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It is a deeply embedded code of restraint and essentially respect in the conduct of personal relationships that will be reflected in the language of such relationships as a matter of course.

A striking feature of the Dirty Politics revelations is the violent language that has been used.[1] More disturbing are the claims that this is the ordinary language that people use in their private conversations and therefore nothing to worry about.

A few examples:

‘You should whack these guys hard’   P45

‘The prick should be sacked immediately. We must sack the f**k. Somebody fire the c**t – Can we get the prat harpooned? And shamed and tarred’n’feathered P50

‘It would be a disaster if they all knew where he lived. He may even need police protection.’  P92

Now I am not shocked or upset by the actual words used. I am not that bothered by swearing. In my student days, working at the mill I got used to it. Some of my fellow workers used it as a kind of punctuation or to humorous effect as Brendon O’Carroll does in the TV series ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. It was just another mode of speech and had no violent connotation.

What bothers me about the Dirty Politics speech is two things. It is violent and it is unrestrained. The lack of restraint, in particular, rang alarm bells for me because it is this that is an important factor in our domestic violence problem.

I have compared countries with low and high rates of child homicide (a marker for serious domestic violence). One difference appears to be the widespread basic code that controls domestic relationships in the countries where child homicides are rare. Everyone gets angry and everyone has violent impulses but it is the code of control which may be religious or secular but is learned from the cradle and instilled into every person that stays the violent hand. The alternative to this code is anything goes that is reflected in the language of private relationships that we see in Dirty Politics.

This is not to say any of the protagonists in the book engage in domestic violence but if theirs is the common language of a section of our population, a language without measure or restraint, it would not be surprising if it was associated with like behaviour among at least some of them.

 

It is true that polite language can mask very impolite behaviour and it is not politeness that I am advocating. It is a deeply embedded code of restraint and essentially respect in the conduct of personal relationships that will be reflected in the language of such relationships as a matter of course.

 

[1] Hager, N. (2014) Dirty politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment. Nelson: Craig Potton Publishing.

Dirty politics and domestic violence

 
 
 
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