Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Psychology Of Swearing

"It says more about you" is almost a cliche, but it remains true.

In those moments of weakness we reveal our innermost insecurities that refer to and reflect our character traits.

So it was with interest that I watched top local dog Sir John Madejski expose himself in these subtle ways on TV last night.

As an illegitimate child born during the war and adopted by his true mother and stepfather (from who he took his surname), he has obviously struggled with identity and commitment issues.

This has partly manifested itself in the desire for acceptance and recognition which has resulted in leaving his imprint (Madejski Stadium, Academy, the plaza at the V&A, the fine art rooms at the Royal Academy etc) and possibly added to his attraction to celebrity.

Although he is an a approachable man often to be seen on the streets of town and is well-grounded in many ways (I've said hello to him a couple of times, and even met him in a social situation), it struck me when he for once let down his guard and got angry as his car stalled - he called it a 'bastard'.

The depreciatory term is uttered because it is a response to personal emotional triggers and therefore reflects back on the subject's own psychological insecurities. From this we can do more than guess about the possible personal experience and make-up of people who use various terms of offence (such as 'mother-fucker', 'wanker', 'shit' or 'cunt') to diminish the object of their ire.

The documentary wasn't the most artful I've seen, but it nevertheless did target its subject magnificently, gently teasing him open by undermining the cynicism which enables people to hold others at a distance - there was a telling sequence when the noble Lord expressed his regret for the surpressed emotional life during the period he grew up in and the conservatism this engendered. So it's almost perverse that he is a major donor to the local Conservative Party - unless, that is, he is subconsiously trying to subvert the well-spring of his own unhappiness.

The main theme was one of loneliness, illustrated by his emminent batchelorhood and his admiration for untouchable icons of feminitity. There were his bronze sculptures - one a bronzed 'sunbather' by Jeff Koons; the famous 'petit danseuse' (prostitute ballerina) by Degas, and of course his friendship with entertainer Cilla Black.

Intriguing though all this was, a narrative about emptiness is rather undramatic and untimately unfulfilling, so if his success is a signal of the culture of this age, then his narcissistic traits need to be traced back to the sense of betrayal which is wrapped in his origins - which may in the end have some correspondence with the problems of our alienated and introspective technology-obsessed society of today (he blogs, with no apparent trace of irony!).

Of course we can't revert or regress backwards, but it helps explain why society has developed in the direction it has and perhaps gives an indication of some of the issues which need to be resolved whilst we also try to avoid the pitfalls of current political choices.


David Cameron recently provided an example of a politician dropping the facade and descending into indiscipline when he gave a 'jokey, blokey interview' and was forced to apologise after he uttered the phrase "too many twits make a twat" and said that "the public are... pissed-off".

Maybe so, but he also recognised his mistake in exposing his own pschological weaknesses in this way when he explained: "Politicians do have to think about what they say."

There is an obvious link between Cameron's obsession with appearances and the workings of visible genitalia, his background in Public Relations and his lack of substantial policy proposals, but by giving us a flash of it he also managed to express his insecurity about his ability to preserve those appearances.

He probably will become Prime Minister when the time comes, but as Political Betting suggests, the size of his majority will inevitably create the conditions for his own destabilisation.

If he gains a landslide victory there will be a sizeable backbench constituency he will have to be careful not to alienate, yet the smaller it is the more he will have to placate it. And as the recent hoo-hah surrounding Dan Hannan's ideological attack on the NHS showed the jockeying for position has already created a tension between the grassroots and the leadership which could easily spill over into a major rift. Clearly he is walking a tightrope.

So, yes, openness and honesty is noble and liberating, but it won't help you if that's not what you're trying to achieve. Therefore Cameron will have to be more disciplined in future performances if his grip on fate is not to unravel.

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