Friday, April 8, 2011

Rules for Love and Rules for Hate - Classical versus Modern

Classical heuristics have always had strong laws for constraining love. In traditional societies, whether they are religious or tribal, love has always been seen with contempt and stringent laws have been in place to restrain it.

Honor killing is a very common practice in many traditional societies, whether they are arab or hindu. A senior tribal elder's daughter eloped with another man and ran away to kabul. The tribal elder belonged to a pashtun tribe. Following pashtunwali, the tribal elder sold his shop and house and went to reclaim his honor by killing both his son-in-law and his daughter. Now this would seem violent for anyone who has lived and grown up in a modern culture, but for traditional societies, love is often treated in derogatory terms. Many similar practices are observed in many parts of the world. Karo-kari murders alone are upwards of 10,000 where the killer is often treated with respect. Men and women are often killed in equal numbers, but it is always easier for a man to runaway than for a woman.

Going by the above figures, any reader should be convinced about the deep disgust with which love is treated which is unfathomable for anyone living in the modern world. So is this just pure barbaric savagery or is there some natural hidden logic??

Biologically, love and hate are considered the same emotions which follow the exact same neurological pathways and trigger the same psychological and physiological responses. Murder is the culmination of extreme hate where as fornication is the culmination of extreme love. Now biologically, these two emotions can very easily flip as well as they are pretty much two different faces of the same coin. Rejected lovers often commit suicide or kill their cheating lovers. Now, every emotion whether it's love or hate, does not culminate in crime.

Both hate and love are also celebrated in traditional societies, but it should be the right type of hate and love. Marriages are grand occasions and are often celebrated with great zeal and zest, but so is revenge. Revenge is treated as something honorable. So love and hate are not inherently good or bad but the category that each emotion falls into based on certain preset principles which are heuristically defined. Hating your mother or father is extremely repugnant and society rarely tolerates it. In modern societies, this has now become tolerable to quite an extent and often parents in their old age are neglected but rarely in traditional societies. Similarly, divorce is often a widely accepted norm in modern societies but not in ancient or traditional societies.

The real difference comes when we speak of rules. In a modern world, there are not many rules associated with love and there are then they are very weak. Cheating is more a function of individual preferences. Similarly, kids can be brought up in or without wedlock. Very few rules are now really there to regulate love. Some are present, like underage sex, but these don't really deal with love per se. Love is a free concept but hate isn't. The modern world is trying to eliminate all types of "hate". A simply verbal death threat could end you up in jail now. Physical forms representing hate is simply nonexistant. You cannot beat your enemies now, but you can make them bankrupt and do far worse to taking them to court. So we have developed this asymmetry about the love/hate idea. Love is good and hate is bad, when biologically they just might be the same.

So the real question is, whether love or hate are equally dangerous or not. We can invent reasons and rationalize the whole idea but the unobserved silent evidence would be missing. So why did classical heuristics invent so many ways to control these two emotions and only allowed the right type of love/hate to prosper in society.

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