Confusing Vulgarity with Power
“Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.”
Years ago, I was being sexually harassed and being quick witted, responded, “Why I would be happy to do that if you can put up with my chronic fungus condition.” Being artfully offputting can be far more pleasurable than rejecting someone or going for the throat.
But for bleep sake, what is going on in our culture where vulgarity is springing out of every spigot like green swamp soup? Years ago, I used to talk about how people would become non-participants on teams by using one of four styles – intimidator, interrogator, poor me, and aloof. For many today, these styles of being off-putting are being replaced with this need to shock, to overcome through purified contempt, and to simply drive people away on the spot by applying the obscene and the shocking.
What does it accomplish? Well, it drives many high-quality people away.
Late author Vladimir Nabokov said, “Nothing is more exhilarating than philistine vulgarity.” But, his words were crafted at a time when vulgarity stood out. It was unusual. Sometimes we used vulgarity to create a moment in history. Now, there is so much of it, there will be no history because it is common, used to get one’s way, to get a little chemical thrill ride with the illusion we’ve won. If you have any doubt about my words, go onto social media. Make a political statement. Take a contrary point-of-view. Or, go into a parking lot that has one parking space. Go into a grocery store. Yesterday, we were coming around the corner into a new aisle with our cart and this spawn of Chucky came at us center aisle, no move to the left or the right. When I attempted to merge in gently, she sneered and said, “(bleep) you.”
Do I have a point?
Vulgarity is replacing beauty in the world. The more that we use it, the more we become common and cheap. We may momentarily win but we only grow our isolation. Continue to grow vulgarity as a culture and we will be surrounded by a world of cheapness filled with people too common to look for the good in others, too cynical to create beauty, too lazy to find a more effective way to elevate the world. How can we inspire others to look for virtue in each other rather when we are too busy looking for that one thing so embarrasing, we shut them down and drive them away? Or, they come back with even more hurtful and awful words?
Embracing the vulgar seems to be a particularly American quality these days. Last fall, we were on a beautiful cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranian. We were moving past the Amalfi Coast standing on the pool deck next to a very popular outdoor burger restaurant. We had about two dozen international passengers waiting for their burgers, which took less than ten minutes to cook. Three different American couples were yelling out, “Why are you so slow?” “This is taking forever.” One actually pounded on the counter and snarled, “This is bullXXX.” Are we pushing narratives like this because we actually believe we are better, to simply to get our way or both?”
If anyone recognizes the need to use the profane to be right, to be better, to get one’s way, I suggest there is a more pleasurable way to live. Find a higher purpose. Make a difference in the world. Do something meaningful. Locate work that matters. The malaise that drives the cheap will disappear. You will attract more positive people. You will smile more often. Life will get easier.
Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.
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