Just a quick one today, I haven’t posted anything in a while.
There was a brief video on Buzzfeed that I sort of liked, although you need to read beneath the lines a little:
So, swearing is fucking awesome. You love it, I love it, it feels great. We knew that didn’t we? The video went into the brain science element briefly, with no further explanation of WHY we like to swear, but a Nietzschean doesn’t need to really have it spelled out.
Nietzscheans assume two things here. First, everything that’s alive seeks power. Second, everything we are is a result, in evolutionary terms, of our need to deal with the world, the wisdom of the body well-designed to get us through the ridiculous fucking bullshit of living in a universe that gives zero fucks about being what we want it to be. We are, in essence, externally driven. We adapt, or to place Bill Richardson’s philosophical musings in context, we exapt traits over time, keeping what works. It’s not exactly Darwin, but it’s close.
So, why is swearing fucking awesome, in the context of the will to power? Because it’s supposed to be prohibited, and we feel empowered when we do something prohibited. It’s a neat little trick designed to make us feel like we have more control, to be able to say what we are, formally, not supposed to say. It’s a tiny, harmless rebellion. It’s all based on recognizing situations, recognizing prohibitions, the speeded-up perceptions that acknowledge the status of the power game and give positive feedback when we get away with something we’re told not to do. When you allow others to do it in your presence and others allow you to do the same, you’re taking a tiny risk in undermining the formalities of politeness and showing a deeper bond that says that you’re on each other’s side, so swearing probably help establish trust, although that can be abused like mad:. You shouldn’t trust someone JUST because they swear. No fucking shit.
The particular word obviously doesn’t matter: we aren’t evolved to get pleasure from specifically saying the word that starts with an “F” sound, continues into an “UH” sound, then finishes with a “K”. It depends on cultural context. It’s a cultural thing. Swearing can become ingrained into behavior and take on the positive traits of any ritual that can be practiced alone, but the origin of everyone’s attachment to it is social, much like religion. Jesus titty-fucking Christ, there’s a fun association to make in your head, huh?
Social creatures are weird like that. Notice that there needs to be some sort of shared language for it to work, some sort of authority, either a specific authority figure or a general underlying fear of group rejection, to get the benefits. Making up your own swear words doesn’t have the same punch, because you aren’t risking other people being offended by it. We are built to this kind of petty politicking, to work for power within a hierarchy.
And it’s kinda fun sometimes, just to let rip with verbal violence against this oppressive cocksucker of a shit society and shit existence that dares to put us in a position of displeasure. We’re fighting back, and getting away with dropping the occasional F-bomb. I hope swearing never goes away. When you’re tired of their fucking shit, then it’s as valid a form of communication as any other, while being among the most easiest to deal with.
The only risk is abuse. A culture can use vulgar language enough to rob it of its meaning, which is goddamn bullshit. I don’t blame anyone for frowning on its overuse, as they’re doing God’s work: scarcity and value go hand in hand, so for maximum effectiveness, mindless use of these lovely words must be discouraged and some penalties, like shame and disgust, need to stay around, too. But much like I view cops and crime, I respect what they do as I hope they never “win” and get rid of all crime. We must regulate vulgarity, for the sake of its power. Fortunately, we’re built for that, too.