Hate: an Acceptable (and Perhaps Loving) Alternative to Niceness

I read both of these things Sunday and was just tickled by their juxtaposition (UD word!). So much so that I’m posting on this blog.

Curled up with Percy’s The Moviegoer, I came across a now-familiar character, now often defamed. Binx is recounting the radio program This I Believe that he listens to religiously. On the program hundreds of the highest-minded people in our country, thoughtful and intelligent people, people with mature inquiring minds, state their personal credos. These individuals are without exception admirable and triumphs of niceness—ït would be impossible for even a dour person not to like them. (A lot of these words are Binx’s.)

Tonight’s speaker, a playwright. “‘I believe in people. I believe in tolerance and understanding between people. I believe in the uniqueness and dignity of the individual.'”

[This sounds familiar right? Sounds almost tired by now.]

‘I believe in a child’s smile. I believe in love. I believe in belief.'”

Binx comments: “This is true. I have known a couple of these believers, humanists and lady psychologists who come to my aunt’s house. On This I Believe they like everyone. But when it comes down to this or that particular person, I have noticed that they usually hate his guts.”

The now-familiar character, the positivist, gets a now-familiar diagnosis: he’s an ideologue, probably a neo-Socialist, that loves an abstraction, not persons–all because (and this is ironic) he refuses to believe in the nature, or the metaphysics, of persons (probably because it’s abstract bunk, duh) and, thus, actually hates people.

Now personally I wanted Percy to make Binx’s last line a little more convincing. The playwright’s love I got to know, well; I want to know his/these people’s hate. My perverse means of lit. crit. aside, here’s the more important side of the now-familiar diagnosis: the alternative, a different species of love/hate. Cue Johnny Swift writing to his bud Alexander Pope.

“When you think of the [rascally] world give it one lash the more at my request. I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities.”

Hater, yes, but Swift is a good man, promise. Let Fr. Shall explain (in full detail HERE): Swift speaks of the world too aware of its rascally, fallen nature. He’s looking for a printer for Gulliver’s Travels so that with it he can (Swift’s words) vex the world rather than divert it. He wants to irritate, to annoy–even to lash, with Pope’s help–not to entertain.

But to hate it? Is that not too far? Should one not lash with love, or at least without hate? The full passage:

“When you think of the [rascally] world give it one lash the more at my request. I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities, and all my love is toward individuals; for instance, I hate the tribe of lawyers, but I love Counsellor Such-a-one, and Judge Such-a-one: so with physicians—I will not speak of my own trade—soldiers, English, Scotch, French, and the rest. But principally, I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth.”

Fr. Shall, enlighten us! “Much metaphysics is found in such a passage. Though we can know the truth, we cannot properly “love” an abstraction. The twentieth century, it now seems, was a record of what happens when we try to do so. The objects of our real loves are not abstractions. What is, our very kind, exists in individual persons, in Socrates, Mary, and, yes, in John, Peter, and Thomas. Such a passage almost prefigures Burke, though it more properly recalls Aquinas and Aristotle.”

Swift gets even more worked up. “I have got materials towards a treatise, proving the falsity of the definition animal rationale, and to show it would be only rationis capax [capable of reason]. Upon this great foundation of misanthropy . . . the whole building of my Travels is erected and I will never have peace of mind till all honest men are of my opinion.”

Before Fr. Shall’s levelheaded and generous breakdown of this metaphysic—isn’t that just great?

“It is worthwhile noting that the classical definition of man as animal rationale never doubted that individual men would, probably often, fail to use it properly (rationis capax). The fact is, however, that even when we use it improperly, we are using it; we remain animal rationalis.”

Okay, so what did we learn? We can’t hate Jerry or Jimmy even if he is acting irrational. But can we hate an abstraction? Please tell me, Padre, can we?!

Fr. Shall doesn’t address the hate (just as Percy didn’t show it to me). It’s not a worthy enough subject, or something. Fine, I guess we’ll live with the contemplation of a metaphysically proper mode of love. Plus (since you, dear reader, have made it this far) I suspect Swift’s hatred of an abstraction is, in reality, righteous anger. Isn’t that the right thing to be angry at? The rascal’s rascality? (That’s a sincere questions, dear reader.)

No matter, I still want to know how to lash an abstraction.

Category: It Is What It Is
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One Response
  1. Chris Wolfe (buttercream) says:

    Were you drunk when you wrote this Chris? I am drunk as I read it and would like to go on drinking, it’s great stuff!

    The most dappled part of your post to me was your big connection: Percy lashing at certain mamby-pamby humanist types and Swift lashing at mamby-pamby humanist types. I’d like to try to flesh out what you’re saying here by making some intellegent guesses about some things.

    Perhaps here’s a missing premise (and missing Thomist?): Jacques Maritain.

    I bring him up because Father Schall is a Jacques Maritain scholar and Percy was a Catholic convert who tapped into the neo-Thomist philosophy of Maritain.

    Swift seems to be criticizing those who would reduce the dignity of the person by atributing all human behavior to class or group consciousness. Maritain similarly criticised those who advocated “kneeling before the world;” for ignoring the principle of subsidiarity and the poor man in your backyard to emote for a poor distant citizen of the world. That kind of abstraction is a lie, an excuse, a hypocracy. Those were strong arguments for an abstract philosopher like Maritain to make, especially considering that it was he who helped draft the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights!

    I would argue it’s not abstraction per se that is deserving of lashes, but the intentional misleading of one’s self and others through abastractions when counterexamples immanently offer themselves, Chris. There’s a moral and a theoretical imperative to give people lashes who do that

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