Hate and Shame.Posted: January 1, 2009
The other day on a CTA train I saw an ad for a kickboxing school that used the above image. And it started me thinking.
You don’t kick someone like that, or put on a pair of boxing gloves, unless you want to cause pain.
Now, I’m sure the people who sign up for a class like this would tell you that they are learning these skills for self-defense, and I’m sure that’s how the school positions it, too. In the case of women, one imagines they tell themselves they are learning these skills to fend off a potential rapist, or an abusive husband. In the case of men, they probably tell themselves they are preparing for a possible encounter with a drunken bully in a bar.
But is that really it? Or is it just a kick to entertain the fantasy of hurting someone?
I think it might be that. Every time I walk past the window of my neighborhood gym, and see the boxing/kickboxing classes that go on in there, it looks like people are having fun!
They may tell you they’re preparing to defend themselves in a dark alley. But I think their minds are really in a dark alley of the soul. They’re thinking about what they’d like to do to their jerk of a boss. Or to a sexual rival. Or to everyone younger than they are, still with their lives ahead of them. Or to everyone older than they are, privileged to have made their careers when the economy was fat. Or to everyone better-looking than they are. Or to the person who’s still working when they’ve been “early-retired.” Or to the person who’s comfortably retired when they still have to work. Or to the happily married person when they’re single. Or to the person with a brood of children when they’re childless. Or to the person with more fame, honor and accomplishments to their credit. Or — I could keep typing and never come close to the end of the list. We spend an inordinate number of hours in every day thinking of one person after another we’d like to kick the living crap out of!
As my friend Jim Dyer put it when I shared some of my thoughts on this with him, “People who say they take martial arts to learn self-defense are like people who say they read Playboy for the articles.”
So let’s just own up to it, people. As human beings, we hate or fear, or hate and fear, every other human being on the planet! We don’t like to think that we do, but we do. Feeling afraid of that feeling, or feeling ashamed of it, probly does us more damage than the feeling itself.
Hatred of others has probably been in us since caveman days. Before we learned to form societies for our mutual benefit, we had, for our survival, to view every other person as an enemy, as a rival for food, shelter and sexual congress.
We then learned the value of love and cooperation. As Barbra Streisand tells us, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” And it’s true. Love is as real a human emotion as hate. And it’s much more useful to our survival. The principal of reciprocity means that if you go around hurting people, people are going to hurt you back. No one wants that. And civilization is built on our awareness of that consequence.
This is why the Ten Commandments exist. This is why in the century before Christ, Rabbi Hillel, in his wisdom, summarized the Torah by saying, “That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary.”
But just because love is more functional than hate doesn’t mean that hate has been magically bred out of us. We should act on love. But we shouldn’t deny that we hate. No good can come of that.
(Judaism, in its wisdom, says comparatively little about the emotions we’re supposed to feel. Most of what it has to say, it has to say about the way we should act — which is a whole different thing.)
Love isn’t just a useful emotion. It is a primal one. Otherwise, why would we want good things for the people we like and love? There is no selfish utility in that. Why would we continue to love our parents and our siblings long after we’ve left home? We must feel it because we really have love in us. And why does it feel good to help others in need? Again, only because we really do have the milk of human kindness in our veins.
But we also have bile in our bellies.
Since both hate and love are in us, it makes no more sense to be ashamed of hate than it would to be ashamed of love. All shame does is make you feel disconnected, alienated and alone. How’s that for irony? The earth is filled with people who feel the same emotions, yet feel they’re the only ones who feel them. So instead, let’s accept the hate in us. Let’s, if possible, love the hate in us — just as much as we love the love. After all, if it’s in there, and we hate it, then we’re hating ourselves. But maybe — and here’s a paradox for you — even our self-hate is something we can learn to love.
Happy New Year, everyone. And peace. Not because war, violence, and wanting to kick the crap out of someone on an hourly basis are foreign to our nature. But just because it’s no way to act.