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The Calculus of Cruelty


I never understood the calculus of being cruel. Could never grasp the return on the investment of time and energy. It always seemed like you really had to go above and beyond what was worth one’s time. Had to go out of your way to be unjustifiably cruel. 

Greed might be morally reprehensible, but you could at least understand the motivation. Selfishness is a perfectly normal animal trait. Make sure you get yours first. It’s a survival trait. Hoarding is more of a human trait, not typically found in the animal kingdom. Crows like to collect shiny things, but I wouldn’t call them hoarders. 

But there is no rational purpose for cruelty. No incentive that would make sense out of intentionally causing someone else harm, with no personal benefit.

I’m sure this is well-mined territory in psychology circles, especially when dealing with psychopaths, but I’m not really interested in the clinical reasoning for the diagnosis. Especially since a rather large portion of America has been perfectly happy to elect leaders who pass laws, that seem designed almost exclusively to be intentionally cruel to one group or another with little to no benefit to themselves. 

What do you get from barring gay couples from marrying, or from treating transgender people with dignity? What’s in it for you? Do you really care that someone who is in no position to have a child, decides to end the pregnancy. Even if you felt this is not a choice you would make, how does it affect you?

Republicans are not just okay with supporting such discriminatory laws, they’re enthusiastically in favor of them. They cheer for such things. 

It’s one thing to lack empathy, I guess. Some people just aren’t wired that way I guess. But how you go from not caring how someone else feels, to wanting them to feel pain?

The kid who tortures pets doesn’t grow up to be a well-rounded, healthy, functioning adult with good relationships. They become serial killers, corporate executives, or sometimes, police officers.

How damaged do you have to be to kneel on another man’s neck until he chokes out to prove that you’re more powerful then he is? 

I just don’t understand the math of it. 

About the author

David Todd McCarty

David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and cinematographer. He writes fiction and nonfiction essays as well as journalism. You can see his commercial work at http://www.hoppingfrogstudios.com

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Writer | Journalist | Storyteller


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