To be honest, I remain confused about this culture's habitual attitude towards both the use of swearing and its supposed restraint of it. I swear regularly on this blog, but I abstain from swearing at all in the books I write. In real life, I swear all the time - my friends swear all the time and most people I meet in passing swear quite comfortably. But when I walk into the workplace, again, I don't swear at all. In fact, I had developed a reputation at my last workplace as "the man who doesn't swear."
That is because I can turn it off and on again like a switch. I can talk quite comfortably all night, rant, go on the verbal attack and debate, all without a swear word even occurring to me. Yet when I'm relaxed, not putting on a show, swearing comes without thinking.
I am a child of my age.
As a boy, back in '70-'71, at the tender age of six and seven, I remember that every boy swore. I don't remember if the girls did - boys and girls kept to themselves when I was growing up, at least until junior high school, when all at once they were everywhere. I remember quite well that the 12 and 13 year old girls that I went to grade 7 with swore with proficiency. But hell, we didn't think of ourselves as children by then - Beth, who was part of my grade 8 home room, would walk the stroll on 3rd Avenue at 14 for money. Every kid who knew her knew that - and we didn't care that much. Not that we volunteered the information to our parents - knowing it would have driven our parents crazy, something that we understood perfectly.
We learned pretty early as children how to dance around issues we knew all about to convey the idea of innocence for our parents. I learned not to swear around my mother, pretty much the ONLY place in my universe where I couldn't swear. By '78 even the teachers had accepted that kids were going to swear - and I had several teachers who would themselves. Teachers who swore were cool. Everyone thought so.
Here it is, 37 years later, and there is still this silly notion that kids have to be protected from adult language and adult themes . . . as if this shit isn't everywhere on the internet. Yes, you must be warned about THIS podcast, because we are not like the millions of podcasts that do not bother to warn you. Nor are we like the easy and available footage of every horrible event going on everywhere in the world. Yes, kiddies, we're going to use swear words - words you can't possibly even know.
It isn't for the children, is it? Really, the warning is for that significant number of people who just can't get over the use of words. Words convey ideas and there are people who aren't comfortable with the ideas behind fucking, cock-sucking and shit. It isn't that the words are bad, it's those pesky ideas that we don't want pushed into our faces - things we would rather go through our whole day not thinking about.
Funny, but I never think of actual feces when I use or hear the word 'shit.' I never think of copulation in relation to the word 'fuck.' I hear frustration, anger, passion, impatience . . . but these are ideas too, aren't they? Ideas that also bother people, since emotions akin to anger and impatience are very difficult to handle. Part of the reason that I don't swear at my job is because I don't want any of my co-workers to know when I'm impassioned or frustrated. In the workplace, passion makes bored or unhappy listeners deeply self-conscious of their misery. Frustration, on the other hand, suggests incompetence. By never appearing passionate or frustrated, I have always portrayed an image of perfect ability and perfect respect for my co-workers. It's all a sham, but it works.
Some people do get very upset when they hear swear words - and in the workplace, where life is harder, I'm willing to spare them this pain. Out of the workplace, on the other hand, when I am not building a team between my fellow human and myself, fuck it. Out of the workplace, tell me not to swear at your peril. Out of the workplace, your inability to handle swearing makes you weak. Well, it does in the workplace too, but in the workplace I'm willing to tolerate and give support for your weakness. In the workplace, you're useful to me. Out of the workplace, your weakness is just annoying.
Is it fair to call you weak because you find swearing difficult to tolerate? That's difficult, because at times I'm going to swear no matter how it makes the reader feel and at times I'm going to make allowances. Circumstances dictate my actions.
Coming back to the subject of D&D and children. I had just written a section in the upcoming book about the value of plunder and murder in role-playing games . . . an intrinsic part of the game that has been reworked and reinvented with marketing terms in order to make palatable for people who cannot reconcile its existence. There are other aspects too, like the presence of evil or torture, the use of body parts to make potions for spells, and a whole host of concerns about kill-happy players, lust or greed. The fantasy game is not always pretty - because life itself is not always pretty, because we don't want to condemn the inclusion of things just because they make some people uncomfortable.
There are many games where aspects of life are banned - just as swearing is banned. I have no problem with this; if everyone at the table agrees that swearing is off the menu, I can support that. I could easily play in such campaigns, without anyone knowing my out of game habits.
But will I promote such censorship? No. The world is out there and whether or not we try to hide from it in our rooms and at our tables, or keep the kids from finding out something they plainly already know, the big bad world is going to remain just as big and just as bad. The crime isn't committed in being part of that world, it is committed in being afraid of that world. Afraid to use the words and admit inwardly the ideas upon which the world is founded.
The fear of feeling uncomfortable contributes to a loss of freedom. We cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by fear or by discomfort. No matter how hard, we must steel ourselves and be strong. We should be gracious to the weak; we should encourage them and gain their trust, and help them be strong. But we can never allow ourselves to be ruled by the same weakness that rules them.
Remember that no one wants to be weak. Weakness is a jail. It is a limitation. Weak people deserve consideration and support, particularly when we need them to be strong for us. When we build weakness into a virtue, however, we jail everyone. That is what censorship and banning practices does. It declares that the weak can never be strong, so the strong will have to forever bow to the weak.
That way madness lies.