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Cowardice and Obscenity

October 6, 2007

I found this post by Jonny Opinion just as fascinating as everything else about this peculiar, unpredictable and entirely sensible man. Jonny happily reveals the contents of his mobile phone’s text message inbox, before deleting the contents to make way for a new batch of telegraphically concise messages from his friends and associates. As Jonny writes — think of the millions of messages that get deleted, without recognition or public notification. As long as you’re at least slightly like Jonny (and to be frank, not many people are) then this archiving impulse is really a necessary heritage project. Which, coming from someone who hates the word “heritage”, about someone who hates the word “project”, is certainly saying something. As are the listed messages, if you widen your definition of “saying”.

But here’s my confession: I tried to play along. I fully intended to follow suit and post all of the text messages in my phone, but once I reread my telegraphic history, I had to stop myself. Amongst the 139 messages in the inbox, there are only a handful that I could possibly post — not according to other people’s laws, but according to my own. And offering an edited list would destroy the purpose of the exercise. Yes, this is a failure of frankness, and an act of cowardice, but let me explain why.

Firstly I think it’s because my only mobile phone is an British pay-as-you-go phone on a U.K. network, so it only gets used during the few weeks in the year that I visit England. Something about the rarity of the occasion seems to bring out an emotional obscenity of such preciousness that it’s best to keep it obscene — that is, out of sight. This is the truest form of obscenity, far beyond plain filth (which I would happily publicise, were it in my phone) — the obscenity of tenderness between friends, that relies entirely on privacy and even coyness for its continued existence.

Aside from keeping my own private myths in tact, I think it’s fair to say that my mobile correspondents are less cryptic than Jonny’s — unless they’re being really obscene. This means that, in my case (though not in the case of Jonny, who is spotless) to post their words might be a bit unfair to the writers, and would be a definite crossing of the line between honourable frankness and emotional insensitivity. And of course, the texts that I do receive that could easily be shared are the ones that end up being deleted. There’s something about using my silly little plastic mobile (which actually has no telephonic use for most of the year) as a container of an unpublished history that appeals to me.

So once again, I have to apologise for not being Jonny. You win some, you lose some.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2007 8:09 am

    You’re my official biographer.

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