The anthropologist Mircea Eliade suggested that being vulgar has a more important role in our culture than people think. While for many, the term “vulgar” is related to swearing, blasphemy or other bad language, in philosophy the term is less pejorative. In many ways it is just another way of saying “common”, mainstream, popular, or in-demand.
As social beings, humans have the ability to be many things at once and take on different roles as the situation demands. This vulgar adaptability is a hallmark of our species. In some situations, we have developed politics and diplomacy and in others it pays to be more direct, vulgar and widely understood.
The Importance of Being Well-Received
For many in our society, it is important to be widely understood. Everyday people work in many situations where they interact with others on a daily basis. It is important to be well-received in the sense that one has an appearance and image to maintain. This could be related to clothing or other external factors. In this sense then, vulgar is simply whatever works and whatever is acceptable by mainstream society. The image you choose for yourself is influenced by the culture you are living in.
At the same time, for many it is important to be widely understood by as many people as possible. Therefore, we tend to moderate the way we speak, the way we present ourselves and even the tone and vocabulary that we use depending on who we are interacting with.
One can almost say then, that a fundamental human quality is to be vulgar – or to find the common denominator between different people – so that everyone is understood.
At Odds With Being Vulgar
Popular culture and popular science are also a way for people to satisfy certain social needs. Human beings crave vulgar entertainment and intellectual stimulation – all at the same time. We follow the lives of celebrities with vigour and at the same time we read the best-sellers and watch the latest art films.
What is vulgar or common for one person, may be too vulgar for others! We must always be careful to show respect to others and understand what culture they come from so that everyone is well-received and widely understood.