More on Dirty Words

Posted: January 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

Some interesting discussions going on at yesterday’s post, “Guide lines, protocols, ground rules, or indicative ideological injunctions on talking about stuff, and things” in case anyone missed it. This piece was written as an attempt to propose some basic guidelines of “DO NOT DO THESE THINGS, YOU FUCK” in communicating with others on religious matters, in order to facilitate less fucked-up-ness in the whole process of defining, differentiating, and in some cases dislodging religious traditions from and/or with one another.

The question of the importance of acknowledging the reality of the gods has come up (which is not a surprise, though it wasn’t the intent of my entry), which is something that has been getting a lot of returned attention of late (with PSVL recently writing about it in reference to atheistic attendance in polytheistic hospitality, etc). I pre-caffeinatedly shared my thoughts on this and hope that I didn’t say anything I’ll regret (I rarely regret things, honestly… that is what whiskey is for…).

I am interested in furthering the discussion of the use of language, though, and hearing more people’s thoughts on how we can maybe go ahead into 2014 without calling anyone a word that means something entirely different than our intent (such as Nazi or schizophrenic), which in fact are words that should really be left alone to be used in their correct context (as they apply to, and have real effect on, many people alive today who may or may not but often are also involved in these conversations).

Calling somebody schizophrenic for having a religion which accepts and acknowledges gods of agency who may go about communicating with them, or calling a religious author whose views and opinions are strongly poised and emphatically stated a “Nazi”, is immeasurably destructive and hurtful to individuals and families for whom these words have real (rather than mere illustrative) impact. Families who are dealing with schizophrenia directly, individuals who suffer the harsh and fucked up and oppressive bigotry thrown at them for experiencing clinical schizophrenia, should not have to be further hurt by this injurious use of language. Families or individuals whose personal stories were shaped by the events of the 20th century’s genocides should not have to subject themselves to misuse of the word Nazi in order to find engagement in polytheistic discussions. That is fucked up. That is inhumane and shameful and godsdamned wrong.

So how can we collectively aim to stop it?

(Answers of “just watch what you say, you can’t control what others say” are not helpful, unless followed up with “but here are some great ways to MODEL appropriate use of language”. Responses of “get over it, they’re just words” will actually be deleted, because you’re a fucking ignorant ass for even thinking that.)

How can we stop this, change this, in order to constructively move on to discussions that are safe enough to engage with, but still edgy and toothy enough to get into the necessary nit-and-grit of doing what the fuck our gods have us doing?


  1. Conor O'Bryan Warren says:

    I try to make a point of thinking twice, then posting. If I’m unsure whether or not something might be offensive I read it out loud or say it to someone else and see what reaction I get. I also make a point of trying not to type when I’m angry (that doesn’t ultimately work). The problem is, a lot of these folks do not want to use good or appropriate language, they get too many pats on the backs from their buddies for ‘calling out’ people (and lets face it, calling someone out isn’t usually an act or an effort to educate someone or sway their opinion, is an act of affirmation of a peer group and an attempt to identify “allies” and “enemies” just about 95 percent of the time.) I also attempt to avoid hyperbole in debate, special emphasis on the word “attempt” though. As a Southerner, it would seem that hyperbolic speech is my birthright. . .

    We have to get people to value group cohesion over their own ego-stoking and circle-jerking, which is like trying to herd cats that are in heat and also currently set on fire, which is absolutely almost impossible, especially with exceptionally young folks (who often go after ‘higher status’ people as an act of trying to establish their own status, at least from what I’ve seen.)

    If folks would stop positively reinforcing people for their using of such outrageous analogies they would stop being used, however that also involves the reformation of a certain internet culture. . .which probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

    • agriakosos says:

      The gang-piling and high-fiving after someone insults someone really troubles me, too. One would like to think that the Internet had progressed past high school – especially when some of the worst offenders probably left high school ten years ago.

      • Conor O'Bryan Warren says:

        To quote Bowling for Soup:
        Four years you think for sure
        That’s all you’ve got to endure
        All the total dicks
        All the stuck up chicks
        So superficial, so immature
        Then when you graduate
        You take a look around and you say HEY WAIT
        This is the same as where I just came from
        I thought it was over
        Aw that’s just great

        The whole damn world is just as obsessed
        With who‘s the best dressed and who‘s having sex,
        Who‘s got the money, who gets the honeys,
        Who‘s kinda cute and who‘s just a mess
        And you still don’t have the right look
        And you don’t have the right friends
        Nothing changes but the faces, the names, and the trends
        High school never ends

        Check out the popular kids
        You’ll never guess what Jessica did
        How did Mary Kate lose all that weight
        And Katie had a baby so I guess Tom’s straight
        And the only thing that matters
        Is climbing up that social ladder
        Still care about your hair and the car you drive
        Doesn’t matter if you’re sixteen or thirty-five

  2. […] Thracian Adversary has an interesting post up asking the question “What can we do to change the tone of discourse in our […]

  3. agriakosos says:

    There’s a basis of respect, mutual respect, that seems to be lacking in those who would immediately run to the dirty words rather than have a conversation. It’s not unique to our community or even these types of discourse. We encounter it every time a second-grader gets mad at another second-grader and calls him (or her!) a fag; every mouthy dude on the TV who shakes his fist at a woman and calls her a cunt, a fat bitch, or some other insult based on the fact that she’s not a man; all over talk radio and the news and pretty much every human interaction.

    It’s a linguistic extension of the thing that people who are buzzing about “privilege” lately call OTHERING. It’s pretending that that other person isn’t worthy of the same respect, dignity, or basic human not-being-a-dickishness that we extend to family and friends and kin.

    Part of it’s biology, part of it’s culture, but all of it is easy and wrong and we need to be aware of it. Before any response, I think any person ought to sleep on their reaction, or at very least, step away from the keyboard (or the playground, or the person who just cut you off in traffic) and acknowledge our emotions BEFORE we jettison them out like a rage cannon at anyone and anything within a three foot radius. And yes, I do try to do that myself, though occasionally, the rage cannon does go off.

    I try to remind myself that all the people I encounter, even if they do not know it or believe it themselves, are also the children and creations of the gods, Whomever They might be. Who am I to insult Their handiwork? Call them wrong, disagree with them, educate them, even protect myself against them if they’re not going to play nice…but insult their existence? Never.

    I do not have the right, and a little bit of politeness, and/or assuming that someone is innocent until proven guilty (a lovely idea borrowed from the Haudenosaunee and given to the Europeans who founded the United States) have never hurt anybody. If you can’t win an argument without resorting to insulting the person you’re arguing with on the basis of their existence, then you need to go back to argument school.

    There is of course also Professor Internet’s take on it all:

  4. Thank you for the discussion on the use of the word “schizophrenic.” My son has clinical schizophrenia, and struggles with his voices. We struggle with him. It hurts to see this term bandied about as an insult rather than being taking seriously as a type of mental illness. But it does follow why people would use this term since many think of mental illness in terms of moral failings. The darkness that still shrouds mental illness makes it more difficult for those of us who have it (I also have mental illness.) to get the appropriate help and be listened to. Again thank you.

    • There are several people very dear to me in my life, past and present, who struggle with clinical schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, and schizo-affective disorder. These words carry great and personal meaning for me, not just clinically but emotionally, socially, and familially. I have previously done private mental health consultation to aid families in navigating the confusing (and often contradictory) engagements with “the systems” set-up to treat these symptoms. I *do not like* how comfortable so many people see brandishing these terms in ignorance in order to degrade or compromise a stance or argument that they do not like, as if calling something “schizophrenic” completely deletes its value — which is such a disturbing statement of how the people who use this language must view those who actually struggle with the illness and related circumstances.

      I am in full favor of offensive language, but *not* language intended to strip any person or group of their humanity or value in a blanketed and blind-spotted fashion. Fuck that shit, and fuck anyone who doesn’t understand this.

      Many blessings to you, to your son, and to all of your family; I understand how difficult these struggles can be, deeply. May our gods be of assistance in bringing peace, calm, and an increased (compassionate) understanding to all of his interactions and days.

  5. […] anomalousthracian on More on Dirty Words […]

  6. Many thanks on your thoughtful reply. One thing that came to mind is how we folks with mental illnesses and brain disorders discern the voices within from the Gods without. In these discussions of how folks who hear the Gods are well…. s********, I wonder if anyone those folks who bandied that word about actually understand the process of how to know which voice is Whose.

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