What is in a word. Every word comes with its own baggage, a little suitcase filled with connotations from past usages. What different emotions words bring to the surface by their mere mention. Think for a moment of sex, torture, obscene, and f**k. Just dwell a moment on the connections between this selection of words. Simple one and all and yet so complex in the feelings that are aroused depending on the presentation. Follow if you will over the fold to hear the possum’s thoughts on these words specifically and on words in general.
According to the Oxford Dictionary sex is a noun for sexual activity, specifically sexual intercourse. Torture is the infliction of severe pain as a punishment or a forcible means of persuasion. Obscene is an adjective meaning offending accepted standards of decency; offensive or disgusting. F**k means to have sexual intercourse with. Stories about sex are forbidden in today’s mainstream media as is the word, f**k. In fact any mention of sex or any words surrounding the sense of sex is often not accepted in public.
Just think about my tale of the peace vigil and the surrounding controversy. On the other hand stories about torture are accepted in the mainstream media.
Movie and TV depictions of torture draw real audiences these days. At least one cinema withdrew a movie with sexual overtones (Brokeback Mountain) and continued to show a torture movie (Hostel). Obscene pictures, writings, movies, and other presentation are restricted by various laws. The exact definition varies somewhat from location to location.
Why do we as a society see such wide differences between various words and the images they conjure? Why can we accept stories and movies about torture and decline those that concern sex? Are we so misguided about our lives that we cannot define the right of sex and the wrong of torture? Or are we more inclined to find solace somehow in the suffering of other people as they are being tortured? Why does the simple word, f**k, arouse so much animosity when presented in public? Is war not more obscene under the definition above than any measure of sex?
Justice Stewart was said to think he “knew pornography when he saw it.” Apparently society as a whole today feels much the same way as people choose to view certain sorts of images and to refuse others. Even the use of language today is fraught with peril. To speak of sex is considered somewhat less than polite in society. And to speak of war in realistic circumstances is verboten.
The administration hides images of war and the returning dead Americans to “preserve the sensitive feelings of the public.” Seems pretty strange that a society which allows movies like (Hostel) and its genre cannot view war images without being somehow offended. And how can a person be offended by the word, f**k, and still allow torture to be an American pastime in the prison at Abu Ghraib (graphic warning!!)? Are we so desensitized to the words and the images that we no longer care?
In my personal world words are fine as themselves. In and of themselves words are not harmful. Nor do they offer specific benefit other than as descriptors. All comes from the presentation. In my mind war is obscene and to that end its images may be suppressed if obscenity is to be avoided in public. On the other hand the images of war at least allow a public to be informed as to the reality of the situation. When the public is not allowed to see images or hear words directly describing the horrors of war, then war loses much of its obscenity.
Discussions of sex are also acceptable in my own world. We make a point of keeping much of that discussion between consenting adults without making a public show. But if a child of any age asks a specific question, the answer should be given. The same is true if that child asks about torture.
To my own mind torture should receive as great attention and definition as sex or reproduction and the rights thereof. Both subjects deserve a public airing to the end of education and elevating the one (sex) while suppressing the activity represented by the other (torture). Once again if words are not discussed in open forums, the full meaning of the word disappears.
The thoughts come to an end point at last. In the end is only the end. One more word. One more simple little word. Maybe not the most important of all, but a significant word in that the process is finished to this point. Additional reflection and extension may follow to another finality as the suitcase is opened and the baggage of these words is examined.