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The death of polite society

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The death of polite society

Post by jackf on Mon Jun 21, 2010 12:40 pm

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/jennymccartney/7840571/The-death-of-polite-society.html

The death of polite society

If we remove our taboos, the worst aspects of humanity are unleashed.


By Jenny McCartney
Published: 5:35PM BST 19 Jun 2010
50 Comments

Taboo busting or just mean? Frankie Boyle finds comedy material in Down's syndrome
A pitiful inquest was reported in the papers last week: it dealt with the case of a 59-year-old man named Paul Cowling who threw himself off a bridge after he had developed an unbearably painful skin condition and fallen into depression.
Policemen and members of the emergency services had been patiently negotiating with him as he stood on the edge for seven hours. At a certain point the motorway traffic was stopped, leading to long tailbacks, but progress was being made. Then some infuriated motorists started shouting “Jump, you ----er” and “Jump, you b-----”, accompanied by the tooting of a lorry horn.
Mr Cowling heard them: tears rolled down his face and, some time after, he duly jumped to his death. His brother later thanked everyone who tried to help, saying: “He was a thoughtful, helpful person and would be horrified to think he had caused a problem on the bridge.” But poor Mr Cowling was not in his right mind.
I don’t know what the excuse might be for the people who shouted those things. Of course, it is maddening to be stuck in a traffic jam, and many of us might well have uncharitable thoughts, against our better nature. Yet the shouters openly exulted in breaking the taboo against articulating such thoughts. They deliberately egged Mr Cowling into jumping, as a punishment for inconveniencing them.
It is common for the phrase “taboo-busting” to be used with breathless admiration, as though such things are there to be destroyed by anyone with sufficient daring. Yet taboos, although they are being dismantled with increasing regularity, are often necessary restraints that permit civilised society to exist: remove them, and the worst aspects of humanity are unleashed.
Take, for example, the ceaseless dribble of controversy about the utterances of the Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle. On the occasions I have seen him on television, it has seemed to me that he is a quick-witted man whose comedic gift is gradually being throttled by the increasingly overpowering nature of his misanthropic shtick. Listening to him is like walking down the street in conversation with someone who seems amusing company, until he suddenly pauses to spit on a homeless person in a doorway.
Mr Boyle has recently used his stage act to ridicule children with Down’s syndrome, including their speech, clothes and shorter life expectancy. When that provoked an outcry, especially when he was challenged by the mother of a five-year-old girl with the syndrome, he carried on, and included some more lazy and unfunny jokes about Madeleine McCann and Baby P. This unpleasant stuff has helped make Boyle a big name: he is regularly described as “taboo-busting”, and his army of loyal fans defend his comedy as something for people with strong stomachs, rather like a very hot vindaloo.
Yet when I consider the reasons why there is a taboo around the public mockery of children with Down’s syndrome, or abducted or abused children, it seems self-evidently right that it should remain. There is nothing strong about attacking the vulnerable: kindness is a form of evolution. If a group of 10-year-old schoolchildren were to taunt a contemporary with Down's syndrome, describing him or her as a “mongoloid” – one of Mr Boyle’s favourite terms – would they be miniature satirists, playing with the audience’s notions of transgression? No. They would be nasty bullies.
Something is changing in the nature of public discourse: it is freer, but also more extreme and uncontrolled. The internet, despite its many benefits, is awash with anonymous commentary of the most startlingly abusive kind.
The worst savagery in history has always begun with a frenzy of taboo-busting, beginning with jeers and ending in blows. In Mao’s Cultural Revolution, university professors were beaten up and forced to wear dunce’s hats. In Nazi Germany, respectable elderly Jewish men had their beards pulled in front of mocking crowds. We are not there yet, of course, but perhaps it’s time to consider what a Britain full of busted taboos might really look like.

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Re: The death of polite society

Post by Catkins on Mon Jun 21, 2010 8:41 pm



Last edited by Catkins on Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:58 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The death of polite society

Post by Cath on Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:00 pm

Food for thought, thanks for posting that Jackf.
However I wouldn't call this behaviour "taboo-busting", I'd say this kind of behaviour shows some people lack normal moral standards and common sense.

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Re: The death of polite society

Post by vee8 on Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:32 am

Sick is what I call it.
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