I’m not sure if this is a sign of my impending middle age, but I am finding myself more and more attracted to Radio Four when I’m in the car. It’s not the comedy – which is great, but then it always has been – but it is the news shows and interviews that I enjoy the most. It’s slightly worrying. I think I may be turning into my father.
Anyway, it was after listening to Radio Four last night that I was quite pleased with myself that “Moral Maze” discussed exactly the kind of issues I brought up in my last blog ( “Blatter and the Nanny State”). Not only that but Michael Buerk and others seemed to be agreeing with just the point of view I was presenting. This, despite the whole country being united in vilifying Sepp Blatter and his handshaking. For once, I seem to have caught something that others are talking about too.
There were, of course, those on the programme who were absolutely determined that Blatter was wrong and said how delighted they were that the country (Britain) was so outraged that bad/racial language could be excused. But I have to say that it was these voices – the ones who speak for censorship, for banning of the use of bad language – that said the most worrying things.
“I have the right” one voice suggested, “to go to a football match and not feel abused by the swearing of supporters”. When it was suggested that if you don’t like the language then you shouldn’t go to the match, the voices became raised and the objection was raised that they had the right to go to the match and not feel in danger. How long before we have the right to go to a match and not see a player get hurt (too much violence) or a raised voice (what does that teach our children about settling differences?) or expect to see no side lose (competitiveness is not healthy – how would you feel if you were the losing side?). If you feel threatened by such things, to be honest, then you should stay at home.
The last point raised was a woman who said that if she was on a train alone and some youths were sat nearby swearing away with their feet up on the chairs she would never approach them to remove their feet for fear of violence. Whereas, she said, if they weren’t swearing then she probably would. For me,” therein lies the rub” as the expression goes.
I think those that would agree that swearing and foul language should be banned are missing the point. It is not the swearing that determines the violence or abuse, it’s the other way around. Frankly, I would read the signs of how those youths were behaving before considering asking them to put their feet down. If I read aggression in the body language then I wouldn’t go near! The language is irrelevant.
Language is, of course, an indicator – after all, you’ve never seen a violent, rampaging mob running down the street and one shout to another “ooh by golly I’m feeling positively irate and think, by Jove, that I might just take a brick to the young lady’s window. Don’t you agree Giles?” But expletives are used because they vocalise the anger or pain we feel inside.
I’ve seen vicars curse like a trooper when they’ve spilt hot tea down themselves and, lord knows, I’ve done it myself many a time. My gentle use of language is not something people that who know me think of very often. But then, I have a short temper (that doesn’t last long and never gets more violent than a clench of my fists) and expletives come in handy.
I get the temper from my Dad who exemplifies the whole language thing well. When he was alive he used to enjoy watching sport on the TV. Inevitably, just as a game would start, someone would knock on the front door. My father would go purple with rage and say ”BLOOD AND SAND!! Don’t people KNOW there is a match on?!” as if everyone in the world should know that this particular match should never have been disturbed. He would rise from his seat, fists clenched, and go through the hall to the door. In the few short seconds this took, all his temper had dissipated and he would greet the caller with “Oh hello! How are you? So nice to see you” and so on and his pleasantness would be totally genuine. He was a funny chap my dad and I do miss him.
Anyway, his “blood and sand” expletive would have been quite shocking when he was growing up in the 50s but, by today’s standards, it’s rather quaint. I don’t think anyone would ever have accused him of unacceptable violent behaviour. He was just expressing anger. The language came from the feeling – not the other way around.
The human body is built for “fight or flight”. Despite the increasingly ‘deskbound’ nature of many of our jobs these days, the need to exercise these two physical exertions is deeply ingrained in our genes. Sport is the natural outlet for our need to keep these two in check so that they don’t spill out into our everyday lives. We need to be aggressive, we need to want to beat the opposition, we need to let it out. On the confines of the playing field, within the rules, this should be fine. And our spectators should be able to let it out verbally too.
The argument that such verbal aggression easily turns into physical is a valid concern but, again, I think misses the point. When I grew up in the 80s I knew many lads who liked to get into fights at matches. But they went with the intention of fighting afterwards. It wasn’t the swearing they did there that led them to fight. Again, language is an indicator of an emotion that is already there – it isn’t the language that causes the violence.
Banning foul language or making it a crime (which is increasingly the case on the playing field) doesn’t take away the violence, the hurt or the racial hatred that is already there. It just means one less outlet, one more chance that someone will, in their frustration, do something much more drastic.
Rather than stamping out rudeness and racial hatred, the authorities are in greater danger of driving it underground, creating a neo-Victorian era where people are required to “do and say the right thing” except, this time, ruled by the Law rather than by society. The result will not be greater harmony but more frustration. I believe that frustration has to come out somehow. I dread to think how it might manifest itself.
But I have to stop now, someone is at the door. Blood and sand, don’t they know I’m writing a blog. Where’s the axe…?