Profanity and its users
Mangmang. Bobo. Walang utak. Gago. Tanga. Stupid.
These words repetitively appear whenever netizens come across a video, photo, or post on social networking sites with which they strongly disagree. I have read people bashing other people whose acts are offensive to them and whose ideas are contrary to theirs. In some cases, those who comment on these supposedly offensive or contrary posts become united in claiming that the questioned action or idea is wrong. In cases involving big personalities, a battle between the supporters and the bashers materializes. And while cursing appears to be an intrinsic part of human nature, in social networking sites the nature and choice of profane words with which to attack the opposing side have become quite intense. Using profanity has become a way for people to “win” an argument.
True, cursing and using profane words are commonplace. Even I engage in these actions in certain circumstances. According to an article in Time magazine, about 0.7 percent of people curse daily. The approximation ranges from 0 to 3 percent, not including online cursing and bashing. Realistically speaking, people will curse in their lifetime due to various reasons.
The use of profane words is inevitable even if a few really try to avoid doing so.
Using bad words has definite advantages and disadvantages. Most of the time, people swear to release strong emotions, thus alleviating pain for some. Curses that are expressed as interjections and as a result of exhaustion, anger, frustration, surprise, or even happiness, and that are only for self-expression may even help the person uttering the words. The act may ease a negative feeling in a tight and difficult situation, and may serve as an outlet for tension or sudden surge of emotions.
On the other hand, using profane words may ignite conflict with other people, particularly those to whom the words are deliberately addressed, or their family members. This act of cursing is commonly used to hurt a person by directing it toward his or her capabilities, work, appearance, loved ones, etc.
Swearing is already degrading in its oral form. What more if it is posted online for everybody’s consumption?
Bashing is common online. Debatable topics will surface and people will air their ideas, which will definitely oppose the ideas of others. The combination of bashing and cursing as an attack on an individual has intensified in public posts, as anyone can freely post almost anything online. There are posts that I actually closely follow, as the opposing sides attack each other over various issues.
Evidently, many netizens will use all of the negative words in the universe that they could use to attack a person they dislike or disagree with. Mangmang ka. Bobo ka. Walang utak. Ang gago mo. Tanga. You are so stupid. Shame on you.
Let us say that a person did something really offensive. Will the use of these words punish that person? Will it improve the situation? Will it end the conflict? In most cases, no. It will even aggravate the conflict. A negative reaction to a problem is never and will never become a good solution.
Many people will say that, in swearing or cursing, they are merely exercising their freedom of expression. Sure, we are all entitled to that freedom. We all have the right to speak and, at present, the right to post our opinion online. But does that freedom include insulting the other person and attacking his or her intellectual capacity? Of course not.
Swearing at a person with whom one is arguing is never a way to win an argument. Ad hominem argumentation moves toward one’s opponent’s personal flaws and condition. Using cuss words will not make anyone more intellectual. Worse, if the same words are directed to the one using them, one will also be offended. Now, how does that feel? Many of those who use those curses will feel more infuriated, as if they were the only ones entitled to use such words. Here’s where the “golden rule” perfectly applies.
Indeed, if one directs curses at a person, he or she must be prepared to be cursed back.
Another concern is involving mental incapacity in the argument. It only shows the low regard of most people toward those with mental illness, to the point of using socially constructed attributes as a means of attacking their enemies. It is never the fault of the mentally ill that they are not up to par with society-decreed standards. Thus, using these words are truly disgraceful: Mangmang ka. Bobo ka. Walang utak. Ang gago mo. Tanga.
Cursing as a form to relieve oneself can be considered inevitable, but for it to be used to insult those whose ideas oppose yours will never be acceptable. To involve those who are mentally incapacitated is equally unacceptable. If those who curse or swear, whether online or elsewhere, think that these words are the only weapons they can use to win arguments, they are not worth the time. If these are the words used to buttress an argument, it is not worth winning.
Cindy P. Sicat, 24, is a senior high school teacher in Eastern Porac National High School, and is currently working on a master’s degree in literary and cultural studies at Ateneo de Manila University.
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