Hate, the book: 083

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Three
Chapter Sixteen
Catch the Conscience   (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

Oscar watches over Sierra and Tango, who appear to be playing nicely together.  Tango is standing unsteadily, with his back to Sierra.

Then, unexpectedly, Sierra reaches out and pushes Tango just hard enough to cause him to totter.

Oscar quickly catches Tango as he’s about to fall, and at the same time pulls Sierra’s hand away from her little brother.  Then he separates the children and surveys the damage.
Oscar’s face reflects a combination of emotions and reactions: relief, perplexion, dismay, disappointment, concern, and perhaps amusement.  Parents of youngsters know exactly how he feels.

Curtain. The End.

Then there’s applause, and perhaps a curtain call. Our actors have done a fine job.  They have given us a scene that is culturally universal, something almost everyone can identify with.

Siblings have been pushing each other for millions of years.  Their gender, the setting, their backgrounds and peculiarities are all irrelevant for our purposes.  We have witnessed the first and most basic play about hate.

It’s time now to head for a coffee shop where we can discuss what we’ve seen in great detail.  In addition, we should also consider how all the elements of our play help us use our new definition of hate most effectively.

Let’s go!

Post Play Analysis

Our play can be acted out in seconds, yet there was enough going on to keep us talking for hours.  It’s not my intention to do that, as this is intended to be a relaxed coffee shop discussion.

We want to explore what’s going on in just enough detail so that we can appreciate the complexity of our issues against the backdrop of an exceptionally simple event.  Don’t worry about not having a full-blown discussion right now; we’ll do that later.

First, let’s consider the headline of a news story describing this play.  “Sister pushes Brother!”  It’s not the kind of headline that’s going to sell subscriptions.  It’s not even the kind of attention-getter that’s going to entice you to read the article.

As in so many other instances where hate is present, we are numb to it because we see it everywhere.  Most of us are so desensitized to everyday hate that it’s little more than background noise, much like living next to a highway or airport.

So we tend to filter out everyday hate like the tiny scene in our play.  What of the participants in this play?  We needed at least three.  Why not two?  Or even one?

We’ll discuss that issue in a minute.  But for now, let’s examine the actors in terms of the forces involved.

To begin with, we need a source of hate.  That source has to involve someone desiring to inflict harm.  In our play, the source is Sierra.  The source needs someone, always a someone, to direct their hate towards.

In other words a target.  Tango is the target of Sierra’s hate.

There is an old philosopher’s riddle that asks this question: If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 082

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Three
Chapter Sixteen
Catch the Conscience   (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

In terms of science, it’s possible to have a high quality story versus a poor quality story, but for our purposes, we only need a simple story to begin.  We will use this story to practice applying our definition, and for that, a simple story involving hate is more than sufficient.  It’s exactly like practicing using our new pocket knife to carve a soft block of pine.

As simple stories go, we can aspire to give ours qualities that make it as universal, accessible, and illustrative as possible.  It must draw from the very core of human experience so that anyone can judge the merits of our definition with confidence no matter what their background.

We want our story to involve a common situation, one you may have encountered many times.  Yet we don’t want this situation to be overly emotional or threatening, either.  Using a story that quickens the breath or wets your palms will not hasten logical understanding.  In fact, such a story will probably complicate our efforts.

Believe it or not, it’s possible to construct a hate story that can even bring a smile.

Finally, our story must be a good illustration of hate in action.  It must also shed light on other important aspects and complications that arise from hate in our world, and how these aspects and complications affect us.  We must demand all of the above in our hate plays.

For our first hate play, I hope you’ll agree that all these points are met.  So without much ado, let’s raise the curtain.

Hate Play One

Our scene opens with three people.  The first is an adult, a man in his prime.  We will call him Oscar.

His looks, his dress, and his preoccupations of the moment are unimportant.  We will reject them from our story as they may bias you against him.  One preoccupation we must account for is his watchful eye upon the other two characters.

The second is his daughter, Sierra.  She is a prepubescent child, playing with a few toys.
She’s also playing with the third character in our play, her little brother.  His name is Tango.  He’s a toddler, and as such lacks confidence when standing.

So here we have Oscar keeping a watchful eye on his two children.

We will not discuss the setting, and we will not discuss the background of our three characters.  Why?  Because such details do nothing to aid us in understanding hate.  Like our rejection of the elements of emotion or danger, adding them obfuscates bare bone facts we need to fully aid our understanding.

Would it help us to better understand hate if we knew the father were handsome and the daughter gruesome?  Or if Tango were crippled, or Oscar abusive?  Does it matter if this play takes place in a cave a hundred thousand years ago?  Or perhaps in a modern airport gate area, surrounded by hundreds of strangers?

No, only the most fundamental elements matter, and it is those we must focus on.  Now, back to our story.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 081

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Three
Chapter Sixteen
Catch the Conscience

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

I’ll have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.
Shakespeare, as Hamlet, in “Hamlet” Act 2, scene 2, 603–605

 

Now that we’ve armed ourselves with our first rough and ready definition in the last chapter, how shall we test it?

First, let’s re-examine this new tool again, before using it in a real situation.  We are defining hate as someone’s mental state that desires harm upon another.  It’s simple enough, and the key elements here are “mental state” and “desires harm.”

It’s like we’re examining components of a pocket knife: a fine blade, the blade’s point, and the precise hinge.  Just as the pocket knife is a tool that can be appreciated for its own sake, it can also be appreciated functionally; I appreciate the pocket knife for what it does.  Its function is to remove bits of stuff, such as wood, paper, or even rope; anything softer than steel.

What then is the functionality of our new definition?  Its function is to help us better understand hate in our world, hate in our minds.  So should we run right out and use this new tool to understand the hate permeating the Middle East?

Absolutely not.

Why?  For the exact same reasons you don’t take your brand new pocket knife out into the forest and start carving a tree.  It’s not practical.

In order to fully understand our new pocket knife, we have to learn how to use it.  We must learn how to hold it, how to use it safely, and how to take care of it.  We must learn these things even before we start cutting with it.

When we finally feel comfortable enough to start cutting, do we then run out and find a tree to carve?

No again.  We start small, and start soft.  A slender branch, a block of pine, even a bar of soap is the best way learn about our knife.  Master the carving of these materials first, and then we move onto the tougher projects.

Our definition of hate is a tool.  Like our pocket knife, we must learn to use it on safe, soft materials before attempting to carve understanding from much harder world problems.  Unlike our pocket knife, we have no equivalent to a soft block of pine block to practice on.

Or do we?  As Shakespeare noted in Hamlet, we can use the play as a tool to encourage understanding.  We can use imaginary scenes taken from real life in which hate exists, and then dissect those scenes at our leisure.

Academics may consider these plays less than rigorous tests of hate because they feel “reality” is somehow superior to a story.

However, consider this.  No matter how “real” any situation we analyze appears, as soon as I’ve depicted it in writing it loses all semblance of reality; it becomes a story.  Giving the actors real names, setting the events in a real place, and even corroborating events and facts with multiple witnesses provides no insights into our mission of understanding hate.  It doesn’t help us in the slightest.  Nor can providing such details improve the quality of information we seek.  For as soon as information is recorded on any page, it becomes a story.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 080

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Three
Chapter Fifteen
Meeting the Definition   (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

Keep in mind that our single purpose in this work to define and understand hate is to focus on people, and only people. So far we have agreed that true hate, not pseudo “hate” that refers to an extreme dislike of something like broccoli, leads to the hurting or killing of people.

Therefore, with all due deference to broccoli haters, you can’t hate it in a true sense. You have no way to do it “harm,” the way it’s possible for, say, a supremacist to harm someone who looks different from themselves.

Sure, you can prefer any other vegetable with dinner, and you are welcome to dislike the vegetable, but using the word hate in this context is not appropriate here.  Thus, the LMWD is wrong about hate.

What about the dictionary’s definition of enmity and the attempt to use that definition to prove enmity is synonymous with hate?

The problem here is we are unable to use the dictionary’s definition of enmity, which is: an expression of a position or actions that are antagonistic toward someone or something.

Using this definition has us going around in circles again, as antagonism is defined as causing someone to be hostile or unfriendly.

Consider someone who dislikes broccoli so much that he pickets a store that sells it with a “Don’t Buy Broccoli!” sign.

This picketing may anger owners of the store, but eliciting anger wasn’t the goal.  Any anger that resulted from the picketing was a side effect.  The picketer just doesn’t want people buy broccoli.

So the above logic shows that extreme enmity doesn’t always equate to hate.  Therefore it’s wrong to equate the two.

Definition

Given all this, then, and without any further beating around the proverbial bush, what is a good working and learning definition of hate?

Hate is a mental state in an individual desiring to hurt or damage another individual or a group of individuals.

That’s all there is to it.  Hate.  A mental state.  Intent to harm.

As simple as this may seem look, there are quite a few implications as to how this new definition changes the way we look at the world.  Therefore, the next step will be to reassemble this definition one element at a time, and examine how it all works in much greater detail.  And the easiest way for us to do this is through one of the most powerful learning tools our species has ever developed: the story.

Please allow me to introduce you to our first play about hate.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 079

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Three
Chapter Fifteen
Meeting the Definition

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

“ ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, as Lewis Carroll  “Through the Looking Glass” 1871, 1946 edition, pg 94

 

We finished our last chapter with a bold statement: the dictionary’s definition of hate is wrong.  To its credit, the Langenscheidt’s Merriam-Webster English Dictionary (LMWD) is a fantastic tool for communication within our language. It helps keep English speakers on roughly the same page when communicating.

But it’s not designed to be a tool for learning, scientific or otherwise.  It is a reporting tool that gives us a snapshot of how our language is used amongst ourselves.  On that basis, the LMWD can’t be wrong or right.

It’s especially wrong for our purposes, however, because its definition of hate doesn’t work in reality.

Let’s examine this more closely. First, the LMWD says that hate is either a feeling of extreme enmity, or a strong aversion to something.

In order to prove this statement is wrong in the extreme, all I need to do is show that it doesn’t work all the time.  In other words, if I can find one instance where either part of this definition fails, that’s enough to make it inadequate for the purposes of rigorous learning.

Second, the definitions of enmity and aversion conflict with the notion that they equate to hate.  We’ll leave aversion off the table for now because we’ll deal with it later in a different way.

So let’s consider the LMWD assertion that states enmity is a feeling of hate. Right away we have a problem, because if all I say is that hate equals enmity, and enmity equals hate, I’ve gotten nowhere. It’s as if I wanted to go for a walk, stepped outside, and started strolling around in circles. It may look like an excursion, but after a few turns I’d eventually realize the scenery never changed and I was getting nowhere.
It’s the same with the LMWD saying that hate is the same as enmity. Yes, we tend to consider the two synonymous in the course of everyday conversation. But if we hope to understand hate as more than a concept, and do something to mitigate its effects on mankind, we must demand a better definition.

To be continued …