Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quick On The Draw

It’s too easy to make snide comments these days. To throw a disparaging remark into someone’s path. To toss a hand grenade of insult over the shield wall of “constructive criticism” and watch it explode from a safe distance.
 
The people that sow such barbs with impunity rarely seem to fear reprisals or even the possibility of being taken out by their own shrapnel. Of course, cowards that they are, they stand too far back. They stand fully enveloped in their Kevlar suits of “only being helpful”.
 
Don’t get me wrong. This post hasn’t been inspired by anyone or anything specific. People have taken so many pops at me and this blog recently I have got completely used to the detonations.
 
And it is that which has inspired this post.
 
You see, it’s too easy to take pot-shots these days. We all do it without thinking. We all do it as natural as breathing. Open our mouths, type something, and let the sting fly to its target. Bang. Gotcha. Onto the next one.
 
Why has abuse become such common currency?
 
The internet, the workplace, the press are all rife with it. Comedians take cheap shots at anyone who has fallen foul of the law or public morality just to get a laugh – people they have probably never met or had any personal dealings with. Our colleagues assassinate each other in whispering huddles that may or may not include you… and you are damned either way.
 
And this is just the way it is.
 
I find myself wondering if people were politer in (paradoxically) less enlightened times and places? In the Dark Ages, say? Or Mediaeval Europe? The Wild Wild West? Times when the common man went about armed and tooled up and ready to answer even the slightest insult with a red smile or an invasion of steel to the gut?
 
Did people watch their P’s and Q’s more? Dot their I’s and cross their T’s? Save their insults and barbs for under the breath mutterings that harmed no one and kept the water source from which we all drink free from poison and contagion?
 
Or did that length of steel at their side or that iron strapped round their waist make them feel they had the right to sneer even more? Make them feel they could say what the hell they liked and if the target didn’t like it, well, they could choose between swallowing it or sleeping the sleep you never wake from?
 
I suspect weaponry merely separated the truly arrogant from those who only pose. The true bastards from those merely trying to be. And at the end of the day too, there would have been polite, peacable men who kept their mastery of the martial arts under their hats until pushed to extremis. Maybe, sometimes, justice was done? Maybe for every insult made grosser with violence there was an insult met with a righteous meting out of pain that made some cocky loudmouth think twice before opening his mouth again?
 
I can’t work out which is better or which is worse.
 
Only that while sticks and stones may break my bones, a bullet to someone’s crust is going to shut them up forever. In which case, insults suddenly become completely unnecessary.
 
 

14 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

Your intuition about history is correct. Fletcher Christian was driven to mutiny simply because Captain Bligh called him names such as "contemptible thief" and "cowardly rascal". Would those even be considered insults today? I suggest you respond to barbs by saying "Up your butt with a coconut". There's nothing like a rhyme to clear the air.

Nana Go-Go said...

How did you know my Mother came a-visiting on Sunday?!I won't make you aware of the details, suffice to say it got a bit overheated in my kitchen!Seems the older people get, the bigger the license to insult!

libby said...

Oh dear Steve........chin up.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: I fear I would need a Norse epic - foul language included - to clear the air around me at the moment but "up your butt with a coconut" has a very satisfying ring to it.

Nana Go-Go: I have to admit it's the only thing about getting old that I'm looking forward to.

Libby: chin up and out at a determined angle.

Nota Bene said...

If you want to borrow a loaded weapon, just give me the nod...

Steve said...

Nota Bene: oo-er.

the fly in the web said...

Try lines from 1066 and All That when Canute attempts to bend the Witan to his will....

Whan Cnut Cyng the Witan wold enfeoff
Of infangthief and outfangthief
Wonderlich were they enwraged
And wordwar waged
Sware Cnut great scot and lot
Swinge wold ich this illbegotten lot.

Wroth was Cnut and wrothword spake.
Well wold he win at wopantake.
Fain wold he brake frith and cracke heads
And than they shold worshippe his redes.

Swinged Cnut Cyng with swung sword
Howled Witane helle but hearkened his word
Murie sang Quit Cyng
Outfangthief is Damgudthyng.

No one will have a clue what you mean...they won't dare get uptight in case they should be thought racist and you'll sound superb as you verbally brak frith and cracke heads.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: I could do with a sword to swing too...!

The bike shed said...

I reckon it's just the way it is - and probably always was. We just smell a bit nicer these days, and maybe eat a bit better, that sort of thing - but as to morals or politeness and such, nothing changes but it ...

Steve said...

The Bike Shed: it must be what the advertisers term "the Lynx effect"...

Expat mum said...

Great post. The biggest problem when trying to come back with a witty but deadly retort is that most of the people who have insulted you are too thick to get the finer nuances.
I have a bit of a big mouth on Huffington Post and come in for quite a lot of "debate". Too often, when someone can't win me over to their way of thinking, or just runs out of debate matter, they turn to really bad insults. I used to try to put them down but I've decided I'm no longer going to engage. I'm fed up with the levels some people will go to when they don't even know me so my stock phrase is "Ah, and now, the insults." Usually shuts them up.

Steve said...

Expat Mum: sometimes not to engage at all is the only way to win the contest. It certainly saves having your time wasted by negative thinking people.

Being Me said...

I will always remember my cousin telling me about how our grandfather commented to his wife and her friends, as they sat around the kitchen table one Sunday after church, bitching about the other parishoners, that they called themselves Christian women, "but listen to you now."

I imagine it's been around for a very, very long time. Now, with the advent of the internet, it's just so very instantaneous and accessible. In my mind, my daughter is going to be the odd one out because she won't have a FB account (for eg.) until she can drive a car.... not if I can help it, anyway.

I used to think the barbs that are being hurled our way don't hurt so much if we don't know about them.... But more and more, I'm not so certain about that. I believe we collectively have added to this mess, even if we're only saying things against another "behind closed doors" or "amongst trusted friends" or, heck, even thinking them and keeping it to ourselves. Each, while probably not equally, is damaging. Both to the recipient and the person doing the snarking.

But tell that to the youth of today and they'd never believe ye.

Steve said...

Being Me: you can't brew poison for other people without being knocked out by the fumes yourself, I always say. ;-)