Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Friday, May 22, 2015
The Age of Euphemism
Amongst the many indignities of modern life is the ever
increasing demand to mince words. We live in the age of euphemism and you are
always forced to look over your shoulder to make sure there isn’t someone about
to flunk you for language failure. In France, you’d cry out “garcon” when
you wanted an espresso in a café. That was the only way to get it, but now
nobody calls out “waiter,” an appellation that probably is against the law in
California, where sex on a college campus currently requires “affirmative consent.” You have a “server,” who you have to wait for. California might be voted the most politically correct state in the
nation and one wonders how for instance “affirmative consent,” affects sales of
Victorian pornography like Leopold vonSacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs (1870), whose characters
openly violate the statute and exhibit the kind of “triggering” behavior
that violates social norms in the state. “Blacks" replaced “negroes" and then
gave way to "people of color," but why is that last expression less offensive than "colored
people"? There are many theories, but a racist can easily use all the right words and still be talking through his ass. Once upon a time there were men who
referred to their women as hogs and who referred to mentally ill people as
psychos. Carroll O’Connor played a character called Archie Bunker who parodied such
thuggish behavior, but satire by way of hyperbole wouldprobably not succeed in running the gauntlet
of today’sNewspeak. The intent of
all this policing is the idea that language affects action. Haven’t any of these protectors of the common good realized that "as if" behavior
can lead to the creation of a false self. When human beings are corralled into expressing themselves in certain ways in public, they depend on secret societies where they
are able to speak their minds. Steven Marcus wrote about book called The Other Victorians: A Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England which dealt with the cultural schizophrenia that developed in
another age in which behavior was famously regulated. And then there’s the improv group, The Upright Citizens Brigadewhich is an equal opportunity offender, trashing all the
good intentions of our current iterations of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.