It is rare enough now to hear talk about obscenity, a reflection of our avowed permissiveness, a state within which it is increasingly hard to feel confident about advocating the punishment of something for being disgusting; if anything, we try to discourage obscenity rather than denounce it. In this way, Western culture now invests the word inappropriate with more force than its opposite, and it offers people the opportunity to enjoy the delicious authority of moral commentator on the psycho-social-sexual practice of everyday life without really dealing with anything too horrendous. This abiding discourse, however, in which we appear to be performing with ethical scrupulousness, is of course a blind; the mildly impotent talk of managing the appropriateness of interaction between work colleagues at a newspaper can carry on, for example, while the publisher of the same newspaper presides over a publishing empire whose core business is pornography. In our pornocracy, almost nothing is obscene, or rather nobody dare call it by name, as the term is just too absolute. Calling something inappropriate allows us to preserve the fantasy that we exert a moral influence on culture, even as it also implies that there are contexts in which anything might be appropriate, which is a much more violent reality than what we usually want to admit.
more from Michael Hinds at Dublin Review of Books here.