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BoBettie
08-27-2001, 04:18 PM
In this thread:
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=83026&pagenumber=2

Several posters are discussing the fact that they wish a particular person dead. They don't want to kill him, but have said that they would immensly enjoy learning of his death, and some have expressed that said death should be slow and full of suffering, commesurate with the suffering they feel he inflicted upon others.

My debate is: Is it wrong/immoral/evil to wish someone dead?

Is it wrong for anyone? Everyone? Serial killers? Personal tormenters? Sexual abusers? An oppresive/muderous leader? Someone you just strongly disagree with? Someone directly or indirectly responsible for the suffering of others?

Again, I am not talking about going out and killing someone; I'm talking about wishing someone were dead or rejoicing in their death.

Zette

Scylla
08-27-2001, 04:31 PM
Again, this is a whole thing I don't understand.

This passive shit doesn't mean anything. When did we start thingking that "wishing somebody was dead," had any kind of value. It's mental masturbation. It seems stupid in the attitude it engenders as if people are thinking the world will fulfill their moral judgements for them.

What are they saying, really, when they say this?

Let me translate.

"Hi, I'm not willing to get involved or do anything about this situation or this person, and as a matter of fact, I refuse to accept any responsibility whatsoever in any many for it one way or the other, but is some divine providence wishes to go ahead and fix it or strike this person down, they certainly have my permission to do so... Uh no, wait, that's too strong. Let me just say that I won't be upset when and if I learn about it after the fact."


I think it's bullshit.

The kind of person I would like to be: I think the day I wish somebody was dead is the day I go and do the job.

Stuffy
08-27-2001, 04:42 PM
Myself I see nothing wrong with it. Doesn't seem particularly evil as there is no active element to wishing. By the way put me down for Dancing a Jig.

QuickSilver
08-27-2001, 04:49 PM
Originally posted by Scylla
I think the day I wish somebody was dead is the day I go and do the job.

Note to self: Never, ever piss off Scylla. :)

Jodi
08-27-2001, 05:24 PM
It strikes me "wrong" to want someone dead, and I mean wrong in the "heard a wrong note of music" sense, not the "I'm making a value judgment" sense.

I think it says more about the person expressing the opinion than it does about the person spoken of. I can see wanting someone justly punished (up to and including being put to death) and I can see wanting someone to be prevented in some way from doing something I think is reprehensible or indefensible But I can't seem to work up the vindictive emotionalism necessary to personally wish that any particular individual were dead. And I find it is almost always an indication of reason being overcome by emotion when someone wishes that someone else were dead.

This is not directed at anyone in the linked thread, which I have not read.

UncleBeer
08-27-2001, 06:01 PM
This is not directed at anyone in the linked thread, which I have not read.
And I'm beginning to wish I hadn't.

Anyway, as I said in that thread, I do find wishes of this nature reprehensible. Especially when coupled with a desire to that person suffer, as some of the wishee's in that thread have. Without going all supernatural here, a wish seems to me to be a plea to a higher power to revoke the laws of nature to suit one's personal whims. I don't see the expression of these desires to be too much different than a prayer for the suffering and death of someone.

And we all know what Ambrose Bierce had to say about praying:
Pray. To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

Wishing someone dead is a totally different thing than merely saying "I'll shed no tears when (s)he's gone." It implies action, rather than passivity. That, in a nutshell, is what I find so disgusting about it.

Beltane
08-27-2001, 09:26 PM
But what if wishing for someone death is not a desire to have natural laws suspended, but rather a desire to see Karma (or whatever "spiritual law" you might ascribe to if applicable) manifested?

Sofa King
08-27-2001, 11:26 PM
I suggested in that other thread that wishing death upon someone might be a healthy sign of self-preservation. It might have been the only decent thing I said in that thread, and I stand by it.

Yes, wishing death upon someone is largely emotional. In this case, I think it's an emotional response to a threat. I will not debate the particulars of whether or not it is a response to an actual threat; perception is sufficient.

If you look at that other thread closely, you will see that there are at least three types of response. There is the "I won't shed a tear" response, the "I hope the motherf---- dies" response, and the "I hope the bastard suffers and dies" response. Loathing, fear and loathing, and fear, loathing and Las Vegas--I mean anger.

Just a guess on my part, but I wouldn't be suprised if those responses can also be separated by the degree to which each person has personally suffered as a result of the subject's actions.

The character being vilified is just that--a character. I doubt anyone who posted those thoughts knows the character personally. We project our anger at that character just as people project anger at television sets or stuffed animals or any other receptacle which will hold our contempt. How full that receptacle becomes is likely a measure of how badly the projector has been hurt.

OxyMoron
08-28-2001, 12:52 AM
Originally posted by UncleBeer
Wishing someone dead is a totally different thing than merely saying "I'll shed no tears when (s)he's gone." It implies action, rather than passivity. That, in a nutshell, is what I find so disgusting about it.

Ah, now I understand you - and I see your Ambrose Bierce and I'll raise you (lower you?) a simple, standard cliche: If wishes were horses then beggars would ride. To me, wishing someone dead and enjoying their death are both completely passive activities. I'm not making any prayers to a Higher Power to off Mr. Helms, nor does my pleasure have any karmic influence whatsoever. It just means that I indulge in a certain utterly inconsequential spritual malevolence. Perhaps it's dishonest - I want my revenge without the grotty bit of actually doing something about it. But that's really all one can say, I think, without reducing God to a cosmic short-order cook.

And schadenfreude is our word of the day!

UncleBeer
08-28-2001, 08:11 AM
It just means that I indulge in a certain utterly inconsequential spritual malevolence.
But is it inconsequential? Or is it corrosive to the spirit of humanity? Are you struggling to overcome man's inherent barbaric nature? Or are you succumbing? In any case, there is nothing positive about expressing one's joy at the prospect of another human suffering a painful death; I manintain that is the essence of inhumanity. Growth and enlightenment can only be gained by fighting against inhumanity.
But what if wishing for someone death is not a desire to have natural laws suspended, but rather a desire to see Karma (or whatever "spiritual law" you might ascribe to if applicable) manifested?
First, a side note. I subscribe to no spiritual laws, other than those espoused by humanism. I'm a thorough-going atheist; I believe in nothing supernatural.

As you speak of the fulfillment Karma, are you not placing yourself in the position of supreme judge and arbiter? Who are you to say what any man deserves? What gives anyone the right to determine what fulfills another's karma?

gobear
08-28-2001, 08:24 AM
Uncle Beer, I'm surprised that you're so superstitious. All the wishes in the world cannot affect the material universe one jot. I can wish ill fortune on Senator Helms till the cows come home and it will have no effect on him. As for my soul being corroded eh, maybe. I agree that the worst thing hating someone can do is to make you similar to him, but on the other hand, some people deserve our opprobrium. For example, I wish cancer on ny mom's second husband, the who abused me [hysically and mentally for years. I hate him with a blazing passion and want him to suffer. I hear he has emphysema these days, so yay!
Similarly, one can wish suffering, or at least a purgatorial pain that can teach empathy, on Senator Helms. Maybe if he spent some time suffering from AIDS, maybe he would know how it feels to be sick and a pariah and change his views accordingly.
In any event, I am not a Christian, and I am not called to love those who hate me and bless those who curse me.

gEEk
08-28-2001, 09:07 AM
So, if wishing death on someone is just talk and not objectionable, then I presume that no one would object to this (http://www.godhatesfags.com): (warning, offensive link)


In summary, sodomites are wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly (Gen. 13:13), are violent and doom nations (Gen. 19:1-25; Jgs. 19), are abominable to God (Lev. 18:22), are worthy of death for their vile, depraved, unnatural sex practices (Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:32), are called dogs because they are filthy, impudent and libidinous (Deut. 23:17,18; Mat. 7:6; Phil. 3:2)...
(emphasis mine)

After all,


All the wishes in the world cannot affect the material universe one jot.

gEEk

Earthworm Jim
08-28-2001, 09:09 AM
Originally posted by Scylla
This passive shit doesn't mean anything. When did we start thingking that "wishing somebody was dead," had any kind of value. It's mental masturbation.

Exactly.

It's a brief fantasy involving something that you (probably) can't experience in real life. It's simply mental indulgence by way of a brief fantasy. I see nothing wrong with it, personally.

I commented on the sentiment in the other thread because I got the impression that the poster generally disapproved of it.

UncleBeer
08-28-2001, 11:56 AM
Me? Superstitious? Not at all. I'm not sure what I've said to give that impression. I did not say, or even imply, that I believe one's mere wishes have any effect whatsoever on the material world. What I did say is "I believe in nothing supernatural," this should be construed to include a human soul. How you get superstition from this, I do not know.

I'm sure I don't need to post a lengthy discourse on the philosophy of Humanism, but it is, in the most basic terms a system of thought that centers on human beings and their values, capacities, and worth. It emphasizes the dignity of the individual. One central tenet has it that man is a rational being, possessing a capacity for truth and goodness. Wishing someone a painful suffering and death is at odds with Humanism in my opinion. And that way lies evil. Much like Helms himself embraces.

Drastic
08-28-2001, 12:29 PM
Well, I'll see the cliches and Bible quotes already here and raise with some Eastwood.

"Hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have."
"Yeah, well, I guess he had it comin'."
"We all got it comin', kid."

and

"I don't deserve this... to die like this! I was building a house!"
"Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."
"I'll see you in hell, William Munny!"
"Yeah."
<blam>

Wishing for pain and suffering and death for one's enemies is nothing new, and will be with humanity for a very long time. Somewhat depressingly, it's part of the values of people--though I agree it is certainly far short of our capacity. Inner poison? Yeah, I'd agree with that. Toxin is intoxicating, and people do enjoy it.

I don't think it leads to evil, though. To suffering, absolutely. Evil is something else.

Beltane
08-28-2001, 03:57 PM
It seems to me that wishing someone dead is an evil. A small evil, that may be largely harmless. IMHO if this deathwish is extended to more and more people, instead of one or two individuals who have singled themselves out by their vileness, it grows more and more harmful both to the deathwisher and to those s/he interacts with. Extending this wish to a whole group of people makes it particularly toxic. Proselytizing about ones whish for the death of an individual, much less more that one individual, makes it particularly abhorrent.

I guess that what I am trying to say, is that in certain circumstance a wish for someone’s death can be excused. When that wish grows to affect your day-to-day behavior, or when you start trying to convince others to share your wish, then you cross the line from a forgivable lapse of character to something more sinister.

CrankyAsAnOldMan
08-28-2001, 04:40 PM
Some guy who was mad at my husband sent him an email telling him he hoped he got a terrible brain cancer and died.

It wasn't a threat, and it wasn't a pledge to do it. But I can tell you that it really bothered me. Had he said "I won't shed any tears when you're finally dead," I would have found it rude, but sort of laughable. Or even "The world would be a better place if you weren't in it" would have made me smirk. Wishing someone would die (and suffer while doing so) feels different to me, even if I cannot articulate it well.

I guess I am in Uncle Beer's camp.

Esprix
08-28-2001, 06:07 PM
Just a note that, as the person who started the back and forth in the Pit with my comment, I'm reading this one but don't have much to add beyond what I said in that thread. If anyone wants a GD-style response, go ahead and quote me from there.

Esprix

seawitch
08-28-2001, 07:48 PM
I think I'm gonna have to go with Uncle Beer here. Also, if harmful in no other way, I think wishing someone dead would cause harm to the wisher. Not necessarily karmic backlash - but maybe ulcers or stress symptoms. It depends on how much time you spend dwelling on wishing ill on others. And if you really want someone gone, why spend your precious time and energy on keeping them in your frontal lobes like that?

It just isn't good for humans to cuddle and feed hate; and if you start indulging in allowing yourself to hate, you may find it expressing itself externally. In thinking about it, one becomes accustomed to the idea - then self-justifies it - suddenly the actual physical behaviour is easier and nearer at hand. I'm sorta thinking of Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

Scylla has a good point, too. (Great Bob, I'm afraid to argue with the man after his earlier post. Not to mention the "sheep" thread)

If you're gonna do it, do it. If you're not, shut up and quit fantasizing and wishing, and get on with your life.

celestina
08-29-2001, 12:48 AM
I personally can't stomach the thought of wishing someone else, no matter how reprehensible I find them dead. I'm against the death penalty too. You see, I'm MUCH more vindictive than that. I'd wish them a long, healthy life so that they may have time to understand and experience more fully the hatred, intolerance, and suffering they have caused. In Helms' case, I don't know how much time he has left, and I really don't care. I won't cry when he's gone. I don't know the man personally, but I don't think he's been living in the same century and culture that the rest of America and the planet earth has, and I pity him for it. But, I have to find something positive about the shit he's done. He's been honest about being a racist/sexist/______ pig. That's something, right? He's paved the way for intolerance, bigotry, and just in general backwards thinking that has put NC on the map and stirred up folks who would otherwise be complacent to take a good look at what's going on in government and in segments of American society. That's got to be a good thing in an age when people actually believe that racism doesn't exist. [sigh] But I digress. I think that wishing someone would die really is not the right way to go about things. Wish them a long life with nothing to do but to think about what they've done and to experience the suffering they have caused others.

Acco40
08-29-2001, 04:54 PM
After having read the second post here, by Scylla, I think, I thought this thread was dead.

I do see the Humanism side of it, presented by UncleBeer, but really what is the harm in it?

Taking action is the line that musn't be crossed. Right up until that line, it's all just "mental masturbation."

It would kind of creep me out to think that a bunch of people were religiously praying for my death though... even you'd admit that would be creepy, huh UncleBeer?

SpoilerVirgin
08-29-2001, 09:25 PM
I have a somewhat overdeveloped sense of right and wrong, and yet I see absolutely no harm in wishing someone dead. I remember when I was about eight years old I wished fiercely for a certain girl's death. In fact, I took fiendish delight in getting her best friend to help me plot out an entirely fictional "perfect murder" while I imagined that it was the evil girl herself who would be the victim. Heh, heh, heh.

More recently, I have on numerous times voiced the wish that a former boss of mine (at the company where I still work) would suffer an untimely death. At one point, because he frequently traveled on airplanes, I wished for his plane to crash, but then I realized that would do unnecessary harm to innocent bystanders, so I just started wishing that he would be struck by lightning while on the golf course, killing him instantly but harming no one else.

I should point out here that I am completely anti-violence and obedient to the law, and would never even think about acting on such a wish. In fact, that's why most of my death wishes for people involve some external agent acting to cause the death (I never wish that I could shoot someone, for instance.)

This does not negate the fact that in certain instances, death wishes can be wrong.

If the death wish is designed specifically to incite violence, then that's clearly wrong.

If the death wish is the result of bigotry, that is, wishing death on someone not because of his or her actions, but because of who he or she is, then that's wrong because it's bigotry.

If you express a death wish to someone in person, or to someone who cares about or supports the ideals of the person on whom you're wishing death, then that's just plain rude, and might even be dangerous.

A final thought. Every New Year's, I make ten predictions. On of the ten is the "death prediction" (that a specific person will die in the coming year). One particularly gloomy year, I decided that all of my predictions should be for things that I truly wished for. When I came to the death prediction, I struggled. How could I sincerely wish for someone's death? My prediction: Saddam Hussein.

Unfortunately, I failed to take into account the fact that in over 20 years, not a single one of my death predictions have ever come true. But I certainly didn't feel bad about predicting Hussein's demise.

Lionors
08-30-2001, 12:09 AM
I don't wish death on folks. Their death will mean nothing to them personally and may simply bring people who may not deserve it at all grief and/or hardship.

I do spare thoughts on hoping that said person reaps what they've sown...and that in whatever lifetime they get it, I not only know about it, but they know I know. I'm not above helping justice along on occasion, either.

Many times, people create a worse hell for themselves than we could ever wish upon them. Me, I just hope for justice and try to keep my nose clean.

lieu
09-05-2001, 04:12 PM
My neighbor recently pissed me off royally. Royally. I must admit that suddenly the idea of that cocksucker dying became pleasurable to me and I began to entertain thoughts on which method(s) of his demise would be most appropriate. Well, it got to where I'd wake up at three a.m. and think about this crap until four thirty. It was poisoning my mind and elevating my blood pressure.

Then I went to church last Sunday. I don't go all that often but I like for my daughter to go, so there I was. And what was the sermon on? Forgiveness. How God can't forgive us for our sins until we forgive all others. How we can't begin to comprehend the gift he gave us in the loss of his son until we get the hate out of our hearts. So I forgave the guy. What he did (repay kindness with assholedness) still bothers me but I figure it's his problem now. And I sleep better.

sadity
09-05-2001, 05:04 PM
I think the violence you do in wishing someone dead (not that I never did) is to yourself.

Esprix
09-05-2001, 05:48 PM
Originally posted by lieu

... the idea of that cocksucker dying...

{sigh}

Oh, and by the way, Scylla, at least in my case, I do do things to make a difference.

Esprix

mswas
09-05-2001, 06:58 PM
Originally posted by Jodi
It strikes me "wrong" to want someone dead, and I mean wrong in the "heard a wrong note of music" sense, not the "I'm making a value judgment" sense.

I think it says more about the person expressing the opinion than it does about the person spoken of. I can see wanting someone justly punished (up to and including being put to death)


That's still wishing someone dead, even if you can justify it in your own mind. I think we should abolish the death penalty, because how can you make the point that murder is wrong by murdering someone?

Erek

jshore
09-05-2001, 11:10 PM
Chock me up on the side that wishing things is no big deal as long as you don't translate this into action. I am in fact someone with a rather overdeveloped sense of (Jewish) guilt and I used to feel a lot of guilt over things that I wished for. As an example, when I was growing up in D.C., I was always wishing for snowstorms not only because I didn't mind the day off from school but because I am really into meteorology. (I still get excited by snowstorms, etc.) When the Air Florida jet crashed into the Potomac during one such storm, I remember feeling very guilty about wishing for something that had caused so many people to lose their lives.

Anyway, when I was in therapy in my mid-20s, I once talked to my therapist about this and he asked me, "Do you believe in magical thinking...i.e., that your wishes somehow affect what happens?" When I told him that I didn't, he asked me why I was then at all concerned about my wishes as long as it didn't affect my actions. That was really enlightening and I have tried hard to use this line of thinking to fight such misplaced guilt to this day.

By the way, another situation where it comes in handy: I have been friends with many women over the years who I would have liked to be more than "just friends" with. I used to beat myself up a lot over whether I was secretly hoping the relationship will go badly and they will break up with their boyfriends. Now I try simply not to worry about it! As long as I am supportive of them and their relationship (and certainly don't try to undermine it in any way), who gives a fuck what I might or might not be hoping for!?! [Although, I must say that when I've gone rock climbing with these women and their boyfriends and end up belaying their boyfriends, I do try to make a habit of checking the system very consciously--- 'cause I trust my superego to behave well but I do worry a little bit about my subconscious id!

Ferrous
09-06-2001, 04:16 PM
SCYLLA,
I sorta-kinda agree with your sentiments, but I have a few points to make:

1. What's wrong with "mental masturbation"? Do you object to the physical kind too?

2: Regarding this statement:

"The kind of person I would like to be: I think the day I wish somebody was dead is the day I go and do the job"

Well, me too, sort of, but you might want to consider something called cost/benefit analysis.
Now, I regret to say I am not politically well-informed enough to have much in the way of personal feelings about the object of the death wishes in the thread that spawned this one (and I won't mention his name, since this thread is about the general issue of death wishes, rather than discussions of his character), but from what I've heard he is pretty reprehensible. So for the sake of argument, let's say I wish he were dead. Do I do it?
No.
Why?
Because if I did I would lose my own life, or be locked up for most if not all of my life. Or at best live as a fugitive. I don't want him dead THAT badly.
I could take the position that society as a whole would benefit more from his passing than it would be harmed by mine, but I'm not that altruistic.

UncleBeer,
I don't really disagree with any of your points either, but have one observation regarding your statement:

"I'm sure I don't need to post a lengthy discourse on the philosophy of Humanism, but it is, in the most basic terms a system of thought that centers on human beings and their values, capacities, and worth. It emphasizes the dignity of the individual. One central tenet has it that man is a rational being, possessing a capacity for truth and goodness."

I agree that everyone has the capacity, but that doesn't mean that all people fulfill that capacity. Despite what we tell our kids, there ARE "bad guys" out there.

Eliahna
09-07-2001, 12:39 PM
Is it wrong to wish someone dead in someone else's place?

That's my situation. I wonder why the powers that be took a nice, polite, intelligent, handsome young man who had the world at his feet, and yet left a mean, manipulative, dumb, ugly, rude, selfish cow of a woman alive.

I wish she was dead and he was alive.

Wishing's not going to change a damn thing, though time will bring half my wish true. Yet I feel like I'm soiling my soul wishing people dead.... It's just not right.

And there are two I wish were dead. The other is a man, much older than the dead man or the living cow so I don't think of them in the same way.

While I feel guilt at wishing people would die, I guess I could say that the people I hate to death aren't blameless. Both have earned my eternal hatred by their own actions, and if I wish them dead, it's only because of what they have done in the first place. She might not have done anything as bad as he did, but she's such a waste of existence. She may not have broken the law, but she's committed crimes against people, she's a homewrecker and constantly hurts people because she's selfish and self-centered. If she was dead, she'd be mourned by a few, but I think many would be saved some heart-ache. If she'd died three years ago, two children would still have a father, one man would still have his credibility, one teenager wouldn't have been lead astray, one relationship wouldn't have been tested by her antics, and I'm sure she's done so many more things that I know nothing about. Then again, maybe she's done someone somewhere some good. Who am I to interfer in the running of the world?