I first heard George Carlin when I was a kid. He was one of the early shock comedians, engaging in juvenile, potty-mouth humor that appeals to the immature. It was popular for kids to buy or bootleg his tapes, so I occasionally heard his routines at friends' homes. Some learned to repeat Carlin's routines, so you could hear his schtick on drugs or profanity in the hallways at school.

In this AP story memorializing Carlin upon his death, a 2004 interview is cited where Carlin defended his use of harsh language.
"The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things - bad language and whatever - it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition. There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."
Carlin is certainly welcome to his opinion. But he is wrong on this count. Or at least, his view is skewed enough that it fails to account for the real reasons that society aspires to a higher standard when it comes to profanity. Not that profanity hasn't achieved greater general acceptance during my lifetime, but there is still a more pure touchstone that society at least romanticizes about.

Although some religious thought sees the body and its sexual exercises as inherently evil, it is far more common for religion to regard the body as a sacred creation of God. Sexuality is regarded as spiritual and special. It is to be reverenced.

I suspect that even Carlin recognized this in his own familial interactions. Failure to do so diminishes the ability to enjoy the types of relationships humans hold most dear and leads to all kinds of dysfunction.

Dropping the F-word and other coarse and bawdy references to human intimacy is considered blasphemous because it detracts from sacred nature of humanity's most intimate expression. The fact that some misuse this expression is no excuse for others to do so. You can call this religious superstition. But Carlin's secular I-know-better-than-all-the-stupid-religionists insistence is itself a form of superstition. It comes complete with its rites and observances.

Another reason that we regulate profane expression is that children's minds are not fully equipped and are unprepared to grapple with such concepts. I wonder if Carlin thought it was OK for his daughter to view pornographic films when she was young. I suspect that he did not, although he was into drug use. Part of the reason we regulate such junk is that society generally believes that children should be shielded until they are capable of classifying and filtering content themselves.

George Carlin was a genius. But like many geniuses, he led an unbalanced life and engaged in skewed thinking. He could be very funny. But he could also be very wrong, as he was on this subject.

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