Gardez l’eau

One strives for a Christian view of words that start with V, such as Vampirism; or, Violence; or, Vulgarity. And Visions, too, for sometimes folk have bad ones. To say nothing of, Valls, or rather, Walls, for I think that takes a double V. Or, Misogyny, in which we have two Vs, but both are in-Verted.

To my Catholic mind, each of these things is good for something or someone or in some situation: I don’t want to go all negative, here.

Vampirism, for instance, has worked out well for mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs and the like; for leeches and many other small haematophagous creatures — such as the tiny blood-sucking finches of the Galapagos, the rasping lamprey eels of the Great Lakes, the torpedo snails of the eastern Pacific. And of course, “in your dreams,” the discreet Desmodontinae, or vampire bats.

Omnivores like us tend to sneer at such over-specialized diners, but note that, unlike us, they hardly kill anything. They mean only to tax, the way the government does, while spreading their physical (or moral) infections here and there. Surely every liberal or progressive must identify, in his heart, with the vampirists in nature.

And it is after all a question of degree. The larger creatures can easily bear the loss of blood, and by taxation, it is only the smaller businesses that are killed, like the smaller fishes by the lampreys in Lake Ontario. The bigger fish have, as it were, skilled accountants. People think the lampreys should take more blood from the bigger fish, so they can die, too. (This is the first principle of socialism.) But again, the lampreys make their own decisions.

Misogyny gives us another example. Among the ways I once found, to get myself out of further media appearances, was to say, of this apparent vice, “I think there are societies in which there is far too much misogyny. A number of Muslim societies come to mind. But we might have societies, such as in the West today, in which there is too little.”

I’d thought it an innocent remark, equivalent to saying, “I’m not against taxes, but I think some are too high.”

I would have said the same about the reverse misandry, of course; and rather grandly and generally for my own democratic misanthropy, of which I think there is too little everywhere. I think all races, classes, ages, “genders,” and what have you, could benefit from ridicule. It depends where one begins, I suppose, whether something will sound politically correct, or just the opposite; though one has said exactly the same thing. I think this is the same for all the V words, single or doubled, and upright or inverted.

For Violence and Visions and, better, Visionary Violence, I could perhaps make an argument, but limited to extreme cases. One is a “force multiplier” on the other. That is to say, if one scores 7 in 10 on an argument for violence, and another 7 in 10 for the quality of the vision, by addition we get 14 out of 20, which is 70 percent. But if we multiply one by the other we get only 49 percent. That tells me 7 out of 10 on both the What and the Why isn’t quite good enough for a “regime change.” Though close.

These “force multipliers” of mine are like that: they tend to sink a cause. Note that a 10 for “let’s have some violence,” but only a 1 for the, “and here’s why,” yields a 10 percent “go for it,” not a 55 as in the usual calculation. At least, in my policy universe.

But let us now consider Vulgarity, in politics and public life. (It is harder to be vulgar in private; one needs an audience.) I wrote about this over the weekend, but decided no one should read it. Hence the empty space, where there might have been an exceptionally long and pointless essay on Saturday, weighed down by too many examples. Moreover, my fine philosophical distinctions between the vulgar, the coarse, the crass, the rude, the crude, the impudent, the indecent, and the merely “common” — all examples taken from Donald J. Trump — struck me as sophistical, in review.

I tend to think Vulgarity — examples of which gentle reader might supply — is something like Misogyny. That is to say, something that should be used sparingly; but none would be too little. It follows, I should think, that when one complains about too much vulgarity, one isn’t necessarily condemning vulgarity tout court. There are moments when it might be “appropriate,” as we say today, when we try to avoid terms such as “good” and “evil.” For one must reply to an argument using the same vocabulary.

That, anyway, was the conclusion of this meandering, invisible essay, which I present today, reassembled as a Pure Thought. It was to defend vulgarity, but only with the superaddition of wit; to prefer a kind of “directness” (not a V word, I admit) in which the realities of flesh and blood are frankly evoked or implied, but daintily treated in flushing conceits — not dumped into the street down the vvalls from a high bedchamber. And without the prim, traditional warning, “Gardez l’eau!”

Thus I will not condemn a man for being sometimes vulgar. Rather, my objection is, when he lacks or loses the capacity to be anything else.