As far back as I can remember, I never had much of a filter. I was always saying too much, occasionally saying the wrong things. A bit of a loudmouth. I just never had tact as an abundance. This, I think, informed both my journalistic career (got to cut to the heart of any issue) and comedy, in that I was always saying things when I maybe should’ve just shut up. But the point is that I just never liked beating around the bush. I’d say what was on my mind a lot of the time. Sometimes it got me in trouble, started fights with friends. It was just part of growing up – finding some kind of balance in this regard, of saying things truthfully but also learning to respect some general boundary. You do end up needing some tact in life, just to make sure you can still pay your rent and have something like a normal social life.
There’s a point where that goes too far, though. There’s large swathes of cold hard reality we as a society just seem to completely brush over.
Colin Powell died a few days ago. Here’s a guy who was a major architect for the Iraq War. Millions of people died because of that. Whatever misgivings he had don’t really matter to me. But every news report was mostly just this very stiff, straightlaced report on his life and legacy. People are complicated, but until we can just come out and say “this guy’s mistakes were murderous, horrific things that caused widespread death and pain,” I think we’re just pushing everything down, and that won’t lead to anything good.
Then you can go further back and find all these examples of people like George W. Bush and Henry Kissinger being treated like they’re just these nice old statesmen. No mention of war or bloodshed. Bush gets to pal around with Ellen Degeneres and take pictures with Michelle Obama. Paints his pictures in the countryside. All these guys, they just get to live in peace, and the larger machine of polite culture will whitewash their sins and never really talk about the damage done by our wars and our presidents. It starts to become something out of a horror film. The terrible things unseen lurking below the surface. As if a kind of hypnosis has been cast over everyone, and the words of the truth would somehow breach a seal of some kind.
Then it bleeds over into just your average political discourse. You’re told to talk respectably to these people who are just content with the gears grinding us along into the oblivion of climate change and inequality, these people who just think it’s all business as usual and we just need to keep voting and that’s the only thing they really do. You can find reports of young people becoming increasingly anxious and despondent over the climate disasters that will be dumped in their lap by the time they’re in the position of true responsibility. But our political machine just churns along with these career, corporate-funded old men having debates and whittling down what they’re going to do about the climate and about inequality, and oh well, guess they tried. Keep voting, though! The levers of power having remained constantly in the hands of geriatrics who are increasingly removed from the material reality of the world is normal and fine!
There would be times at work they’d say never mention your salary. That’s a whole lot of propaganda and service for the company, isn’t it? And I never got why we weren’t supposed to talk about religion or politics at the dinner table. Those are pretty big parts of life. I think some more clarity there could be healthy.
I’m sort of just ranting at this point. But maybe it’s time we quit talking in such polite language about all of these things. Maybe we’d actually make some progress.