The week of the recess has been dominated by media accounts of alleged “inappropriate behaviour”: a peer with female political hopefuls, a Cardinal with priests, the jury and its questions to the judge, the BBC and the fallout from Savile, the Libor traders, the Australian swimming team, the ward matron and his colleagues, and the football antiracist campaigner who had to resign his trusteeship because of the language he used. No two of the alleged actions were the same. So “inappropriate behaviour” has become a handy phrase to cover a multitude of sins, obfuscating the real issues and permitting us to avoid thinking about what is really going on.
The dictionary definition of “inappropriate” is not suitable or proper. In other words, what is inappropriate may be appropriate in the right time or place. Inappropriate is, for example, eating a bag of popcorn in a business meeting; wearing a swimsuit to a funeral; using a mobile phone at a concert. All actions that might be OK in different circumstances. But almost all of the actions allegedly complained of as “inappropriate” during the recess, as outlined above, would not be appropriate in any circumstances. As far as I can tell or guess from the accounts, they were, to give them their proper names, groping, sexual assault, financial fraud, discriminatory or sexist language, avoidance of responsibility.
It is to be regretted that our vocabulary is so poor that we are not analysing exactly what is going on in each situation and how it should be ameliorated, prevented or punished. “Inappropriate” behaviour is joining the crowd of words that have become detached from their real meaning and are used to avoid saying what we actually mean – “challenging” and “vulnerable” are two more such. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further.