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Amber Paulen


I never think about cruelty until cruelty comes to me. Sadism is so far away from anything I enjoy, as is any other life-debilitating action. Pleasure in another’s pain is unthinkable. War should be unthinkable, that people go hungry should be unthinkable, that people torture for pure differences should be unthinkable. Because what kind of people would they be? Non-people, non-human. For is not the right to untrammeled life everyone’s right?

I am “sensitive”; I don’t like blood-shed in movies, when I see pain etched into faces I walk quicker to avoid watery eyes. I grew up on a farm and the animals, oh! what the animals went through! I remember this doe-eyed jersey calf who wore mascara around her sorrowful eyes. When I felt sad in a winter, I went to her in her hutch and stayed with her. We shared our sadness of the world.

Animals especially hurt me when they hurt. Their helpless natures are all left up to the whim of us, the bigger and louder plowing through our lives in our alien fashion. When I saw the abandoned kitten in the middle of the piazza on Sunday morning, piccolissimo, I picked him up and brought him inside. Yesterday, when cruelty happened it shocked me to the core. And it made me angry. The deed was done. Cruelty is not a singular instance, but it spreads, like a cancer, like a disease.

Some sadistic adolescent boy shot some cats in the centro storico with an air gun and in the air gun were homemade darts made with nails. The smallest cat had three of these weapons sticking out of its fuzzy body like feathers, except they were nails. Worse things happen every day; but to see premeditated cruelty in helpless creatures shocks. Like it should. It goes so hard against respect for life that I began to disrespect the life of the boy.

John Cowper Powys, who was disturbed greatly by his own sadistic tendencies, for he once cut up a worms when he was young, altered the Ten Commandments to fit his own life-illusion:

In place of: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” I would substitute: “Thou shalt force thyself to be happy in thine own soul”; and in place of: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” I would substitute: “Thou shalt be merciful and pitiful and considerate to all living organisms.

We are animals too. Our life functions tie us to the most miniscule beings. Our intelligence enables us “to know better”; also to feed other tendencies already there. To spend one’s life in pursuit of pain, war, greed, ignorance, what-have-you, is to go against Nature’s one great force: Life. One feels pain for pain; there must be torment in that boy’s soul. At least some question of strangled self-doubt. I would hope. And therein lies the great disappointment.

If Dostoevsky battled this theme,novel in, novel out, I don’t expect to do any justice in a mere post. What are our tendencies? What is our human nature? I do know that the female nature, on average, would care for rather than do harm to. Perhaps there would be more “good” if we all became a little more “girly.” It is women—most widows—who take care of twenty cats, what more would you want as proof? I’m not saying I blame men for “bad” but that I think we were created in balance: that balance should be taken into ourselves. We have not yet breached our potentials; though realization is but a miniscule step away.


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