Love and Hate

Love and hate are both four-letter words.  Sometimes they have other similarities.  Love can turn into hate and hate can return to love.  How can this be?

Well, both of them are extreme emotions that many times spring from relationships.  The most basic explanation is that love occurs when the relationship is good and hate develops when the relationship sours.  So are we talking about the same emotion, distinguished by whether things are going well or not?

It’s not quite that simple.  Some people love and hate from afar.  A stalker may be initially attracted to a beautiful lady, thinking of his feelings as love for her.  But the stalker may eventually realize that he can never have her, so his feelings turn to hate.  The poor lady may never even know anything about this guy until he appears out of the dark and kills her.

Some people hate others based on race, creed, or religion.  If you are poor, you can hate the rich without knowing them.  Thus, these forms of hate are not based on personal relationships that have gone bad.  Many times, hate is a way for the oppressed to compensate for their positions in life.  Hate also can become a super-glue for political parties, gangs, and peer groups.  What better way to cement individuals together than by hating another group?  Hitler understood this very well.

Love and hate, although very powerful initially, typically are very temporal emotions, because extreme emotions can burn out fairly quickly.  They can disappear as quickly as they appear.  But there are exceptions to this.  The hate between Arabs and Jews has been going on for hundreds of years.  This is not going away because the Bible makes the Jewish people the chosen ones and the Koran does not.  The hate leads to terrorist acts that beget more violence.  It has become a “never-ending story” of hate.

However, these problems can be resolved over time when reasonable leaders are in charge of Arab countries and Israel.  An example of this was Northern Ireland and England.  The terrorist killings had gone on for decades without any end in sight until the leadership of those countries recognized how the acts of terrorism were tearing the economy of the two countries apart.  Reasonable leaders found an economic compromise that has held the peace for many years.

Does that mean that the leadership in the Middle East is unreasonable?  Well of course it does.  But which comes first:  reasonable leadership or stopping the terrorist attacks?  The leaders say that they must respond to the terrorist attacks, and since the terrorists are not reasonable, they cannot be reasonable.

There is a problem with extremist thinking.  It is important for moderates to exert more control in the world.  Generally, moderates do not choose to get involved with extremists.  They patiently wait for the extreme positions to dissipate.  But moderates must take a stand against terrorists and extremists before they polarize the world.  The thing that makes moderates apathetic is that they believe that since terrorists and extremists are in the minority, they can never take over the world.  Hitler is the ultimate example of why this is the wrong way to think.  Many extremist minorities have taken over countries throughout history.  Stalin just killed millions of people who didn’t do what he demanded.

There are many countries in the world who do not want terrorism to expand into their areas, so they should be willing to form a worldwide coalition to eradicate terrorists and extremists throughout the world.  The terrorists and extremists cannot stand up to a worldwide force that joins hands to crush them.

Perhaps we would be better off by not emphasizing extreme emotions like love and hate and instead by becoming a more thoughtful, moderate world.

Who Commits Murders and Why?

Murders are committed daily.  There are murders for hire; there are murders for revenge; there are murders for money; there are murders for love; there are murders for hate… the list goes on for quite a distance.  So, who commits all these murders?

We all do.  All of us are fully capable of committing murder.  Anybody will commit murder under the right circumstances.  It is foolish to deny it.  If you had to protect your family, wouldn’t you kill an armed burglar?  If you were in the military, wouldn’t you kill the enemy before they killed you?  I could provide hundreds of scenarios where even the most ethical and highly religious individuals would still kill.

I suppose that legally, not all killings would be adjudged murders.  If you kill somebody in self defense or you are serving in the military, you typically would not be charged with murder.  However, for the purposes of our discussion, we are defining murder as the killing of another human being, no matter what the reason.  In other words, there is no defense for killing a human being.  Taking another’s life, no matter what the reason, is considered murder in this article.

So why do we murder?  Is it because we had a bad childhood?  Is it because we were sexually molested when we were in grade school?  Is it because we were socially deprived?  Is it because we were poor?  Is it because we got hooked on drugs?  Is it because we mentally deficient?  Some or all of these things may be ingredients leading up to the final recipe of committing murder, but the final decision to kill is very intentional.  It is quite possible that your murder was a crime of passion, but you still decided to kill.  It doesn’t matter that you made the choice to murder two months ago or two seconds ago.  It still was your decision.

When murderers were interviewed by a writer whom the convicts trusted, he discovered that all of the killers made a conscious decision to murder.  None of them denied that murder was a choice that they made.  It is possible that you could be in a drug or alcohol stupor and not know what you were doing at the time of the murder, but you intentionally put yourself in that condition and must accept the consequences.  Even drunks make choices… just usually bad ones.

The only difficult area is somebody who has a mental illness who commits murder.  If they do not have the ability to understand what they are doing, do they decide to murder?  My answer may be controversial, but I believe those who are mentally incapacitated also choose to murder.  The mental deficiency may impair their decision making process, but it does not stop it.  They still decide to kill.  A mental patient may think that he is killing the devil when he shoots a priest, but he still makes a conscious decision to pull the trigger.

So, like I said earlier:  all of us are capable of committing murder.  And we commit murders after we decide to take a life.  The reasons for murder vary from individual to individual.  But all murders are committed because of choices that were made by these individuals.

Instinct vs. Choices

Homo sapiens have been provided some instincts such as self preservation and species preservation, but we seem to be different than all the other animals on this planet in that we also make choices, unrelated to obtaining food, shelter, or sex.  As an example, we may make decisions based on whether we consider the act as being right or wrong.  This seems to separate us from the others in our animal kingdom.

This gift of a decision-making process does not come without consequences, though.  Even if you do not believe in consequences in an afterlife, there are consequences within our lives.  If you choose the door with the tiger behind it, you will, more than likely, be eaten.

Biological psychologists wrestle with some very difficult questions.  (1) Can our minds work independently of our brains?  (2) Why do humans have an ethical basis for their decisions?  (3) How does heredity influence behavior?  We will discuss these questions later to see how they impact our choices.

But let’s start with instinct.  Instinct is a label for a category of behaviors that are found in different species.  When we say that female elephants take care of their babies based on a maternal instinct, this is only a label that does not explain how the behavior developed in elephants.  But these labels are important and seem fairly consistent throughout the animal kingdom.  Many species have a maternal instinct, which helps preserve the species.  Some biological psychologists avoid the term instinct as being offensive to their studies, but it is very beneficial when talking in general terms.

There is a strong maternal instinct in our species.  Our brains are hard-wired to protect our young since this allowed humans to survive predators in the wild.  Many mammals have young that are not strong enough to run away from a hungry predator, so an instinct to preserve our species is deep within us.  Humans don’t wonder whether there will be consequences to us.  We react instinctively when we protect our young.

Now, let’s examine choices.  When our species makes a decision, is it because biological factors forced a behavior or did they enable the behavior to occur?  For example, there are areas of your brain that increase the likelihood of you being pushed into aggressive behavior.  But you will make choices on your response to that force.  Your past experiences, the current social setting, the legal consequences, and current motivations will all come into play when you make a decision.  When murderers were asked if they chose to commit the murders, they answered in the affirmative.  You make choices every day and there are always consequences, which temper your decisions.

So, let’s examine the first question above:  can our minds work independently of our brains?  There are two theories:  (1) the dualists believe that our brains interact with our minds, while (2) the monists believe that the brain is a machine and consciousness is irrelevant to its functioning.  Most religions follow dualism since when our brains die, we arguably continue thinking with our minds.  And our ethical and moral values play a significant role in making choices.  Descartes, a French philosopher, was a dualist who believed that there was something other than the brain that recognized that “I think, therefore I am.”

If you believe that we respond like machines, then we really don’t have any choices.  We are predestined to do everything that we do.  We would be hard wired to make decisions.  If this were true, wouldn’t we all be making the same basic decisions?  For example if we found a lost wallet with $100,000 inside it, would everybody make the same decision on what to do with the money?  You would have some people who would return the wallet and money and others who would return only the wallet and pretend that they found it without the cash inside.  The final choice will be based on many complex factors and should not be a typical mechanical decision.

This is a transition to the second question: why do humans have an ethical basis for their decisions?  Is there a part of our brain that has a conscience?  There may be parts of the brain that may be stimulated to provide relief from pain or depression.  But it is not known if the brain can be manipulated to provide a conscious in the decision-making process.  In other words, can a portion of the brain be stimulated to make a person make better choices based on something other than personal gains?

The answer why our species seems to be unique when it struggles with ethical decisions is based on many factors.  Certainly, how we are perceived by others, our religious beliefs, and how penal systems will respond to our actions may forge a conscious.  Man struggles mightily with ethics, so there must be some reason that is lodged somewhere in our thoughts, different than in our brains.

Then the final question is: how does heredity influence behavior?  An ontogenetic explanation of our behavior starts with our genes and traces how the genes combine with the influence of the environment and our experiences to produce the final outcome.  The genes that were more successful were passed on to future generations as the genetic makeup that had weaknesses were phased out over the years.  For example Homo sapiens probably had a conservative gene that made our species more cautious and patient in our responses.  Those of our early species who were too impatient were eaten by predators, so natural selection preserved those genetic propensities to take our time and think things through before jumping into harm’s way.

As we discussed, birds do not need to be taught how to build nests since that behavior is largely instinctual.  However, humans need to be taught nearly everything we do.  We have a survival instinct for ourselves and our species, but we make most of our decisions with our minds in gear, not our brains.  We make many conscious choices every day based on our individual moral fiber.  So it may come as a shock to many people that genetic differences are also an important determinant of variation in a wide range of human behaviors.  A growing list of behaviors— including major measurable aspects of personality, political conservatism, religiosity, occupational attitudes, social attitudes, marital status, and even television watching—have all been shown to be inherited traits.

In conclusion, our decisions frame who we are and who we want to be during our lives.  But our decisions also play a significant role in the afterlife.  In other words if you are still thinking when you die, then your brain will decompose leaving your mind to continue into the afterlife.  The choices that you made during your lifetime will follow your thoughts after death.

Do Hardened Criminals Really Care?

A lady who was being strangled by an attacker told the criminal to stop choking her or he would kill her.  The man had a crooked smile and answered, “Do you think I really care?”  The police broke into the room and the man released his choke hold.  When asked if the police saved her life, she answered in the affirmative.  She declared, he would have killed me, otherwise. 

Most criminals commit crimes intentionally.  They make decisions to commit crimes no differently than we make decisions in our daily business.  They decide to murder or rape or rob victims.  Even though there are crimes of passion and crimes committed by those with a mental defect, most crimes are based on choices.

So criminals really do care.  It’s just they care about themselves and don’t care about their victims.  They decide to murder somebody because it will lead to something beneficial for them, even if it is just the thrill of the kill.  They want to rape somebody because it provides some type of gratification, usually a feeling of power rather than satisfying sexual needs.  They choose to rob in order to obtain something they can pawn for their drug habit or find some cash to buy something they want. 

For these criminals, it’s all about them.  Unfortunately, our society is becoming more selfish and is becoming a potential breeding ground for criminals.  A self-centered society is typically a lawless society.  These citizens only care about serving themselves and do not care about other people around them. 

Generally, a self-serving society sets the stage for increased criminal activity.  Most societies start with good moral values, but entropy takes over and the social resolve starts to disintegrate usually after many younger generations have pushed for fewer consequences.  As consequences are reduced, this also sets the stage for increased criminal activity. 

The older generations typically are disappointed with the succeeding generations as they liberalize laws, removing their teeth.  Each generation seems to be less focused on doing the right thing for everybody.  The generations have gotten progressively worse. 

Younger generations may say that there should be no penalties for crimes that hurt no one but the offender.  For example, we have seen a more liberalized approach to the use of marijuana based on the idea that users of this drug are not harming anybody else.  Yet, if a driver on marijuana runs over a pedestrian, an argument could be made that third parties may be injured by users of the drug.  And even if a third party is not injured, society could be harmed by misuse of marijuana.   

Today’s generations are so interested in themselves that they aren’t even aware that other people in the world exist.  Their entire lives are based on what they can do for themselves.  They don’t care about their neighbors, their family, their city, their state, or their nation.  All they can see is what is in front of their mirror. 

And unfortunately, they do not have the proper education to develop humility, compassion, or empathy.  They do not study Aristotle, so they have never heard of the “golden mean.”  They do not read about Buddha and do not know about the “Middle Path.”  They have never read about the great philosophers and religious leaders.  They have not studied ethics or moral codes.  Their studies of history are so limited that most high school students do not even know the first five presidents of the United States.  All they learn in school is how to get ahead and get what they want. 

Many turn to drugs to make money.  Very few have charity in their hearts.  If you look into their eyes, you will see self-absorbed “zombies” with no souls.  These modern-day “children of the corn” are no different than hardened murderers who have no remorse.  And if they killed somebody later in life to get something they wanted, their conscience would not be disturbed.  In fact, they would be angry that you would want to deny them what they wanted.  Part of this stems from the bloody video games and movies that are desensitizing young adults. 

They do not want consequences.  Even though choices should always have consequences, they want to eliminate all consequences.  Can you imagine what society would be like if these zombies were turned loose in the world without consequences?  But that’s where we are headed as our social structure continues to erode. 

Criminals are very optimistic.  They believe that they have the right to do anything they want to do and there should be no consequences.  Even when society has laws that punish them, they are optimistic that detectives will not discover that they committed the crimes.  But even if detectives do discover that they committed the crime, prosecutors will not have sufficient evidence to make a case.  Our criminal justice system has been liberalized over the decades, making it difficult to punish criminals. 

Criminals have more reasons to be optimistic.  Even if the prosecution can make a case against them, the criminal will hire a good defense attorney who can get them off.  However if their attorney does not get them off, they are optimistic that their sentence will be light.  Even if they do not get a light sentence, they can still appeal it, get a pardon or paroled, or get a reduced sentence for good behavior.  The prisons are overcrowded, so criminals are optimistic that they will get out early.  The bottom line is that even if they go to jail, they will receive free room and board (three hots & a cot), and will rub elbows with like-minded people who can help them become professional criminals and do a better job next time to avoid getting caught.

Our society is headed rapidly toward entitlements.  American citizens will be entitled to free meals, housing, and medical care until the middle class disappears.  Criminals, gang members, and drug lords will be entitled to do whatever they want with no consequences.  Private gun owners will have to give up their weapons, but not criminals.  Is this our future?

Do hardened criminals really care about your future?  They only care about themselves and their futures.  You, as an honest citizen, mean nothing to them.  They are predators and you represent easy prey.  Removing your guns for personal protection and laws that provide consequences to criminals are exactly what they want.

Is there any way to stop the dismantling of American society?  It has probably gone past the tipping point and cannot be turned around.  The majority of Americans rely on the government to keep them above water.  Without the government, they would sink.

Do the majority of Americans care about their country?  No, they probably don’t care.  As long as they are personally taken care of, that’s all that matters.  They don’t really care whether the American system is failing or not.  And they aren’t intelligent enough to know that after the middle class disappears, the government will stop their entitlements.  

At that point, a totalitarian government will enslave all the citizens, including criminals.  Even the hardened criminals will start to care at that moment because they will be restricted by the totalitarian government.  But it will be too late for everybody, except the ruling elite.  Since you will not have any weapons, if you disagree with the government, those in power will execute you.  Most criminals will really care then.