I was listening to a song broadcast on the radio today and it worried me. The song is by “Eminem”, the line is about the singer’s mother and the fact that he just found out that she does more drugs than he does. The word ‘drugs’ was bleeped from the line. I’m wondering if anyone out there has read George Orwell’s book ‘1984’.

There can be no doubt that taking drugs is bad for you. Duh. Western society allows us access to some of these drugs (alcohol and cigarettes) with certain light controls imposed. Other drugs are illegal and that is right because it’s what society wants as a whole. Society wants this because widespread drug addiction could possibly cause anarchy. Society wants to protect itself. All fair so far.

Society is still worried about children and the possibility of them, during their rebellious faze, somehow becoming addicted to an illegal drug and committing crimes in order to fund the addiction. Prostitution being, for most parents, the scariest (especially with the threat of HIV). I empathize.

Society is worried about pop music influencing their children into seeing drugs as cool (which, on them, they are) and trying them out. A valid worry.

Society screws up a perfectly good song by bleeping the word ‘drugs’ (which is obviously the word, once you look at the context). Wrong. Didn’t we miss a step here? How is bleeping the word going to prevent the downfall of society?

It get’s worse. In the same song the word violence is changed in the line: “Do you like violence?” The following line is: “Do you want to see me stick nine inch nails through each one of my eyelids?” This line contains no change. Where is the logic or consistency?

If someone points a gun at you ignoring it won’t protect you. Neither will pretending that they aren’t there. You give up or you fight. The way to fight drugs and violence is not through bleeping words in music, it’s too non-specific. I’m not an anarchist, but I do believe in freedom of speech. Freedom of speech comes with some responsibilities.

Other words I have heard recently bleeped include: “shit”, “gun”, “gat”, “whore”. Words not bleeped include: “sinner”, “killer.” Looking at the words I conclude that I can eat but not defecate. I can commit sins, as long as I am not a female who likes to sleep around (defn. of “whore” is a loose woman, not necessarily a prostitute.) I live in a country where I can buy a gun and kill someone with it but I mustn’t tell anyone that I have the gun, even using euphemisms.

Many of these words come from one song by a band called ‘Everclear’, a very intelligent, thoughtful and socially aware song that promotes a lot of the values that society upholds and covers issues that society needs to debate. It discourages violence and a naïve approach to sexual relationships and promotes understanding when people make mistakes. And it is censored.

All this is a reaction to “gangsta rap” which was around in the early 90’s. There was a song called cop-killer that apparently (I never heard the song) actually promoted the killing of cops as a good thing. If it did perhaps the whole song should have been pulled just on the grounds of good taste. Music, though, does not make people do bad things. If I listened to a song called “cop-killer” I do not think that I, somehow, would feel compelled to act on it. I would have to be one of the aforesaid clinical loons. The same goes for those murdering kids in the U.S.A. who listened to Marilyn Manson. Loons. The correct reaction from us is: how did they become loons and could society have stopped it happening?

Words free the mind from constraints. Words allow us to express ourselves and communicate new ideas. We who speak English are lucky in having the most flexible language in the world. If a word comes into common usage it get’s placed in a dictionary with a definition which, believe it or not, does not happen as readily with other languages. In George Orwell’s 1984 words are gradually removed from the dictionaries and people are not allowed to use them in every-day speech. The fewer words you have the less able you are to describe concepts, feelings, attitudes- the less able you are to understand.

There is no doubt that words, when strung together by a person, can be dangerous. But they are only as dangerous as the person who is using them and the message they wish to convey. Cars, knives, hammers and those old 10-kilo cellphones are also dangerous in the wrong hands and can be used to hurt people. So we teach the young how to handle them because, without them, we cannot progress. We cannot continue to progress without all our words, including the unsavoury ones. The key is education and understanding.

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