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The sweet uses of hostility
Article published on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2004
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If love makes the world go round, so does anger. The same goes for aggression, hostility and hatred.

Do you want a tough job done? Don’t hire a happy person. Instead, get a dues-paying member of the Pishtoff Society, named after the Russian psychologist, Dr. I.B. Pishtoff. In 1904 he discovered that rats who were angry had twice the energy and drive of other rats who were motivated by hunger, fear, sex, greed or jock itch.

The sweet uses of hostility include the writing of funny, perceptive books. Recent case: “Skinny Dip,” by the brilliant Carl Hiaasen, Miami journalist-author who also writes for Tampa Bay Newspapers. The root of many of Hiaasen’s novels (he’s published 10 of them) is his rage at the rape of the Florida environment.

But you don’t have to be a best-selling writer to put your resentment to good use. Between now and Nov. 2 many Americans will channel their ire into political activities aimed at defeating George Bush or pulverizing his enemies. Years ago, positive enthusiasm made voters elect a candidate. Today, the motive power seems to come from loathing the other party and its leaders.

Demolishing detested chores is an excellent way to employ anger. In many homes and offices, little would be achieved if someone didn’t erupt with irritation at the very thought of the work waiting to be done. Homeowners don’t really take pride in a clean house; it’s their abhorrence of clutter and dustballs that finally gets them into action. Most monthly reports would not get completed except for the resentment that finally wells up in the bosom of the person whose job it is to compile the facts and figures.

The diet industry is sustained not by our hope, idealism or desire to live a longer, healthier life. It’s kept going by our animosity at what we see when we stand nude in front of a mirror. Hear the verbal venom: “You gluttonous wretch! You look like a beached whale.” Most of the people who go to Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig have murder in their hearts. Their aim: To exterminate their glutes and love-handles. From self-loathing can come a better life.

The simmering acid of continuous covert revenge (my own term) can inspire a person to do well. I know at least one recovered alcoholic who has stayed sober for many years partly from his continued delight in cheating his enemies of the satisfaction of seeing him drunk once again.

A final example of beneficial anger is this: You see an ignorant slob publicly abuse his wife and children. Your head pounds with your desire to whack him. Instead, you go home and lavish an extra measure of kindness on your own family. Your rage is transformed into something good.

Later, of course, you can go back and smash the guy’s face in. There’s no sense in letting goodness overwhelm you.
Article published on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2004
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Tampa Bay Newspapers
9911 Seminole Blvd.,
Seminole, FL 33772
Phone: (727) 397-5563
Fax: (727) 397-5900
Submit News