What is so all-fired great about fun? I mean fun that is harmful, even deadly? And why is it so all-fired difficult to recognize that fear, anger, hatred and violence are fun? Why do these very, very popular (though noxious) pastimes have to be rationalized so strenuously: That kid with the Skittles and iced tea scared me. So I killed him. I'm within my rights, the National Rifle Assn. tells me so, the Florida Stand Your Ground law tells me so. Case closed.
Or, taking the issue to a higher (or lower) plane, one might say, ``I had to start that war; and now that that one is winding down, I have to start another one; and now that that one . . . . '' and on and on, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the fun never stops. And, of course, there are grimly delivered rationalizations for war. For the commoners, let it be known that those foreigners endanger us with their wicked ideologies and their weapons of mass destruction. Not only that -- they are a terrorist menace. Force is the only language they understand. As for a rationalization worthy of the elite, let it be known that we will just die, Just Absolutely Die!!, if we can't control every last drop of oil in the whole universe. Not to mention control of other valuable natural resources. And for the very select among the elite, well, they already know that oil or weapons industries or defense contracting are not ends in themselves. They are means giving vast amounts of money to persons who have vast amount of money. As for money . . . well, what more need be said? Case closed.
For people who matter, people with financial and political clout, the fun involved in violence and war can be entirely vicarious. Your better sort have other priorities, as a prominent person put it -- priorities other than dying for what they allegedly believe in. There are always those -- no one we know, of course -- who are eager to ``be all they can be,'' as an army recruiter might put it. Or there are those who want to be among the select ``few good men,'' to quote a famous marine recruiting campaign. Besides which education costs and unemployment being what they are . . . . The military at least offers three square meals a day, regular pay and training of sorts.
I, personally, am squeamish about copping to fear, anger, hatred and violence as means of having fun. In general I hang out with high-minded types who get their kicks from deploring the fearful, the angry, the hateful and the violent. Not that it does much good. But it has a Pharisaical frisson: that ``I thank thee god for making me not as other men.''
All high-minded types are not alike, of course. Among those I've hung out with are some followers of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist who had a lot to say about ``the shadow.'' It seemed to me that Jungians were generally well behaved, inhibited types. But they really were fascinated by ``the shadow'' -- meaning that dark side inherent in everyone, that penchant for being bad. My Jungian acquaintances probably didn't allow the dark side to be their guiding principle. No Jungian that I knew of was a mass murderer or anything of the sort. Or if they were mass murderers, they hid that side of themselves very well. But they could all agree that if you don't cop to having a shadow, you'll go nuts. Most likely you'll see wickedness everywhere outside yourself. Maybe you'll become like the 17th Century Puritans or the 16th Century masters of the Roman Catholic Inquisition. You'll get to torture and kill ``bad'' people and claim that the torture and killing are all for their own good -- and for the good of society. Not only that but you get to say, ``Now look what you've gone and made me do! You don't think I actually enjoy this, do you?'' Well, yes, I do think you enjoy this. I think it is your way of having fun. Like any vigilante, however, you get credit for advanced hypocrisy -- as defined 450 years ago by François de La Rochefoucauld: ``the homage that vice pays to virtue.'' Self-righteous persecution has ever been a big time thrill sport.
Jungians slyly point out that ``the bigger the front, the bigger the back.'' This means that if a person maintains an impeccable moral façade -- well, just look out for what's hidden behind that façade. I just throw that in here for argument's sake. Frankly, I think it is mean to point out that Gandhi or Tolstoy or F.D. Roosevelt were not exemplary husbands. Those three, in my opinion, did a lot more good than harm.
Going from the historical to the incidental, we have obsessive gamers who are enthralled by violent video games --including the most gory, tear-their-heads-off blood bath amusements. These people probably won't say that they like cruelty, dismemberment and screams of anguish and pain. They might get defensive and say, ``It's only a game.'' But why choose such a ghastly game? Because it is uniquely intense.
If you hang out with addicts for a while, you will eventually realize that they are not necessarily into booze or drugs or sex or gambling or overeating or even war, per se. They are into intensity. And this or that substance or activity really gets them high, it provides an irresistibly intense feeling. The thing about self-administered intense feeling, even masochistic pain, is that it can be pleasurable. Yes, yes, very nice -- but also such intense pleasure can, at least temporarily, obliviate suffering.
Is that what this is essentially about? Obliviating suffering? Does that explain Genghis Khan? Is that the Marquis deSade's justification? This orgy of fear, hatred, anger and violence is essentially a thrilling pastime and anunsurpassable anesthetic?
OK, this is just me: I don't care what this that or the other person thinks of feels. I do, however, care about what this that or the other person does. If someone's idea of fun is destructive or deadly, well -- when I rule the universe and when everything that happens in it is under my control -- that someone, and those like him or her, will just have to get along without the benefit of their kind of fun. As they used to tell us in elementary school just before Halloween mischief night, ``It's not fun unless it's fun for everyone.''