Tag Archives: censorship

RANT: Censorship & The Nonsense of a Non-Seuss World

I’m swearing a lot here on purpose. When I talk about censorship, it makes sense to do so. Avert your sensitive eyes if you’re all bent out of shape by cusswords, and all will be fine. Because that’s all you need to do… not fucking ban it.

We’re regressing as a society, and it scares the shit out of me.

Dr. Seuss is being banned. Why, I can’t fucking fathom it, but it is.

Some bureaucratic asses who are terrified of lawsuits have deemed a story about a turtle as political.

Here’s what the Globe and Mail explains in this article about a BC’s schoolboard’s choice to ban this much-loved children’s classic:

The quote in question – “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights” – comes fromYertle the Turtle, the tale of a turtle who climbs on the backs of other turtles to get a better view.

In the midst of a labour dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the province, the quote was deemed unsuitable.

“I responded that in the context, it was borderline,” Mr. Stigant said. “Contextually, it was political – but it was grey and I would prefer it didn’t appear and I believe she agreed.”

Yertle’s quest for a higher vantage point ends when the turtle at the bottom of the stack – who’s pleaded, “I’ve pain in my back, my shoulders and knees – how long must we stand here, your majesty please” – burps, sending Yertle hurtling to the mud.

Yeah. “Political.” Fuck.

Look, people. Banning political messaging from schools is precisely part of why we’re now living in a society where constructive thought seems elusive at best. We’re in the age of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives, when people become famous for partying and being dysfunctional assholes, and the least we could hope for is a return to critical thinking by the children who are our future.

I mean, DUDE: Teach them well and let them lead the way. So sayeth Whitney.

Instead, political hacks who can’t even be trusted to file expense reports have decided the politics of arguably one of the most intriguing children’s authors is too political to be morally tolerable when teaching kids ‘cos — oh, the unthinkable of unthinkables — it might inspire children to think of classism.

Excuse me while I ram my head into my desk for a minute.

Well, that feels better. Okay. Deep breath.

PEOPLE. We’ve dumbed down EVERYTHING in society.

We print legal warnings that coffee cups contain HOT liquid and therefore are DANGEROUS. We rubberize playgrounds because some kids scraped a fucking knee. We pander to the lowest common denominator in everything we do, and North America is suffering an epidemic of stupid. Are you infected?

Instead of offending ANYONE EVER ANYMORE, we live in a completely vanilla society where the mere suggestion of offense means some public relations department comes running with an ass-kissing statement that does nothing but blow bubbles.

Saying “goddamnit” on television would probably explode transistors coast-to-coast in America, for Christ’s sake.

Children today grow up without any threat of getting hurt. God forbid they go ziplining in a public park, go head-first down death-defying slides, or even get a sunburn. Quick, shield little Jonny before he gets a bruise!

Back when I grew up, we actually got grades on report cards, fell down on concrete, jumped off things without safety nets, learned about racism and political parties in school, and look at me — I’m just as fucked up as the next guy, but I get through my days A-okay without needing meds or therapy. I’m normal, Ma! Fucked up in all the best ways.

Not like today. Kids are growing up without critical thinking, scared of getting hurt on adventures, and obsess over looking good instead of being smart, because that’s the pansy-assed culture we’ve given to them.

Stop it!

Allow kids to fall. Encourage them to fail, so long as they’ve tried. Let them learn conflicting ideas and find their own ways. Make them flex brain muscles.

Let’s pray we haven’t undone everything that’s made our culture so awesome for the last century, and let’s get back to embracing free will, allowing competing ideologies, and enjoying everything else that makes life in a free society so goddamned much FUN to endure.

Bureaucrats are making life boring, and it should be a crime. Lock ’em up! Stop saving us from ourselves.

Wake the fuck up and  say no to censorship, people.

And let’s just stop the rubber playgrounds, please. Buy a motherfucking box of Band-aids and live a little, mm-kay? Like they say, life’s tough. Get a helmet.

Whitewashing Who We Were Doesn’t Erase Slavery

We live in the age of anti-bacterial hand-sanitizers. It’s as if we scour enough, we’ll get rid of everything offensive about us, even the bacteria.

We’re overkillers when it comes to cleaning, so it was a matter of time before such practices overtook the literary world.

We’re so politically correct now that it’s easy to forget things were ever offensive. Better to pretend we’re a happy-shiny society than to wallow in our real, albeit largely-past, flaws.

There I was, chillaxin’ on Twitter, when @PublishersWeekly tweeted that a new whitewashed (pun intended) version of Huckleberry Finn is being released.

In it, the word “nigger” will be replaced with “slave”.

Here’s the thing.

Picture-143-300x300When you think about that horrifying chapter of America’s history — the era of slavery — what cultural works come to mind right off the bat?

Two. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Even though the Library of Congress and other organizations have listed them amongst the books that have “changed the world,” both have been banned — even recently.

Yet, if we had a time capsule that was to reflect who and what America was in the 1800s, you can bet those two books would make the cut… whether you appreciate, in modern terms, the language used or not.

It’s pretty easy to argue that, during those times, people weren’t exactly breaking their typewriters pounding out future classics that recorded the slavery horrors around them. Ignorance was the safer order of the day.

Literature was about escapism then, not realism.

I get that “nigger” is said too much (219 times) in Huckleberry Finn. But are we really trying to suggest that, back then, the norm was using niceties like calling them “coloured folk” or “black” or even “slave”?

Isn’t the whole POINT of Huckleberry Finn being a classic the fact that it captures, in a beautiful and heart-rending story, the racial hatred and poison that marred America’s early days?

Isn’t the point that, in the middle of those times, bi-racial friendship could evolve against all odds? Wasn’t the story a glimmer of light about a darker era?

Shouldn’t the presence of the “offensive” words give schoolteachers the opportunity to discuss how powerful language can be — especially when used against people, in an attempt to oppress or hurt them?

Isn’t Twain’s language merely a stepping off point for talking about how word choice is important, how words can hurt as much or more than sticks and stones, how they ring out in our head long after blows stop landing?

Can’t that discussion help us in the battle we need to fight against modern bullying and other kinds of “schoolyard oppression” that change into darker themes as we age?

Whitewashing the language used in Huck Finn by taking the racist rhetoric from the book is exactly the kind of soul-destroying move that makes most writers cringe.

Language is everything in writing. We obsess over word choice. We wake in the night just to change a noun in our text.

“Nigger” is not “slave”. Nigger is a soul-crushing, race-dividing epithet. “Slave” is what we call them now — not historically relevant in words spoken then, though it is historically accurate.

Rewriting literature because of how society evolves is how we lose the impact of that literature, the relevance of that writing, the truth of its wordy-snapshots of our times. It kills truth.

That we once lived in a world where one could haphazardly toss around crushing racial epithets like “nigger” without anyone thinking twice, that’s something we not only need to remember, it’s something we need to remain aware of — to accept as part of who we once were and who we must strive to never be again.

racist_button_2We’re in a better day, but not by much. Not when African-Americans are a fraction of the population butalmost a majority of the penal system. Not when Tea Party freaks are shouting down a black president because they can’t handle his skin colour.

Huckleberry Finn’s linguistic offensiveness is exactly the way to further the almost non-existent dialogue on race in America. Instead of shutting it up and putting prettier words on the page so it’s less offensive, let’s wake the hell up.

HEY, it’s SLAVERY. It IS offensive. It SHOULD offend us. It should make schoolkids’ skin CRAWL when they learn what REALLY happened. WAKE UP.

They should learn how horrible tarring-and-feathering was, that slaves would be killed by being made to drink boiling water or oil, that lynching was a common “behaviour tool”.

Slaves weren’t just treated badly, all right? Let’s get real here. Let’s be honest about how horrible it was.

Saying the word “nigger” 219 times barely even scrapes the surface.

The country’s moving past its civil rights days, but race IS an issue in America and the conversation still isn’t something suitable for dinner parties. It’s skirted and avoided.

Our race is a part of who we are — we need to get to the point in society where we’re comfortable when comedians like Russell Peters joke about all the cliches that define us race-by-race.

We do that by accepting what we did wrong in the past, and then celebrating what we share in common — as well as celebrating those things that make us different, because it’s in that difference that we find the beauty of contrast.

Picture-144-231x300Let’s get past this ridiculous apologist crap about whining over words and try to accomplish real change by discussing why those words still need to be heard.

All this confusion keeps the real issue off the table. Just because America has a black president doesn’t mean society’s past this. Our refusal to discuss racism because of the presidential elephant in the room does us no favours.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Racism exists today.

Let’s show how horrible it was then;  we do that through the language.

Teach the book, the original language. In so doing, teach the pain, but also teach the better way we need to behave.

Teach that talking, not ignoring, is how we heal and grow.

Teach. Don’t confuse.

A Little Reflection in the Morning

A year ago this week, I was hanging on with the grimmest, thinnest of threads, as I completed the last week on a job I probably never should have accepted.

I worked in close quarters with one of the most negative, depressing people I’ve ever known, for six long months. By the end of it, I’d gained 20 pounds and found myself being a constant complainer, just like that toxic person I was working with. I hated who I had become.

My old employers offered me my old job back, which was nice of them since I’d been a bit of a flake in the two years preceding, but I guess I’m more charming than I know.

I promised myself, upon returning to my old job, that I’d take it with the intention of improving every area of my life.*

I’ve done that. Yesterday I was a bit down, thinking how much I’ve blown the last couple of months, fit-wise, and how much more I could have accomplished. This morning I’d been trying to tell myself that, sure, I could have accomplished more, but what I have accomplished is pretty darned good.

But remembering this week last year, that really put a grin on my face. The closer I got to my last day on the job, the more and more I realized how much I was doing the right thing. I just up and realized how much I hated being around that toxicity, and how much I loathed feeling like my life was owned by work. My entire life had become devoured by my job.

In fact, that was true even to the point that they had found out about my blog, and not once but twice said, “Well, we know you blog about sex. This isn’t good. We’re not sure what we think yet. Don’t ever write about work. And be careful what you write about.” Continue reading

Of George Carlin and Obscenity in the Courts Today

It’s 12:30am and I have a pretty solid rule of no writing latenight anymore, ‘cos it gets my mind revving for bed, but then I shouldn’t have stumbled on the midnight airing of Larry King, on which a few comics are lamenting the loss of George Carlin.

Bill Maher nailed it nicely, in speaking of both Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. Lenny Bruce, he liked but didn’t love, ‘cos while Bruce was wildly groundbreaking, he wasn’t always funny. Carlin, however, even when he offended the shit outta you, his fuckin’ smirk would win you over and you’d be smitten by the act’s end.

Here’s the thing, though. Carlin’s greatest contribution to our society, I think, is that words are just words, and if we wanna let ’em hurt us or bother us, that’s our right, but our rights should stop when it starts infringing on other people’s rights to use whatever words they like.

That’s it, in a nutshell. I mean, shit, it’s a fucking word. What’s the motherfucking problem? Why are they getting their tits in a twist? Don’t let the cocksuckers win. They’re a bunch of cunts just taking the piss. Continue reading

Carlin is Dead, Long Live Carlin

Freedoms are something we take for granted in places like the US and Canada… until someone comes along and takes those freedoms.

The trouble with being “free” is we don’t always realize how limited that freedom truly is. That’s why we have people like George Carlin in our lives, people who push buttons.

Or we did. George Carlin died Sunday of a heart attack.

When it comes to really saying how society is, I think comics like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin have had such important roles to play. Lenny Bruce I’ve eulogized before on this blog. Carlin, not so much. I’m a huge fan of comedy, but more so the pushy, provocative skits of the ’70s.

In 1973, Carlin had a skit air on the radio that prompted another challenge of America’s obscenity laws that had plagued Bruce till he died. Carlin fought the charges and the Supreme Court ruled he was indecent, but not obscene. It wouldn’t be Carlin’s last fight, either, but he’d always win a little bit.

I’m a big fan of Freedom of Speech, albeit I’m a fan of our Canadian version of it, not the American version. (The difference? Although you’re not allowed to do hate speech in Canada, [which goes against “freedom” of speech but I approve] we can swear more, get away with more, and we have more sex on TV.)

But I’m a big believer that the freedoms I celebrate by being angrily on-point with issues, swearing all over the place, and flaming anyone I can think of, come on the heels of such provocative work done over the years by folks like Carlin, Bruce, Bill Hicks, and any other dead comedic great you want to lump in there.

Unfortunately, the debate between “obscene” and “indecent” still rages in the USA, and the land of the free still isn’t as unbridled and free as many of today’s comics wish it would be.

There aren’t a lot of comics where you always get the joke, professionals who understand how to really make their audience come alive, but Carlin was the last truly great comedian left from the time when American censors were getting paid too well for their jobs, when getting onstage meant daily questions of “What’s gonna be too much for this town, anyhow?”

For folks like Carlin and Bruce, that question would get answered when they’d land in jail yet again for some dirty jokes or peppering speech with profanities.

Just a little of the free speech you have in America is thanks to folks like Carlin who questioned those who called him “obscene”.

After all, what some people consider obscene is how the rest of us like to live our lives.

I’m sad that the world’s without Carlin now. I’m sad he never lived to receive his Mark Twain’s Humourist prize this November.

But I’m glad he pushed some buttons in his lifetime. Thanks, George. The mark you left behind changed the landscape of public speech, and you will be remembered.