What offends you?

What offends you? | Kathy Lette

I like a captive audience – but not in prison. Which is clearly where I’m bound. And so are you, probably. I mean, were you aware that anyone caught swearing in public in South Australia faces a maximum penalty of $1250 or three months’ incarceration? In N.S.W., swearers can be fined up to $660 or might even be required to complete up to 100 hours of community service.

How bloody hilarious is that? Wait! …Why are you brandishing those handcuffs, Officer? Isn’t ‘bloody’ an official Aussie adjective? We’ve even used it in our tourism ads. “Where the bloody hell are you?” …. Um…in jail for swearing, obviously. But in that case, Sco Mo should be locked up too as he was the head honcho who green lit that campaign.

As someone who loves wordplay, I could accept sentencing to a pun-itentiary, but any other kind of detention scares the life out of me. Suitably anxious, I looked up the Summary Offenses Act of 1988. It states: ‘a person must not use offensive language in or near, or within hearing from, a public place or a school.’ In other words, next time you get stung by a jellyfish, cop a frisbee in the forehead in the park or accidentally set fire to your eyebrows while lighting your kids’ birthday candles in a cafe, don’t even think about venting your pain with a meaty expletive or it’s an orange day-glo jumpsuit for you!

Queensland and Victoria also enforce a non-swearing stand, banning any language in public which is deemed ‘disorderly, offensive, threatening, indecent, and violent.’ So, when I’m inevitably hauled up in front of the judge in one state or another, my only question will be – what the hell has happened to Australia? I mean, we’re of convict stock. For our forefathers, NOT swearing would have been criminal. And surely, the real swear words in Australia are – ‘beer ban’, ‘over-time’ ‘cricket’s rained off’ and ‘flat surf’.

It seems that Aussies, once famous for our larrikin wit, mischievous irreverence and sardonic insouciance, are becoming as up-tight, po-faced and sanctimonious as our posh, upper-class British cousins. In England this week, an 81 year old woman was banned from wearing a bikini near the windows of own home as it may cause ocular distress to her neighbours. She’s been issued with a CPN – Community Protection Notice designed to deter people from actions that are said to have a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality.”

There’s been no talk of banning bloated, beer-bellied Grandpas’ from parading around in their budgie smugglers any where, any time. Which aptly illustrates the whole problem. Who decides what is ‘detrimental’ and what is not? I’m sure men and women have very different lists of misdemeanours. As far as women are concerned, there’s nothing more anti-social that men driving huge, throbbing SUV’S, thumping out doomf doomf music at ear-shredding decibel levels. We know you have a teeny weeny appendage, boys – there’s really no need to advertise. Ditto those blokes on motor bikes who rev engines right by your ear, then leave you drenched in exhaust fumes, gasping asthmatically. Try Viagra fellas. It’s a much less irritating way to address your insecurities – otherwise face a very stiff penalty.

And don’t leave out those blokes who shake your hand, then crush it in a bone-pulverising grasp which leaves you limp-wristed for life? And what woman wouldn’t want to smack a Community Protection Notice onto men who stack one dishwasher, then immediately expect to be canonised for sainthood.

But wouldn’t it be so much easier if we all became just a little more tolerant of each other? Trump, Bolsonaro, Brexit, Putin, the Saudi regime, etcetera macho etcetera have made the world so much more polarised, prejudiced, xenophobic, and judgemental. Life would be incredibly more pleasant if we learnt to be a little more accepting of each other’s faults and foibles.

The only thing I find offensive are people who find everything offensive. It’s so bloody small-minded of the stingy bastards. I would write more on this irritating topic, if I weren’t sprinting for the hills pursued by the boys in blue. Clearly my convict ancestors were guilty of only one thing– not running bloody fast enough. No wonder they were swearing, goddamn it!

Twitter @kathylette 
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p.s. So, tell me, what do YOU find offensive?

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