Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hateful Speech

Saturday morning, 2 AM.

I sit in my comfortable recliner, grading students' papers.

As happens every Saturday and Sunday morning at about this time, the bar next door finishes last call and issues forth from the doors of the grimy Club National all that pent up pandemonium that has been erstwhile restrained among the dizziness of strobe lights and the din of hip-hop.

To say that I am annoyed would be an understatement. Tonight, I happen still to be awake. On other occasions, my sleep is disturbed by this event; less often, I am aided by the effects of my own weekend conviviality and manage to preserve my rest despite the noise. Yet whether I sleep through it or no, the hellish scene plays out unfailingly, and I indignantly wonder how many dreams of babes living in my building are interrupted by all the hollering and honking of horns.

I cast this phenomenon in diabolical terms not merely to be inflammatory. Rather, it is because I have sensed other Spirits than gin and vodka to be operative in its issue. On this occasion, for instance, I am sure that one has flown along with the sound of the ruckus into my living room, and that the rage to which I am tempted is a dangerous mixture of righteous wrath and rueful repugnance. Terms like "unwashed masses" and "urban refuse" spring unbidden to mind and it takes all my power to remind myself that these hooligans are my brothers and sisters in the human family. I cannot let my anger become personal; but I cannot either ignore that there is a profound problem involved in this situation and that the behavior of these folks is symptomatic of a deep disease in our culture of which it must be cured or die.

As much as the next one, I enjoy good drink and the elation it brings. I like a night out with friends and even a bit of rabble rousing. But I don't think I've ever grown unrestrained so that I have not been able to show courtesy to neighbors. More importantly, though, I try hard never to let my passions escape the control of my reason, whether due to drink or any other drug or influence. And yet, in places like this club next door, the whole atmosphere and purpose seems aimed at fevering man's animal heat. The music, the dancing, the clothing, the socialization - mechanisms which ought to serve to civilize and engender culture here converge to barbarize and destroy culture. And, lest anyone take exception to my rhetoric, let me be clear: the denizens of such places are no way animals, except as man is an animal and may well act like one; nor are such barbarians, except insofar as they engage in what is barbaric. All connections with the essential human things - gender, ethnicity, race, age - are incidental and accidental; to take me as insinuating anything else is to misunderstand me.

But other connections attain which coincide with these other categories - as causes coincide with effects - connections to situation of neighborhood, of education, of economics, of religion. The material fact is forever generating the moral fact in our society, because we have opted for materialism over morality. Those who critique the moral situation and the underlying material exigence are only too liable to be libeled for casting moral aspersions on the basis of material coincidence. The irony becomes, for example, that the person who notes the eugenic tendencies of Planned Parenthood in exterminating black people is the one accused of racism, rather than the ones exterminating black people. As a result, this and so many other serpentine evils in our society continue to wind more and more tightly round the heart of culture and squeeze it to death, and the victim - mistaking the threat - thrashes against the knife-wielding friend coming to break the vicious circle, and this thrashing only serves to speed asphyxiation.

Yes, I despise the club next door; I despise everything it represents as a symptom of dying culture; I despise the coincidence in the makeup of its clientele as symptomatic of the same deeper ills in culture; I despise the related symptom that makes me despised for despising all this; and I despise most those spirits of distortion who formulate all confusing speech, the hell-babble pandemonium of parties and parking lots and professional politics. Renaming love hatred and mixing personal affront with general criticism, these spirits disarm us by fear of all language except in two equally useless forms, namely the mere shouting of acerbic argument or the effete niceties of political correctness. Such speech is a blunted weapon, pointless in the proper sense of the word. The demons know what they are about, for they know that without precision of speech we cannot name them, and naming them take away their power.

But I don't want to be thus disarmed by fear. So, I risk sounding hateful to avoid using the only speech that is truly hateful - that is, worthy of being hated. I cannot see my way around being misunderstood by confused society unless I say nothing at all (even if it be with many words) - and I simply cannot accept that option. Therefore, I've taken a risk here at naming some demons I see at work. No doubt they will, like Legion, endeavor to throw their victims into a fit and frenzy at the affront. But no matter; I am convinced that my words aim to heal rather than hurt. Not only that, they aim to protect myself as much as anything else - for, I, too, felt tonight an attack and onslaught in my own home, and as my anger waxed I may easily have fallen victim to the very thing I deplore. So, I aim these words to deflect that temptation. I aim them to gain power for myself so that I can help empower others. I aim them to cut Moloch and Mammon and whomever is haunting Club National loose from their addled victims and, hopefully, to help in some way put an end to all hateful speech.

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