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Cruelty, thy name is confusion.

I've been struck lately (again and again, mercilessly, meanly, and with malice aforethought as far as I can tell) with the inescapable proof that people do cruel things to each other, and that I don't know why.

Sounds almost simpleminded, I know. Humanity's inhumanity is such an entrenched building block of cultural awareness that it's almost impossible to disentangle and disengage the concept from everything else that makes up our worldview, and deconstruct and demythologize it into something we can understand.

I know the proximate causes of cruelty; war, ignorance, hysteria, fear. I also understand that it's easy to be cruel because we don't feel our cruelty on our backs, not tactilely, immediately, personally. But it doesn't add up to me. It doesn't do anything but confuse me. Is it possible to understand something completely in one way, and be completely confounded by it in another? If so, that's the way cruelty affects me.

It's not just the big things, like madnesses such as the Holocaust, or slavery, or honor-killings. It's the other big things like why soldiers go beyond the horror of killing in the line of duty to murder and torture and mutilation in the line of duty; like how parents will kill their children to prevent each other from having them; likebeing a hit man just for the money; like, oh, I don't know, every third item you see on the news. And the little big things like name calling, and stone-throwing, and insults and belittling, and lies...the more I try to delineate or comprehend cruelty, the more amorphous and completely incoherent I sound.

I'll probably come back to this entry and try to make it more clear , but for now I'm simply left repeating, why are we cruel? And more importantly, why can't we seem to stop?

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
gerisullivan
Oct. 3rd, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
I love you.

I've ofttimes felt simple-minded myself, just not fathoming war when it's clear that it's been ingrained in human behavior since, oh, there were humans, it seems. Yes, inhumanity is an entrenched building block of cultural awareness, exactly as you said.

A few years ago, I stopped discounting the DSW explanation of warfare after standing on the deck of the USS Massachusetts, looking up at all those barrels of destruction thrusting into the sky and hearing about what "the enemy" built at the time. My epiphanette that day: "It really is about who has the biggest dick."

But you asked about why we are cruel, not just why we wage war. Yeah, I just don't get it either, even though I recognize at least some of my own cruel thoughts and behaviors.
kaffyr
Oct. 5th, 2007 03:46 am (UTC)
If you've ever seen a cartoon dog tied via its cartoon leash, racing after some cartoon prey (say a chickenhawk, or a Sylvester), you know that the dog will take off like a bat out of hell, trying to catch the damned bird, or the damned cat, because it's just so mad at what the bird or the cat has done. And you know that the cartoon leash will allow that dog to get thisclose to catching its nemesis. But *only* thisclose. And you know that the dog will be racing, pell-mell, top speed, no governor on, no brakes...so when the leash pulls tight, the dog gets wrenched off its feet - so hard that it's lucky it's a cartoon character, else the whiplash would render it quadriplegic.

That's how I feel every time I hear about some mind-numbing act of cruelty. My mind goes chasing off after the "How Can Anyone Be So Cruel" bird, or the "What Makes Someone Do Something Like That" Sylvester. And the leash tightens: "you think *that's* bad? That's only one [murdered girl/abused senior/abandoned baby...

...Darfur....
...Ruanda....
...Gacy....
...Nanjing....
...Goebbels....
...Jim Jones....
...Jim Crow....
...KKK....
...NKVD..."
...and if I was going to be comprehensive, I'd fill up a page and make myself ill.

But the rage and wrench are always the same. I never learn. Just like the stupid dog.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )