John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Social Vulgarity

Been a couple of days since I last wrote something here. Between work and a social life - or at least what passes for one - things have been somewhat hectic.

And on the topic of things social... I was wandering around a shopping mall earlier on Monday, making some purchases, and doing some window shopping, when I observed a couple of incidents that gave me pause. In one, a young boy was arguing with his father about purchasing a pair of shoes, using all manner of expletives and deletives, and treating his father as if he knew less about shoes than he did. The second incident was one where a group of teenagers were in a local convenience store at this same mall, a mixed group of boys and girls, with all sorts of other people milling around. It seemed as if every third or fourth word out of their mouths were expletive and vulgarities, and they were making obscene gestures at one another during the whole process, oblivious to whoever might have been watching or listening to them. And I'm sure that every one of you reading this can attest to similar incidents that you've witnessed or heard about from friends and/or family. Now, I won't say that I don't use my fair share of vulgarities when I'm angry or annoyed, and I sometimes do that as a matter of course, but seeing this, hearing it in a shopping mall/public place, has given me pause for thought. And perhaps even a desire to change my own behaviour.

What is going on in society?

It seems that our society is suffering from an influx of vulgarity in contemporary society. Although the causes may be somewhat complex, I suspect that the root cause is simply pandering to the lowest common denominator. While informality may be considered more friendly at some levels, its permeation of the social structure has created a downward and increasing spiral of acceptance (or tolerance) of churlish behaviour and unconscionable language.

A society that venerates celebrity and will accept virtually any form of exposure as entertainment is unlikely to be able to distinguish between appropriate and popular role models. Our society, in defending the rights of the individual, has often inadvertently eroded the rights of a civilization to achieve that end. In doing so, informality blurs the structural lines to the point that students consider themselves to be the equal of their teachers, and children the equal of their parents, despite the differences in experience and expertise.

The decline of the language is demonstrated simply by the working vocabulary of the average 14-year-old according to studies, which has declined in the past 50 years from some 25,000 words to 10,000 words. Personal deportment is also a function of environment, which is largely and unavoidably influenced by all the surrounding mediums. We are witnessing the result.

Evolution? Hardly. Devolution? Definitely. But certainly worth thinking about.
Tags: peeves, society

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