Is it just me, or is there a lot of hate going on these days? Am I imagining it, or is the word lie being spoken today as frequently as other thoughtful three letter words, such as cat and dog?
Examples abound. Theory research can begin by simply skimming a local newspaper or eavesdropping on a heated conversation in the bagel joint down the street. And don’t even think about turning on a television or radio unless you want your notes to give you writer’s cramp.
Forget the usual suspects associated with the term hate, such as terrorists and organized groups. Forget repetitive national talking points accusing selected human targets of lies, lies, lies. I am addressing an evident tidal wave of unspoken acceptance for these pugilistic words and thoughts that seem to have found a place in the daily vocabulary and lives of everyday Americans.
Years ago, I was listening to an inspirational friend of mine who was discussing the word hate. In a matter-of-fact way, he said the word itself was unwelcome in his home, not unlike a troublemaking patron who had been permanently banned from a business establishment. He had taught his children that this was a “strong word,” with no place in any positive environment, especially the family home.
I quizzed him further about this household policy, and his elaboration was simply that when a word or concept is accepted in a home, it would likely become a permanent houseguest.
This is obviously not a new idea. Most religions, ideologies and schools of thought address this hypothesis in some way, often attaching memorable labels and acronyms. Think Golden Rule, Kharma, myriad positive thinking models, among others.
And what of this lie word. Although notorious in today’s sound bite driven political battles, this happy verb is springing up as the word du jour in many daily conversations. Forget salty political operatives here, we’re talking about regular folks -- kitchen workers to Cub Scouts. I can hear it now:
Cub Leader: “Ok scouts, today we’ll be doing indoor activities as it is pouring rain outside.”
Cub Scout: “But yesterday you said we’d be playing soccer outside. Why did you lie?”
When the stars align a special way, and the golden opportunity presents itself, one can perform a double whammy of sorts on a fellow human being, such as the oh so eloquent, “Because you lied, I hate you.”
At times, I rationalize I’ve been following politics too closely of late. On other occasions, I figure I’m just becoming overly sensitive. But then, without notice, a reminder pops up, often from unexpected sources.
Anyone who has spoken at hot-topic public meetings, or dealt with certain groups or associations, or been roped into office politics can probably relate. How often does a public meeting turn into a hate fest; a youth association become a weapon of discontent; or an office setting morph into covert operations of smear?
And I am not talking about the Art of Debate, or even heated debate. Disagreement, fair and square, is a sign of mutual respect and can lay groundwork to conquer challenges through cooperation and pragmatism.
No, I’m referring to that certain look, those certain words, or a certain action, which might cause the recipient to wonder, “I understand our differences here, but what’s with the personal hate?”
A definition of the word hate on a psychology website, selfknowledge.com, reads:
“Strong aversion coupled with desire that evil should befall
the person toward whom the feeling is directed.”
Bingo! That’s what I’m talking about. The desire that evil should befall the person perfectly describes that certain look mentioned above. Wishing evil upon anyone during the ordinary course of daily life certainly sounds hateful to me.
Again, we’re not discussing appropriate and accurate applications of the word, such as a terrorist’s hate for America, but rather the tepid hue of personal hate in more mundane circumstances. This might include a Little League parent spewing verbal venom at an umpire or a drive-thru customer going berserk because the fries were missing!
Anyone who has worked extensively with the public has undoubtedly gone home many a night feeling pretty beaten up. Typically, these tough days are simply part of today’s demanding customer service world. However, these same employees likely have a list in their heads – hopefully a short list – of those certain customers who went far beyond simple complaints or concerns. These hateful people and their antics are often permanently etched in the employee’s lifetime memories.
Test it out sometime. Ask anyone who has worked with the public if he or she has ever felt personally hated by a customer. And get ready for some graphic stories.
Any probing discussion, even one such as this which is completely unscientific, inevitably evolves into a search for reasons.
From the outset, it seems easier to tackle core issues behind today’s predominance of the word lie than the word and concept of hate.
In a word-dissection age of focus groups and hyper-advertising, lie is not a bad word at all. Especially in the political campaign arena – which is nothing more than sales; selling a candidate -- it is a word that endeavors to bloody an opponent’s nose, thus making the candidate’s mug look prettier. It delivers the blow with deadly accuracy. Like a flash grenade, “My opponent lied” lands with a thud. It’s simple to understand. “You’re a damned liar” is pretty clear.
It also can be targeted to a broad, national audience, which is the ultimate goal of effective message peddling today. Reaching consumers, with lightning speed and en masse, is the name of the game when seeking to transact with voters and other retail buyers.
With today’s technology juggernaut, once a word is selected and accepted as an avant-garde word du jour -- as lie has apparently become -- it will be verbally and electronically rocketed around the world, invariably landing in the mouths of the greater populace, including kids.
Even if the application of the word stumbles into the area of complete inaccuracy, perhaps being void of premeditation as in the silly Cub Scout example mentioned earlier, it is selected over other words simply to get the intended result -- a means to an end.
Reflecting on core reasons for this hate wave today – both the word and the action -- is a deeper mystery to tackle. Inhumanity in any context deserves volumes, not paragraphs, as a few thousand years of published and unpublished writings will attest. Nonetheless, Mirriam-Webster defines the noun version of the word hate as:
“Intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.”
In this definition, a few prospective answers are presented. At first blush, it seems straightforward. In time, however, I get the feeling the derivatives proffered – especially fear and sense of injury -- subtly hint that the word in question has much depth.
Not surprisingly, the dictionary does not treat the word lightly. So why should we?
And that’s really it. As the saying goes: A place for everything and everything in its place. Is there room for the word hate and lie in the world today? Sure. Terrorists and convicted perjurers definitely make the grade, respectively. Will media super-saturation or consumer-fatigue cause the words to lose traction, making them less visible someday? Hopefully.
Finally, will verbal and written word-choosers look in the mirror first – questioning their own fear, anger or sense of injury motivations -- before launching hateful words and actions onto fellow human beings? Possibly, but don’t hold your breath. Too often, trendy words exit with much more hesitation than their lavish arrival on the stage. Take the word groovy, for example!
Regardless, it does not mean we can’t stand on guard and be aware of the lie word and hate phenomenon. After all, they are discussed together here because they are akin to kissing cousins; from common roots, they often flirt with one another and appear very comfortable when working together.
And it does not mean we have to buy into this or any other in-vogue trend and become a messenger, a pawn, wittingly or unwittingly. The good news is we are free as a people to simply ignore.
The act of truly respecting our English language – as well as our fellow Man -- can only lead to good, can’t it?
In our homes, in our offices – and in our thoughts -- all that is required, really, is to choose our words carefully.
Greg Meakin July 2005