Probably, everyone is familiar with the term- "trash talk". As I recall, it first entered the common vernacular through the actions of professional athletics. Trash talk involves speaking out contemptuously of opponents, apparently attempting to project a macho image and/or to gain a psychological advantage. At any rate, the practice of "trash talking" became a new art form. Of course, it was not confined to the athletic field for long. Soon "trash talk" showed up in many different arenas, basically anywhere where people competed.
For many, trash talk was always a reminder of what often happened on the school playground. In other words, it was not just uncivil; it was a mark of immaturity.
Our youth, especially our adolescence, is the time when we all struggle to achieve an appropriate level of emotional maturity and discernment. We hopefully grow past the tendency to make snap judgments, exercise knee jerk reactions, and think and evaluate uncritically. In retrospect, people often note about their adolescence that there was a great tendency to feel a lot smarter than we were. That inflated feeling of wisdom, coupled most often with a profound but unadmitted state of insecurity, invariably led to ill chosen words aimed randomly at parents, teachers, friends, siblings, etc. The outside world was often seen as the enemy, an alien force which was due a tongue lashing, at the very least.
In our society, perhaps because of its prevalence, adult "trash talking" has become a mark of distinction and celebrity in the minds of many. Countless television shows, media presentations, and even religious services are characterized by mean spirited judgments and uncivil language. From "reality television" to routine politics, the practice of trash talk is endemic to our entire society. In fact, those who "trash talk" the most stridently are often honored as pillars of wisdom and great servants of the common good.
Whatever prompted our intemperate language in adolescence probably motivates the adult "trash talk" we witness so often- emotional insecurity, the anxiety born of uncertainty, uncritical thinking, and a compulsion to conform to peer norms. If adults, who claim the mantle of leadership, insist on "trash talking", then we might as well turn leadership over to the kids.
One final observation about "trash talk" is vital. All who pay any attention must be aware that the institutional church in our society is the ultimate "trash talker". Judgmental putdowns and openly expressed contempt for other is the mainstay of Orthodox theology and much church rhetoric. If we ever want to transition from "trash talk" to mature, reasoned dialogue, we have to let go of the prevailing religious mindset. It continues to poison us collectively with an arrogance and self righteousness which dooms our society to perpetual immaturity.