All week the question, “What’s the opposite of love?”
A former worker at a nearby landfill was given a four-year sentence after his attack on a fellow worker left the co-worker permanently handicapped. The victim was trying to get the other person to get out of an unsafe place. It was stated that that accused had that thing we euphemistically refer to as “anger issues,” but one is left wondering what sort of person inflicts that sort of violence on another when, after all, they were only acting out of an understood need to observe safety regulations?
All week stories related to a local murder trial have been making headlines. He killed her then hid her body and belongings. He lied about the whole affair until solid police work made the truth abundantly clear to all. The crown still has to make as clear and as detailed a case as possible as it does appear as if he still seems to want the best deal—for him—as possible. When he eventually takes the stand, if the crown has not done an excellent job of showing just how effective a liar he can be, the jury may still be swayed with pity for him, instead of seeking justice for what we all know is a universal wrong. You know what he’s thinking: two years have passed, maybe people are accustomed to this now and are tired of hearing the details so they will let him off easy to be done with it. He clearly feels he has his reasons and that they should supersede hers.
On Tuesday night a nearby city was essentially on self-imposed lockdown. Two people were gunned down at a physio clinic. Was the drug trade reaping its harvest again? After all a lot of people seem to have a money to burn and time to do it and, besides, the distribution network is getting increasingly better organized; more violent. But, no, the first victims were a man and a woman—a red flag for the other type of violence since most of the visible violence is between males. The next day the third point of the triangle was located. The shooter took his own life in the cemetery located in the woods, just walking distance from my own house. His relationship with the female victim had ended—at least in everyone else’s eyes—years earlier. What circumstances could have led him to this place? How did he end up justifying the fact that the end purpose of his life was simply the taking of his and others?
And then the story so horrific I cannot even relate it but just wonder how someone could ruin, forever, the life of one so vulnerable; so trusting.
Visible violence gets the attention for obvious reasons. It’s nothing, though, in comparison to what takes place, out of sight, in private dwellings, in offices, in hidey holes at schools and elsewhere. The visible stuff is sporadic, loud. The majority is ongoing, quiet; the horror never ends.
What do you do with things like that: condemn the actors as evil or deviant and then seek revenge, perhaps? That’s the first thing that comes to mind. Those people need to get theirs.
Or you could move on and act as if it does not exist. We all have problems of our own—health, finances, relationships, for example—and they are hard enough to deal with. These headlines, sure they do raise the ire but after a few night’s sleep it all seems to be that much less important; yesterday’s news. Besides, what’s the point since it’s unlikely there’s anything any of us can do will make any difference anyway?
Back to the question: What, exactly, is the opposite of love? Your first thought is likely “hate.” It certainly makes sense. Most people would define love of another as a disposition towards doing things that you feel are in that person’s best interests. If you love someone you will provide for them and protect them, even at personal expense. It follows then that the opposite of this—and you call it hatred—means having a disposition toward doing things which harm that person. The opposite of love, seen in this light, means that you will actively seek to harm that person, whether it be financially, physically or emotionally.
But is that really the case anymore?
Look at and listen to others. Notice the great focus on personal gain. Look at all those selfies on instagram, all those “about me” posts on Facebook, twitter and the like. Even in the increasingly rare live conversations (and if you take umbrage with this, please look closely at the next gathering of “talkers” and notice the simple fact that most of the group is much more focused on their cellphones than they are on the people who surround them) notice how, when someone says something profoundly correct the response is not, “YOU are correct.” But instead, “I know!!!”Even when it should be about someone else, it’s still about the self! It’s hardly ever about the other anymore, is it?
So doesn’t it make sense then, that the opposite of love is not about the other, the supposed object who is either the recipient of love or of its opposite?
In these self-absorbed times, perhaps it’s wise to reconsider just what it is that we now see as the opposite of love. Maybe it’s just the absence of love. Think about it for a minute.
- Suppose you did not love the elderly person who had just wandered out in traffic, wouldn’t you just keep walking?
- Suppose you did not love the child or the wife you suspected was being abused at home, wouldn’t you just turn a deaf ear and a blind eye?
- Suppose you did not love your community, wouldn’t you just focus, instead, on your own property?
- Suppose you did not love your job, wouldn’t you just make a half-assed effort and use up whatever sick time you could, regardless?
It’s not really all about hatred any more, is it? Apathy seems to be the big one now.
Look what apathy has managed to do, besides permitting ongoing domestic abuse and bullying. White-collar criminals rob from the public purse, getting richer at the expense of others. Workers’ pensions and benefits are being taken away. Public officials quietly restructure or co-opt our many institutions to effect personal gain at society’s expense. Protesters trying to save the environment for all are violently stopped by sanctioned para-military outfits.
And the public—that’s us—just lets it all happen.
It is a natural human response to rationalize our actions (or non-action). Whenever we do something wrong it is a normal response to find a way to deal with the inevitable guilt. SOME will say they were just doing their job, convince themselves that, “the other person started it.”, or, worst of all, alter their memories by either omitting facts or inventing new ones so that it appears that they just did what they had to do; that they were not the offending party. It’s always someone else’s fault. That’s just plain sick and sad, isn’t it? Safe to say that many, perhaps the majority, of those who inflict acts of violence on others fall into this category. They will keep doing it, and find ways of justifying their actions so they can live with it all.
What about the rest of us, the objects of the acts of violence and the witnesses to it?
You can try to make sense of it all by looking for patterns. Unfortunately, when it comes to this, our minds are woefully flawed. We tend to see things that do not exist. Our biases lead us astray and we just consider evidence that confirms them, oblivious to evidence to the contrary. We frequently seek the simplest, easiest answer, even though most things are complex, having many causes.
In the end, do we find ourselves authors of our own stories and cowering away in our own little hovels, afraid of monsters of our own design?
So, then, what sense can be made of all of this, assuming we decide that apathy is not the correct course of action? As for the awful news from this week, perhaps we are left with three things:
Care for those left behind. She had a child. They had friends and family. All of th
eir lives are rent asunder now. At the individual level there’s not a whole lot that those of us outside the circle can do. As a society there’s still lots that can be done. We can speak up to advocate for programs that help the victims, object when some try and end those programs and, above all, ensure that would-be public officials understand clearly that if they expect a vote from us they had better put more than just their own interests forward.
Find Justice. The courts always need witnesses with the courage to come forward and speak out to defend the weak. Those selected for jury duty should not feign illness or justify that they are invaluable at work just so they can duck their responsibility. Finally, we all need to see past the anger; the so-called obvious causes and solutions and, instead commit to that far more elusive cause of justice, not retaliation.
Build a better society. For every act of violence that gets reported, how many do not? I don’t have evidence but strongly suspect that what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. Domestic abuse, violence in the workplace and in our schools, white-color crime—these things are the real scourge and they only continue because we let them happen. Perhaps it’s time we started to see things as they really are: lacking in real love, lacking in what causes us to act when we do not have to.
Take a hard look: Apathy, not hatred, is the real obstacle.