The earliest trace of the phrase “I don’t give a fuck” I can find dates back to 1790, in a poem by the honorable Virginia judge George Tucker describing a quarrel between a father and his son who apparently was struck with a bad case of the academics:
“‘God fuck your books!’ the testy father said, / ‘I’d not give fuck for all you’ve read.’”
A phrase ahead of its time, it took a couple hundred years for human civilization to reach peak ungiven fuck. The now: the golden age of the fuck not given; the not giving of the fuck, the opposite of a gifting economy, lack-of-fuck given freely in response to the fuck-present, a yin to a yang.
Is it a koan? We know the sound of one hand fucking, but what is the sound of one fuck fucking?
What happens to a fuck deferred? Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?
Is the lack of fuck the Trojan (horse) in which fuck is disguised? It is often said “Human compassion is limitless.” It is more often said “I have no more fucks to give.” Is a fuck not given a fuck retained, or a fuck never there? The fucks seems zero-sum, the not-fuck limitless.
A contour drawing of the body of “fuck not given” memes reveals two suggestive curves begging to be teased out. As would be presumed with a meme whose absence is so frequently defined in the vastness of its expanse as not-presence, these directly contradict or perhaps dialectically intertwine around the noumenal, original, inaccessible “fuck”.
The first is the positioning of the act of not giving the fuck as the key to the real. The omnipresent “bullshit” as it were, an insatiable beast with an eye to plunder the put-upon person’s hard earned fucks.
The other, paradoxically enough, is the portrait of the not-giver of fucks as a secular holy fool, an ecstatic in the religious sense(less) blissfully esconced in the joyous revery of private madness in public; a prisoner freed from the omnipresent cage of fucks.
The not-fuck: the horizon wherein the ironic and the sincere meet and multiply into vast Punnett squares of contradictory (dis)engagement: the sincere-ironic, the ironic-sincere, the sincere-ironic-sincere, the sarcastic-sincere, the sarcastic-ironic, and so on.
But what if the fuck is in fact not absent but simply accumulated; the fucks saved up like gold bars in the vault of the self for fear of a crash in the international fuck market? A shaky confidence in the future of fucks can spiral the entire larger economy of fucks downward. Keynesian measures may be necessary, fucks may need to be extracted from the miserly and redistributed to the global fuck-impoverished in the form of a fuck stimulus. The fucks have a tendency to accumulate at the top and much as it may seem logical little but the undesirable aftereffects ever trickle down on the rest of us in the bottom bunk.
It seems quite possible the distribution of fucks mirrors the larger distribution of capital; the conspicuous distribution of charity in the form of fucks given is largely the privileged Catholic indulgence of the rich while the beleagered find themselves lacking in fucks. The endless solicitations for the giving of fucks have strings attached; the fuck-giver can feel dirty and used, deprived of fucks, alone and depleted.
The poverty of fucks calls for their careful allocation; as Emerson asks in “Self Reliance”: “…but are they my fucks?” From this standpoint the gratuitous public giving of fucks by a Bono or a Gwyneth Paltrow feel unseemly.
As Christ taught us: “So when you give fucks to the poor, do not sound a fuck trumpet before you, as the hypocrites give their fucks in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men.”