Shock effects

Many people there are, whose modus vivendi with the world seems founded upon one and only one principle: never shock anyone. I refer to the class that can also be described, from a slightly different angle, as “total bores.” One loves them, of course — tepidly, as suits their condition. With imagination, one may “feel their pain.” For it is easy to under-estimate the amount of nervous energy that is required for this task — especially today, when people are so easy to shock with mere words.

With one known person, the taedium vitae may not be impossibly hard to achieve, but imagine a conversation with three or four unknown persons. Or the entire audience, that a politician must address, without offending anyone. The intellectual dilution is staggering. With luck, however, he may find an audience of his fellows, who arrive pre-diluted.

On the other hand, people are harder and harder to shock by acting in a depraved manner, which was one of the traditional ways of shocking people. Hence a new sub-class is emerging, of people who are openly depraved, but also, total bores.

I observe that the truth is often shocking, or perhaps always shocking if one is living a lie. Like humour, it has long been considered in poor taste. Today, the telling of either — the truth, or a good joke — may involve legal or quasi-legal penalties. Loss of livelihood, perhaps; but if the joke’s good enough, gaol time.

The Devil hisself is, incidentally, a total bore, as people used to know, in the Middle Ages. Often they would go out of their way to mock him on this account. They were not so compassionate in those days.

Today, in sympathy with the Devil, let me give him an excuse: he has no choice. He cannot possibly achieve anything with men if he offends them. He is not without discipline; it takes an extraordinary amount of work to get the Devil to hiss at you.

But it can be done, with sufficient application. The truth pains him, and if you step it up, you can get him shrieking.

Unfortunately, this has the effect of summoning all his friends.