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Swearing In Public. What’s The F&#!ing Problem?

First published in Onya Magazine on June the 18th, 2010.

Overnight, I heard of the Queensland State Government’s plan to issue $100 on-the-spot fines for swearing.

What the f&#k?

My thoughts exactly.

Under new public nuisance laws, police will have the power to issue tickets for swearing in public – despite having no specific list of words to follow. The fines, it seems, will be issued on the context they are said in, and the environment they are said in.

The State Government claims such fines will free up the court system but experts, rightly, fear that police will become “ticket happy”.

And I can’t help but agree. In yesterday’s piece in the Courier Mail, University of Queensland ethicist Bill De Maria said “empowering police to bypass the courts and make their own judgment on something as “subjective as context” was concerning. Entrusting police on the beat to determine context asks unfair decisions to be made.”

Language expert Roly Sussex said the acceptability of swear words had changed significantly over 50 years.

“Having police decide on the spot what swearing is would be quite difficult,” Professor Sussex said. “In fact, a decent lawyer in most cases couldn’t let a swearing case stand up.”

I have a big problem with this new law. Which stems from a problem the entire country is suffering from – political correctness gone mad.

I’m not advocating swearing. In fact, if you’ve ever heard someone utter the f-word every four seconds when talking you’ll realise that there’s nothing more off-putting. But I simply cannot understand why the Queensland Government has decided to adopt such a law. If someone can kindly explain a reason to me other than revenue raising rubbish, I’ll gladly listen.

The suggestion that it will free up the court system is hilarious. I might be uninformed, but until I have a list of names of people convicted in court for swearing in public, I won’t be anywhere near convinced.

In a country where drug dealers and murderers are offered police protection, and are raised to a platform of sometimes fame, it seems kind of odd to me that a twenty-one year old wandering the street will be fined for cursing.

Oh, don’t be silly, that wouldn’t happen.

Ok then, when will it? With no defined list of what swear words are considered ‘fine-worthy’ and with no defined area of where swearing is ‘fine-worthy’, I ask, is it seriously expected that we leave the decision in the hands of a collection of people riddled with corruption and more power hungry than an energy plant? Will it be ok to swear at a NRL match but not at a park? At a café, but not at the soccer? Outside the supermarket, but not inside it?

Perhaps, if the Queensland Government is struggling with swearing in public, they should invest more money into education – and values. Values that mainly begin at home.

I grew up around swearing – my dad swore, my uncles, my older brother – not constantly, but they did. I spent my holidays on building sites around burly men. I went to football games and all sorts of sporting events where people are renowned for ‘going off’.

I never swore a great deal growing up – I was taught to not repeat ‘bad’ words. Some people, parents particularly, believe if their child doesn’t hear a swear word, they’ll grow up not using them. On the contrary, from the array of people I’ve met, I’ve found the worst offenders often come from the primmest of families.

Swearing is a part of language – like it or not, it is. And like all the evils parents fear in this world – alcohol, violence, predators and drugs – it’s best children are aware of them, best they are educated about them, rather than not know a single thing. Just because a child knows of the effects of a drug, it does not mean it is going to run out and use it. Likewise, just because your child hears a swear word, it does not mean it is going to use it. And if your child does, it’s your job to police it. Not the police forces.

Whenever we take power and education away from families, things, mind the language, fuck up.

I’m still no clearer on the intentions of this law. What disturbs me most, however, is that when I voted in the Courier Mail’s poll: Should You Be Fined For Swearing In Public, I was in the company of 52.71% of people agreeing that it was silly – but 47.29% of people thought it was a great idea.

I don’t believe issuing a fine for swearing will increase respect in the community. I don’t believe it will do any more than create more of a divide between the public and the police. More anger, more power, more niggling, more attitude, more, more, more.

I really wish authorities would start to focus on less – how to prevent less, things that occur less, creating ways to encourage less – instead of always wanting more.

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4 thoughts on “Swearing In Public. What’s The F&#!ing Problem?

  1. Completely agree with you there Sandi. It is unnecessary and extremely revenue-grabbing move. They’re just going to get money off drunk people on a random Saturday night in the city or from homeless people. It is ignorant on Queensland Government’s behalf.
    Since when was freedom of speech cost someone $100? Sometimes Anna Bligh doesn’t realise the effects of the baseless rules she imposes on the society.

  2. To me swearing is swearing. And I don’t disagree with it at all. Who actually has defined the “swear” word anyway? I think it’s stupid and that the government is just looking for a way to make some extra money.

  3. I’m not sure where I stand on this. Of course, the odd F word slips out on occasion, and I think that’s pretty normal. But living across a mainly empty carpark, where kids as young as 6 and as old as 14 gather and shriek out the most disgusting language – Fs and Cs etc – to each other, I wish something could be done to stop it. It’s only natural that kids be exposed to some swearing but I don’t really want them to know the worse words (or what they mean) until they are older. When I talked to the 14-year-old leading the swearing offensive, I was told I could suck his c**k, and that I probably needed a good f**k up the c***. I wish something could be done to stop kids like this from mouthing off (and they would be exempt from fine anyway).

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