A Guide in Humane Awareness
When you had the experience:
Here is my personal experience in which I witnessed someone being cruel towards another
We can be thoroughly shocked when we witness a barbaric act or cruelty first hand. Yet oddly enough, we can witness murders, rape, torture and other horrible acts on television, in films or in video games and feel that they are not real and as such have little effect on our being.
However, it has been recognized that the subconscious mind does not easily distinguish between imagined and real experiences. In September 1999, the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary reported that by the age of 18, an American child will have seen 16,000 simulated acts of murder and 200,000 acts of violence.
The Academy of Pediatrics says "More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a 'meaner and scarier' place than it is."
Dr. Joanne Cantor notes in her paper, "The Psychological Effects of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents" that "two independently conducted studies of adults' retrospective reports of having been frightened by a television show or movie demonstrate that the presence of vivid, detailed memories of enduring media-induced fear is nearly universal."
In the same way that kindness can be viewed as a spectrum based on degrees of awareness in a kind act, Cruelty can also be understood as a spectrum, ranging from unintentional to intentional cruelty.
Here is a Spectrum of Cruelty based on degrees of awareness in a cruel act.
The next level of the spectrum is cruelty resulting from pain. Sometimes when a person is experiencing physical or mental pain, she or he cannot help from acting out in a cruel way. The act is a reaction to pain. For example, it is not uncommon to hear about loving couples, who in the middle of a heated argument have said most unkind and even cruel things to each other. If they were in their "right" minds, they would never be so hurtful.
Moving along the spectrum, there is cruelty resulting from illness. Sometimes, if one is not physically, emotionally or spiritually well, he or she can be cruel not stemming from intention but rather as a response to the illness.
Intentional cruelty is the next level of the spectrum. This is where a person knows that such and such an act is cruel but nevertheless carries out the act.
Moving on from intentional cruelty is pre-meditated cruelty where an individual plans and orchestrates a particular cruel act.
At next level in the spectrum of cruelty is what can be called satiating cruelty. This is where someone delights in the suffering of others, and the infliction of pain. Within satiating cruelty is the concept of Schadenfreude, which is a German term, meaning pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune, or shameful joy.
At the end of the cruelty spectrum is where an individual encourages and baits another to be cruel or to delight in a cruel act being carried out.
Copyright © Kenneth Hemmerick 2005