrated at the sheer scale of fraud and corruption amongst the political and corporate elite I just can't help it. After all, the occasional well placed swearword is actually very effective.

The second reason takes a little more explanation. I tend to swear more than the average intelligent, educated bloke with a huge vocabulary because I spent a decade working on building sites, industrial units and other extreme "bad language environments" all over Yorkshire, County Durham and Lancashire.

I picked up habitual swearing because to millions of Brits these days, swearing is simply a form of verbal punctuation, and if you don't swear in "bad language environments" you soon get labeled as a fucking "Lord Chuffington" type with a superior attitude and get yourself ostracised as a snob. I mean I was already skirting quite close to snobby "Lord Chuffington" territory by virtue of being university educated (in a subject most of my work colleagues wouldn't even understand the definition of) and having very liberal political views.

Given the general tide of racism, homophobia and misogyny in these work environments it was absolutely necessary to cloak my liberal and educated ideas in a cloud of filthy language. I mean, when you're trying to argue with a bloke who's only reading material is copies of the S*n or the Daily Heil from one week to the next, you've got to try to present your counter argument (based on nuanced political ideas) in an accessible style.

Here's a typical example of the kind of "conversation" I had many, many times over many years:
Work Colleague: "Don't you just hate fucking Paki scum? they're all fucking terrorists innit?"

Me: "Actually mate I reckon that most 'Pakis' are just ordinary fucking blokes, just like us, who don't give a shit about fighting in any stupid ideological war because they're too busy working their bollocks off to put food on the fucking table for their family."
I've also worked in environments (such as the charitable sector and in local government) where such racist  language is considered completely unacceptable, however what choice did I have? Can you imagine how long I would have lasted if I'd retorted with what I was actually thinking ("That is an absurd racist generalisation and you are an unthinking reactionary idiot that soaks up revolting views like that because you have no critical thinking skills and you read nothing but the Daily Mail") then gone to complain to the site supervisor?

Anyone that is familiar with my written work will know that I'm not the kind of bloke to bite my tongue and let abject reactionary nonsense pass, especially if it is racist, homophobic or misogynistic gibberish. The only choice I had was to grow a thick skin and argue my case. This often left me in the situation where, despite my aggressive and swearword laden responses, I was derided for being a "pussy" and a "Paki-lover". However I actually consider the accusation of being a "Paki-lover" to be a badge of honour when it has been hurled at me by a bloke that takes his political views directly from the pages of the Daily Mail, supports the divisive activities of the EDL and votes for the fascist BNP.

The crazy thing about these cultures of racism and intolerance in the UK is that the majority of people that express this kind of view are actually functionally intelligent and reasonably decent people, they love their wife and kids, they wouldn't hesitate to offer a helping hand, they are hard workers that are good at their jobs, and they like a laugh and a beer just as much as I do. It is just that the insidious influence of the right-wing press has pushed them into the fascist mentalities of "blaming the victim" and "seeking scapegoats".

The workers of London famously united to resist Oswald Mosley's
fascist blackshirts at the "battle of Cable Street" in 1936.
It is really sad that the fascist mentality has been allowed to take hold in Britain, especially given the proud British history of standing up to fascism. Some of Britain's proudest moments can be seen in our resistance to fascism; from the working classes of London blocking the march of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists at "the battle of Cable Street" in 1936 to Britain's brave and lonely resistance against Nazi Europe, supported only by the Commonwealth countries and a small band of European exiles (Free Poles, Free French, Free Czechs, the Norwegian resistance...) between June 1940 and June 1941 (when Axis forces invaded Russia). The Americans continued to stand by (and cash in by selling us the arms and supplies we needed) and watch Britain's desperate struggle against fascism until December 1941 when they were dragged into the conflict by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

If picking up the habit of casual swearing is the price of making an accessible argument against the rise of modern day fascism, then to me, this is a price more than worth paying.

Someone once told me that as a teenager, when he started to swear in an argument with his father, his father retorted "If you have to revert to swearing you have lost the argument, you have nothing intelligent to say." Whilst I agree with the general sentiment, I prefer to think about it like this:

For millions of people in modern Britain, swearing is not particularly offensive, it is just a form of verbal punctuation, however if you resort to personal abuse and insults (ad hominum attacks) against the person you're arguing with, that's when you lose the argument by default.

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