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Thread: The nature of insults

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    The nature of insults

    Simple question: Is it human nature to insult others?
    AL (Jigen) in:
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    I see insulting others as a way to make me feel better about my own faults..it is something I have been working on. I'm not sure if it is in our nature to do this, human nature is such a broad statement and we are complex creatures.
    Gassho, Jakudo.
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, I. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Oheso's Avatar
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    well, certainly it's human nature to BE insulted, so dishing it out probably is too.
    only saps buy vowels

  4. #4
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    I will explain more later. For now, when I say human nature I do mean that in the broad sense. Are we born to insult others? Is it inherent in our nature?

    Are we born to be insulted by others, which is Oheso's post, is an interesting reciprocal question also worth consideration. Thank you.
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  5. #5
    I do not know if it is natural or not (probably, as children do it), but it is best to avoid it in any case. It hurts, creates ill feelings, anger ... not Right Speech.

    It should not be confused with positive, constructive criticism.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    I am not a psychologist, but I play one on TV.

    Here's my $0.02 on the matter. I believe that it is human nature to insult others, either directly to their face, or behind their backs to their peers. This of course does not mean it is ok to do so, but I believe that there is some biological predisposition to do so.

    Effectively, I see it as being survival of the fittest. Long, long ago before speech this would likely have been measured by brawn alone, however after speech things like insults and gossip might help one get ahead in their own societal standing. By making another look inferior to their tribe might conversely make themselves look superior. This, to me, is all about attainment. Making one greater then another for social status and whatever benefit may come from it. In the Zen tradition however, as there is nothing to attain, all we can do is cause suffering by insulting another.

    Zen aside, it's also not very nice!
    Last edited by Jigetsu; 03-04-2013 at 07:58 PM.
    _/\_
    Jigetsu

  7. #7
    I'm with Jigetsu, I heard that verbal abuse is a way of avoid physical confrontation. In fact you can see this behavior in many animals who use verbal techniques first and then if it doesn't work resort to physical violence. The good thing though is that we've evolved so much that we can actually see the ill effects of such primal behavior and can change the way we behave. In another study it has been shown that swearing, which is also related to insults, actually helps to reduce the amount of pain one feels.
    Gassho,
    Andy

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I do not know if it is natural or not (probably, as children do it), but it is best to avoid it in any case. It hurts, creates ill feelings, anger ... not Right Speech.

    It should not be confused with positive, constructive criticism.

    Gassho, J
    I will say one exception.

    As in marine bootcamp, some Zen Teachers will use "insults" or verbal assaults (even hitting with a stick) sometimes to break down the ego of a student they think needs humbling or the like. If one goes to Eiheiji or Sojiji monasteries in Japan, one sees the "new recruits" go through something much like "hazing". There are also stories like the following, where the Master may be trying to put in his place a new comer who is just trying to "show off" with something insincere.

    I do not engage in such tactics myself.

    Mu-chou asked a monk, "Where have you just come from?"
    The monk immediately shouted "Kaaaa!" . Mu-chou said, "I've been shouted at by you once, don't do so again."
    Again the monk shouted. Mu-chou said, "After three or four shouts, then what?" The monk had nothing to say. Mu-chou
    then hit him and said, "What a thieving phoney you are!" (Blue Cliff Record)


    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-04-2013 at 03:54 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    OT: Nice new picture Alan. It reminds me of Gandalf. I hope this is not an insult
    --- In every moment of our sitting all beings are receiving the ultimate help; they are all achieving perfect peace and perfect rest. --- Norman Fischer

  10. #10
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andyZ View Post
    In another study it has been shown that swearing, which is also related to insults, actually helps to reduce the amount of pain one feels.
    That's funny! I'm posting that one on my Facebook.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jigetsu View Post
    Long, long ago before speech this would be measured by brawn alone, however after speech things like insults and gossip might help one get ahead in their on societal standing.
    I watched a show once on which a doctor described how gossip can be a good thing based on how it reaffirms our relationships with others and helps us to see our own successes by comparison. Although I also know that sometimes people are just blindly "talking shit", and often I see a connection between the person gossiping and the person being gossiped about. It's almost as if we bitch more about people who are showing us our own faults.
    迎 Geika

  11. #11
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    I grew up in a home where insults are the de facto way of communicating. I tried to erase them from my system, but I admit they come out from time to time.

    I think insults are just human nature, but sometimes they hide hate, and that's when one must be cautious.

    It might be cool or funny to say "the f!"$%ng pencil", but when you insult things in the universe like that all the time, it slowly affects your relationship with things and people.

    Sometimes I see insults as seeds. You nurture them the more you say them.

    Using my parents as an example, they live in a very hostile world. They can't relate to things if it's not with insults. Even if they don't talk about "the pencil", they think of it as an instrument that needs to be dumbed down or diminished, because it won't live to they expectations or needs.

    Even if insults are part of human nature, isn't life better without them?

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  12. #12
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Thank you for that feedback. I needed some outside voices on this issue. Now let me give you some background. When I first read this it was in a comment on a news story about insulting language, and the commenter (troll) defended insulting language by saying it was human nature to do so. My initial reaction to that was horror (actually, I am still in horror over this), that can't be right, we have to be better than that, us humans. But the more I thought about it the more I realized it probably is our human nature, our deluded nature, to insult others. It's all weak ego and stuff like that. But it is not our buddha nature to insult others. I think that is an important distinction, a duality we all carry and work the Path to transcend.

    The news story was Ending the R-word: Ban it or Understand it. If you don't know, the r-word is retarded, or retard. March 6th is the annual day of awareness to get people to stop saying this word. You can find more about this at r-word.org. I will spare the sermon because you can read all about it with those links, but the resistance to stopping this insult is still huge, amazingly so, thus my horror at that and other comments. I even experienced that resistance here at Treeleaf when I brought it up a couple years ago. But the resistance is waning, slowly, too slowly for my taste, but that there has been progress needs to be acknowledged and appreciated.

    Jundo was one of the few supporters back then, which I greatly appreciated, and like he said above: Insults are not right speech. The r-word is most definitely not right speech. So I appeal to all our buddha natures to spread the word to end the word.
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  13. #13
    Thank you for posting that sir, I am all in to stop the word. I have a very close and dear friend who has a child with Downs. Sadly it took that for me to regard the R word in the same disdain and intolerance that I regard the N word. It's an insult that tends to slip under the radar for most because on it's surface it seems benign. Or worse, perhaps many see it as innocuous because to them, whomever they are calling the R word won't understand they're being insulted.

    Now I just pissed myself off!

    I didn't realize that there's an awareness day! I plan to get in on that this year, thank you again.
    _/\_
    Jigetsu

  14. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Coming from a musical background I know that "retarded" also means slow, and most of the time when I am using that word, what I mean is, "slow on the uptake." I am not defending calling people "retarded," but I have a particular issue with banning the use of this word altogether, socially, when it is slightly more generic than, for example, the n-word, "gay", or "fag" (although of course in Europe this word has a different slang meaning altogether), at least to me.

    Words are just that: words. We need to watch what we really mean and feel when we say them, and I am sure that most of the mean-spirited insults are going to be left out. I can't imagine a single one of us using the word "retarded", slip of the tongue or not, to actually defame a disabled person. I'd rather not fuss too much about being politically correct. Every culture is different and has it's own slang and cursing, and this can come down to as small an area as a state county.

    I tend to have a "when in Rome..." attitude toward language. Of course, I don't mean this to say that I would go along with whatever was said at a KKK rally. I am hoping that you all will understand what I mean by this.
    迎 Geika

  15. #15
    Senior Member Heishu's Avatar
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    I am old enough to remember a time when 'folks that were different' were shunned, ignored, avoided, and even put away. I grew up in the fifties, sad times for some folk. Today we are more inclusive, mostly, but not completely.

    What brings about this attitude of insult is mostly ignorance on the part of the one that spews the insult. If a person takes even a brief moment to get to know someone they might just have a new friend. Yet, for some it is much easier to live in ignorance and fear than to try and understand an individual even though they appear to be different, they are human the same as the rest of us.

    The word 'retard or retarded' when used to degrade, demoralize, or dehumanze someone is just as wrong as any other word that is used to defame an individual or a group of people. Putting someone down by offensive means to make them sub-human is plain wrong. To flip someone off by calling a person a 'retard' is wrong.

    I hope now to live a bit longer to see a time when folks choose not to be hurtful to the innoncent.

    Gassho
    Heishu

  16. #16
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    I blogged on this today.

    I don't believe this is about banning the word all together, which is typical of the over reaction this gets. It's the slur that's the problem, any use of it as a slur, whether it is describing a person with a disability or not, is the problem. I think it's still fine to say something like "lack of exposure to the sun will retard the growth of plants." There is no slur in that description. But if you derisively call that plant retarded, you cross that line into slur and offense happens, whether intended or not.

    Language is tricky. Words are socially constructed symbols with meanings that change with use over time. Trying to keep up to date can be dizzying, especially with slang. In the case of the r-word, it changed from a technical term meaning slow, which I think is still ok, into a slang term meaning BAD in reference to a group of people that are not bad and have done nothing to deserve such blanket and blatant negativity. The language is moving on, changing as we speak it, and it is our responsibility to keep up so as to try and uphold right speech. But...

    Right speech is tricky. We can insult/offend without intent or even being aware of it, but being mindful of right speech means we stop insulting/offending once we become aware of it. Being mindful of our speech means paying attention to how we use words, and in this case that means either as a technical term or as slang, and how those words are interpreted by others. This is not about perfect speech, which is unattainable because language can be so tricky and we can't control how people perceive our speech. It is about trying to do the best we can by respecting others in our speech that comes from our buddha (compassionate) nature instead of our human (insulting) nature.

    I bring all this up here not to fight the r-word fight again, though I will, but because it is an aspect of our practice and how hard that practice can be. Everybody is for the concept of right speech, but when it gets to down to specifics on how we actually talk, the actual practice of right speech, is where we begin to falter. Blaming others for being overly sensitive is not our practice (even if that's true), nor is our practice to absolve ourselves of responsibility for our hurtful speech (just because you didn't mean it that way does not make it okay). And defending insults as being our human nature is certainly not our practice. These are all easy ways out of the dilemma. Our practice is to face that dilemma, to BE and DO better, and that's hard.
    Last edited by AlanLa; 03-05-2013 at 03:51 PM.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Heishu's Avatar
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    Alan

    Thank you



    Heishu

  18. #18
    I don't like insults, once I tried like in samurais movies to yell "yame" just to stop the insults or bad acts. It calms sometimes the situations. Good or bad way, in the moment it seemed to be a skillfull mean.

    Gassho

    Myoshin
    Myoshin 妙 心
    "A person who receives the Buddhist Precepts enters the state of Buddha at once. They stand at the same level as Gautama Buddha. We can say they are a child of the Buddha." Jundo

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