Decorum and the Conservative Soul

Without being prissy, let me make two comments about the use of foul language.  First, it is always and everywhere violent.  I don’t mean this in the modern trigger-warning sense used by the weak of soul to protect their equally feeble politically-correct views.  I mean this exactly as is.  The use of such sexual and barnyard epitaphs demean the very integrity of the human being as a unique bearer of the imago dei.  This is as true of the one employing such terms as it is of those on the receiving end of such terms.

Second, and equally important, it speaks volumes about the lack of creativity in society.  Really, imagine a culture and its inhabitants that have to resort to such language to describe nearly anything and everything in sight and out of sight. 

One of America’s most insightful cultural critic, Tom Wolfe, has correctly labeled this relatively new usage and over usage of a horrific vulgarity, “F*** patois.”

In F*** Patois, the word f*** was used as an interjection (“What the f***” or plain “F***,” with or without an exclamation point) expressing unhappy surprise; as a participial adjective (“f***ing guy,” “f***ing tree,” “f***ing elbows”) expressing disparagement or discontent; as an adverb modifying and intensifying an adjective (“pretty f***ing obvious”) or a verb (“I’m gonna f***ing kick his ass”); as a noun (“That stupid f***,” “don’t give a good f***”); as a verb meaning Go away (“F*** off”), beat—physically, financially, or politically (“really f***ed him over”) or beaten (“I’m f***ed”), botch (“really f***ed that up”), drunk (“You are so f***ed up”); as an imperative expressing contempt (“F*** you,” “F*** that”). Rarely—the usage had become somewhat archaic—but every now and then it referred to sexual intercourse [Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel (pp. 35-36). Macmillan]

As Wolfe so unglamorously yet artfully demonstrates, in its habitual unmeaning, the meaning behind the frequent use of the word is all too clear and reveals all too much about us.  We post-moderns no longer possess souls or minds for beauty, truth, or goodness.  We are hollow men, and, at some level, we know this.  Honestly, we might have sold our souls sometime over the last generation.

What is equally frustrating is that such language had not only become commonplace, but it has seeped into all aspects of media and culture.  Insanely, this has proven as true for the left as well as for the right.  One might actually find it consistent with a leftist desire for equality in all things to embrace what was once only said in biker bars, in prisons, and in naval ports.  Why not take the extreme of low and make it the equivalent of high?  As conservatism has become the property of the attention seekers, sophists, and commodifiers, a fundamental tenet has been lost: the absolute need for a conservative to be a gentleman or lady.  How can we ever conserve goodness if we fail to uphold beauty.  This is, frankly, a simple matter of decorum.  Manners, as Cicero understood, as George Washington understood, and as Russell Kirk understood are not the province of the rich and the powerful.  They are the province of all men and women of good will.  When we dress appropriately, speak appropriately, and even eat appropriately, we are not being haughty or pretentious.  Quite the opposite.  We are honoring the others near us.  In our decency, we are proclaiming the decency of the other.  Far from arrogance or stuffiness on the part of the mannered, manners tell others that they matter, that they deserve dignity.  The holding of a door for another does not promote sexism, it specifies service, virtue (in a minor way), and respect.  The use of proper words does not reveal how uptight a person is, but how much they value another.  In so many ways, we moderns and post-moderns have turned the world of our grandfathers and grandmothers on our heads.  And, the more we do it, the less we realize we are doing it.

Do I have any profound advice?  Why, yes, I think I do.  The next time you’re tempted to say something disgusting, think about your grandmother wanting to wash your mouth out with soap.  She had a point.  Do you really want to eat out of the same mouth that just defecated?  Do you want your daughter to kiss you on the cheek good night, after you smeared such excrement all across your face?

After all, you wouldn’t ever walk into the middle of church or school or Wal-mart and urinate in front of everyone, would you?  Why would you let your mouth do the equivalent? 

The next time you hear another using a foul word in public, question them about it.  “Really, is that what you meant?”  The chances are quite good you’ll receive an earful of even more “colorful” language.  The chances are equally good that you will have planted a vital question in a person’s mind and soul.  And, if not that person, perhaps another. 

It’s time not to just clean up the trash from the sidewalks and gutters, but from our very mouths, minds, and souls.

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