I'll come up with something in a minute.

Me & George

I have on occasion said that George Carlin had a big effect on me and some people say “Yeah, no fucking shit, right? I mean Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits right?” and then I biff them upside the head with a chair and tell them to stop being such twats because my father taught me how to swear. Actually, he taught me something more important, because my particular use of profane language has always been a free form sort of art that few others can or want to emulate… bunch of poorly enunciating shit licking turgid monkey fuckers. What my father taught me was the importance of profanity. To either quote or paraphrase him (I honestly can’t remember if he really said this or if I made it up on my own anymore) “You should only swear when you want people to know that you’re really fucking angry.”

Fortunately, with the world in the state it’s currently in, I can pretty much let the words “God damn, semi-retarded, shit for lungs, FUCKWIT!” fly whenever I like. Seriously, go on the internet and use Google. There is so much to be angry about its amazing. However, as I say, this has nothing to do with old George.

What George Carlin did that had such a big influence on me, was to be a guy who really made me think about words. Not just words, but how words are used and how people will try and repress words that seem to tell too much truth or how they’re used to create layers of bullshit and lies to cover up what’s really going on. Even when he firmly and immovably entered his “Get off my mother fucking lawn” stage, much of his complaints were about how words were used and abused. If you read or listen to interviews with him, he often spoke about his profound love for words and language.

There was more than just a liking for puns, or an affinity for stringing together dirty words, I’ve always gotten the idea that Carlin was genuinely enamored of the ability we humans have of relating incredibly complex ideas and concepts with a few dozen sounds. So, for a moment, try and imagine how such a man would feel when he saw people using language for such purposes as people invariably use it for. When words can be made to express as much truth as a person has inside them, to see people using them to deliberately cover up the real meaning of what they’re trying to say. It’s beyond lying, and far more insidious if you love language.

There is a comment in one of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books. I can’t remember what it is exactly, but to paraphrase Archie tells a client that they’re playing a reverse of the Hitler/Stalin technique. They tell bear faced lies to have them take for truth, while he and Wolfe tell bear faced truths to have them taken for lies. I sort of got the idea that old George was doing that. He was telling you something in a humorous way, so you wouldn’t know that he really did want to nail people to a tree who used language to cover up and deceive.

There is a bit from one of his albums (Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics if you must know) that not only strikes me as one of the biggest complaints against these lies through rewording, but also how we treat people who were in the military and have been abused by their government.

Some one from Metafilter typed it out, which is nice, but I’m only taking a little bit of it.

You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth. I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. Because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it. And it gets worse with every generation. For some reason it just keeps getting worse.

I’ll give you an example of that. There’s a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to its absolute peak and maximum, can’t take any more input. The nervous system has either snapped or is about to snap. In the First World War that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables. Shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was 70 years ago. Then a whole generation went by. And the Second World War came along and the very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn’t seem to be as hard to say. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell shock…battle fatigue.

Then we had the war in Korea in 1950. Madison Avenue was riding high by that time. And the very same combat condition was called Operational Exhaustion. Hey we’re up to 8 syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase now. It’s totally sterile now. Operational Exhaustion: sounds like something that might happen to your car. Then of course came the war in Vietnam, which has only been over for about 16 or 17 years. And thanks to the lies and deceit surrounding that war, I guess it’s no surprise that the very same condition was called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Still 8 syllables, but we’ve added a hyphen. And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I bet you, if we’d still been calling it shell shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time. I bet you that.

Considering that the Pentagon is still denying veterans mental health benefits because the person in question once looked really worried about a test they didn’t study for in high school or had a tantrum in 3rd grade and thus all their problems are pre-existing… You know what? Fuck going on about that. If I start that I’ll just get angry and loose the thread. Short version, if people are willing to put their lives on the line to enforce a government’s will, then the government has an obligation to take care of those people during and after their service. I’m already paying for the guns and the bombs, I really, honestly don’t mind paying for some decent fucking hospitals and a couple of shrinks. Whatever they need, they should get it. They did what they were asked, I’m just saying now it’s time for the government (and the country behind it) to fulfill its part of the bargain.

ANYWAY! We now return you to your regularly scheduled story already in progress.

There was a real and genuine contempt for those who would use and abuse the gift of language in order to subvert the whole reason language was invented in the first place. We’ve gone from using words to communicating ideas, to using words to try and avoid ideas from being communicated, and that was what got him so damn angry.

And slowly, after 1,223 words we get to the point of how George Carlin influenced and effected me. He told me it was okay to be angry about bullshit. Not only was it allowable, in his view it was to be encouraged. While his views generally tilted towards the left, he was just as ready to call hippies out on their bullshit as he was yuppies*. That bullshit is bullshit and it should never be tolerated was one of George’s central tenets.

That’s where he influenced me. He told us to learn how to spot bullshit and to call it when we see it. He also told us that being angry and swearing at people who don’t meet up to the required standard was a good thing too. And, he said things like “How did they turn cocksucker into a bad word? Now it means a bad guy, it used to be a good woman!” which is just brilliant. That of course assumes that a woman performing fellatio is a pleasing idea to you. It certainly is to me, but that might just be my own personal opinion.

*I needed something that went with hippies, and a good number of the yuppies I’ve know are right wing douche bags so it works.

June 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment