Things I thought

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Policing Fanguage

A new and insidious practice has been gripping the public sphere lately: telling decent, well-meaning lefty writers like me not to leave boxes full of poisonous snakes lying around unmarked. The modish, cliquey trend for writing patronising warnings on containers of deliberately mislaid, highly deadly exotic reptiles probably grew out of the burgeoning third wave not-getting-bitten-by-snakes movement. While I certainly respect everyone's right to not get bitten by snakes, I am not personally going to facilitate this in any way, however easy it would be. Having been eaten by snakes myself, I personally feel the best way to combat the fear of snakes (and build up a good degree of resistance to their venom) is to fill your house and every public space with snakes. I admit that this approach is not for everyone, but I've decided to make everyone else do it my way anyway. The most damaging part of snake labelling, for me, is how it shuts down free speech by making me write two words when I sort of can't be bothered. Those three or four seconds I spend writing WARNING: SNAKES on a box before flimsily duct taping it shut leaving it under the pews of a local church or in the middle of a supermarket aisle are seconds I could have spent not writing anything at all. At the end of the day, isn't that what free speech is all about? Not saying things? At the end of the day, if you're one of the 99.8% of the population that's highly allergic to cobra venom or who can't fight their way out of a python's oesophagus, perhaps going outside isn't for you? You have to expect that, in the public arena, you're going to encounter one or two or several dozen dangerous snakes and it's not fair on the rest of us to expect us to warn you. At the very least, if you do die, don't complain about it. It shuts down debate. I mean, it doesn't shut it down in such a way that I say or do things differently, or start properly labelling reptiles, but it shuts it down in that I feel kind of bad that I keep endangering strangers' lives by leaving snakes lying around. Which, when you get down to it, is what's really important. FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT SNAKES AND WHY I KEEP THROWING THEM AT YOU CANNOT BE FOUND HERE: