There are a few things in life I will never understand.
- The Beatles. I mean, come on. When you strip away all the hype and the aggrandizement, they really were just a boy band. A talented one, I’m sure. But a boy band nonetheless.
- Golf. Enough said.
- And cruelty. Cruelty to each other, of course, but even more so, cruelty to animals.
I will never understand why there are some people who find perverse pleasure in causing pain. I do realize this is a rather broad proclamation, and there are many complex layers to the existence of cruelty. I understand mental illness and psychosis. There are those who are sick and their illnesses manifest in acts of cruelty. There are those who have suffered severe psychological trauma, and their broken psyche’s cope through violence.
And then there are those who do it on behalf of God. At least, that’s what they say.
But I do not understand people who are cruel just to be cruel. People who unleash anger, pain, or depression through acts of cruelty, especially since there are ways to release those emotions without hurting others. Or people who find it fun, entertaining, or humorous to watch suffering. Especially suffering by those who cannot defend themselves.
I know there is a thrill in “being bad.” And all of us seek that thrill at some point in our lives. We want to experience the shivers that come from knowing we are breaking the rules, infringing on the code of conduct, etc… But there is stupid-bad and there is evil-bad.
Stupid-bad is breaking those rules or infringing on that code but in ways that don’t directly cause harm to others.
Stupid-bad is breaking into a 100-year-old high school at midnight on a boring Friday night to determine if the school is actually haunted or not.
And I’m not admitting I have ever done that…
Stupid-bad is swiping your dad’s whiskey from the liquor cabinet and drinking it with your friends when you’re underage. Stupid-bad is shoplifting that desired outfit from Macy’s. Stupid-bad is drag racing across the desert. Stupid-bad is doing something stupid, that is construed as “bad,” but as I mentioned, doesn’t intentionally cause harm. Stupid-bad can lead to harm – don’t swipe Dad’s whiskey and then go for a drag race in the desert – but it’s not intentional.
Then there is evil-bad. Cruelty. Evil-bad is bludgeoning a dog to death. Evil-bad is shoving a firecracker up a cat’s butt, lighting it, and watching the aftermath. Evil-bad is torturing. And it is evil-bad that I just don’t get.
I know that some things in life have no “point.” Some things just are, and there is no logic to them. Very similar to life not being fair. I know it is the reality of the world, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And it doesn’t mean I can’t question it, or try to find some sense to it. And then maybe… find a way to help those who are victims of it.
But the more I try to understand cruelty, and in this case, I’ll limit my thoughts to animal cruelty, I find myself frustrated by the unanswerable. Because, really. What pleasure can possibly be derived from hurting an animal? What really happens in the course of torturing an animal besides the deliberate infliction of pain? Some may argue the pleasure – the purpose – comes from watching something else feel the pain the tormentor is experiencing. But does cruelty take the tormentor’s pain away? Does it really help? Does the tormentor gain ANYTHING from what s/he is doing?
My guess is no.
On the flip side, think of all the good deeds we have done. The feelings of accomplishment, contentment, satisfaction… those feelings last far longer, and run far deeper, than any momentary sparks of pleasure from cruelty.
Consider this analogy: you’re sitting in traffic. A car is trying to pull out from a parking lot into your lane. You have two options: let the guy in, or pull forward until you’re practically in the trunk of the car in front
of you so you can block him. Which do you choose? And I consider this deeply: when you go with the jackass route, do you really feel good about it? Deep down in the marrow of your bones? Do you feel any sense of accomplishment by denying that car the chance to get in front of you?
I’m willing to bet – if we’re truly honest with ourselves – the answer to those questions is no. I know on these occasions, when I have been a douche and blocked my fellow frustrated drivers, I feel like a tool. Because there is no real pleasure that can be derived from douchebaggery.
But the key phrase in this thought is “if we’re truly honest with ourselves.” I can hear douchebags the world over proclaiming at the top of their voices that I don’t know what I’m talking about, the best things, and the funniest things, in life are those that cause humiliation, pain, and terror, and if I have to suffer, then everyone has to suffer. But they feel that way because they have the emotional introspection of a toaster. Douchebags don’t think about why they do what they do – their only focus is doing it. They don’t ask themselves if what they are doing is really making them happy, if they are deriving real pleasure from the torment they are inflicting upon others.
Which is sadder still when you consider the good feelings of doing something nice. In the car analogy above, say you let the guy in. Don’t you feel great doing that? Doesn’t it make you smile to know you made someone else’s day a might easier? And even more so when you understand nothing is to be gained by being a jerk? I mean, we’re all stuck in the same traffic. No one is moving anywhere anyway. So what harm will it do to let the guy in?
I ask the same questions about interactions with animals. Do something nice for an animal, and watch their entire approach to you change… their body language becomes more relaxed, their faces soften, their eyes shine with adoration and gratitude – not fear. If they are less traumatized than others, they may even exhibit physical affection with brushes against your legs and fingers. How can someone know that transformation can happen with a slight touch of kindness and still be mean to an animal?
Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see it. I do not see the point in being cruel, a jerk, a douchebag.
I just don’t.
Side Note: I have been working on this particular post for several days, and I felt I had reached the finish line with what you see above. I was not going to post it on September 11 initially, but then I started thinking: one of the worst forms of cruelty were the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – and the loss of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. I hope this post about the senselessness of cruelty, though directed at animals in content, also serves to honor the memory of those who lost their lives on that tragic day.