THE CURSE OF CURSING

Having been brought up in a family (whether immediate or extended) where the core values of decency, grace and a calm demeanour were deeply embedded and the staples of day to day life and having been nurtured in an environment where civility was the norm, the use of cuss words was frowned upon in no uncertain terms and use of abusive and profane language a definite anathema. While these teachings did have a limited effect on my mind, with a continuous battle to control the demons of my mind, reflected in an edgy and volatile temperament, meeting with only a limited success even after more than six decades, I have been able to desist from cursing and using abusive and profane language- a habit which has the potential to limitlessly damage not only the dignity of the recipient but also morally pollute and corrupt the environment. So it is with some kind of a moral high ground that I can write about the need to desist from this habit which manifests itself in a variety of words or phrases and can have an impact which can be far-reaching in scope and wide-ranging in its impact.

Increased use of profanity, perhaps giving a thrill, howsoever temporary to whosoever uses it and, may be fuelling his egotistic self as a reflection of his superior status and display of exaggerated machismo is more of an expression of anger and frustration. In many case, as in the case of an impressionable teenager it is the result of ignorance and peer pressure where the knowledge and implications of what they are doing or saying is perhaps not known to them thereby turning the age-old saying “ignorance is bliss” (sometimes) on its head.

Nevertheless what I have observed recently in my dealings with people embracing a wide cross-section of society or by seeing the behaviour of human-beings in general is the extent to which profane language has penetrated the innermost receptacles of human psyche. The practice seems to be all-pervasive and omnipresent — whether you are in a family setting, sitting in a cosy restaurant, whiling away your time in a mall, enjoying the soothing environs of the rising sun and marvelling at the wonder that is nature on a morning walk, amidst the crowds at a metro or railway station or the airport, gently walking on the road and even in public offices or educational institutions (the temples of learning where the future of humanity is being supposedly incubated and nurtured) the atmosphere is more than periodically polluted by the sound of abuses being hurled at with gay abandon, in invariably some-kind of a boisterous and triumphant tone.

Mind you the extent and breadth of the abuses hurled in the garb of such behaviour has the untold and unmitigated potential to cause harm not only to the recipient but, with the variety of abuses being bandied about and the pace at which the repertoire seems to expand damage irretrievably the dignity and honour of a swathe of relationships specially women. In a society where the status of women is unparalleled, the extent and breadth to which such abusive language effects their dignity is something of, to put it mildly, a major concern. The ingenuity, pace and rapidity with which the profane vocabulary seems to be expanding makes one only drown in amazement at the ingenuity and fertility of the minds at work. Given the evident manifestation of a thinking, futile and ingenious mind, perhaps this is an expression of misdirected latent energy waiting to be channelized and directed to more productive and fruitful uses.

The other thing that does not cease to astonish and amaze is how widely dispersed, prevalent and present this so called habit, extremely unethical, anti-social and despicable at that, has become. Not just the lay person, seemingly illiterate, uninformed and ignorant with perhaps some amount of lack of behavioural finesse and social awareness but also the seemingly informed, educated well-heeled people of high society, irrespective of their vocation/profession or line of duty which they represent — many of whom are role models, conscience keepers, thought leaders, influencers and serve as torch bearers of society all seem to fall prey to this despicable and detestable habit/practice. Although invariably guarded in their public persona, the occasional slip of tongue or malfunction does manifest itself (and in the age of the all- pervasive social media rapidly magnifies itself) thereby exposing them to a vast microcosm of society. Perhaps a forceful, intense yet intensively debatable expression of their perceived influence and the power that they exert over their subjects and area of influence, it is high time that the futility and utter senseless of the practice is made known and widely communicated not only to them but to the society at large.

Society, all across, has at various times seen dramatic and sustained efforts in fact even upheavals to purge it of its evils and social malpractices more often than not with unqualified success. We have also seen many, sometimes state sponsored efforts at improving our physical external environment( the global efforts at countering environmental degradation as a result of gradual but perceptual climate change, the Swachh Bharat campaign, moves to ensure rapid immunization/ vaccination to counter the effects of deadly diseases and infections are some examples which readily came to mind) — a campaign to weed out profanity from our lexicon seems to have only floundered. Resultantly, profanity which manifests in the habit of cussing has only proliferated and become endemic.

While the hope for a profanity free global environment may seem to be a mirage and somewhat utopian, the need for a sustained, concerted and earnest effort, perhaps even state sponsored, powered by the reach, breadth and scope of social media can and will help in limiting its use. The “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” an extremely commendable initiative at that might have resulted in improving the physical environment with its concomitant wide-ranging societal benefits, the process of cleansing the mind (“Swachh Man”) with a special focus on the language that we use requires the seemingly elementary abstinence from cussing and profanity.

To conclude, I quote from George Washington — something which I found extremely topical and relevant:-

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cussing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”

The use of profanity and expletives whether as an expression of anger or the release of pent-up frustration or even as a perceived symbol of dominance and self-aggrandizement should be eschewed and discouraged at any cost. Society has over time managed to free itself from many of its curses, it is high time a concerted effort is made to effectively deal with this curse of cursing. Hoping for a profanity and cussing free society.

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