Obnoxious and conscending language: be more civil to each other

Anyone can freely use obnoxious and condescending language; certainly it is not a stroke of linguistic genius to be vulgar and profane. Frustration and inability at mastery in the art of flowery language to disarm an offender may cause one overwhelmed by the limitation of conventional language resource, scramble unconventional vernacular to find comfort.

Rum shop hysteria and liberal use of profanity has its place – the rum shop. But quite a different matter when it spills onto public air waves denigrating, ad nauseam, upstanding citizens and many devoted souls who have served their country with distinction.

More unsettling when those who aspire to leadership pass offensive language off as “free speech,” or remain silent on decisive matters at the “core of moral values and community standards,” adopted by new generations of youth – the symbols of hope. Missed is the opportunity to change the course of incivility and instill goodwill – national unity.

While recognising free speech as an inalienable right, the right to say anything, at any time and in any place is not absolute. Safeguarding rights of the most vulnerable guided by a legal and moral compass exclude: the lewd, profane, lascivious, speech intend to harm or impinge upon the rights of another and breaches of national security.

Reckless disregard for “normal community standards,” words used inflaming and inciting violence – power and control – provoke hate speech, incitement and disorder. Offensive language at odds with contemporary community standards, absent literary content or scientific or artistic value, inflicts “grave and irreparable” harm to the minds of our youth.

“Fighting words,” speech used to inflame another likely to provoke physical retaliation see teens and young adults in courts around the country charged with violent behaviour – avoidable conflicts emanating from falling moral standards.

Hateful, reprehensible and abusive words making a mockery of people and communities have no place in the market place of ideas. Speech by simple utterance intended to cause physical or emotional harm; cyber bullying and other verbal and non-verbal forms using public airwaves have failed constitutional muster in courts of law.

Grenadian air waves consumed by political demagoguery froth with freewheeling debate walk a thin line in call-in radio and TV.

Resort to use the cover of “free speech” to mask inability to command and fashion appropriate expressive language is regrettable. Nevertheless, remarks unintended may, with remorse and apology, make tranquil a raging tempest.

Let’s all strive to be more civil to each other in this New Year, 2018.

Kit Stonewalling

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