December 2, 2014
The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014
Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology
The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious
: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain
April 14, 2014
Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time
: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic
: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships
: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin
: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate
: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
April 11, 2014
Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden
: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does
: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer
: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You
April 9, 2014
Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?
Samuel G. Freedman
: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau
: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau
: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
April 8, 2014
Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease
Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear
April 4, 2014
A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children
Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet
Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds
Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves
April 2, 2014
Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?
Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities
It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene
Jewish World Review
Dec. 12, 2007
/ 3 Teves, 5768
What is aggression?
Students of words enjoy the way in which adjectives normally used to describe reprehensible actions are whitewashed to become terms of praise. One instance, which has caught my eye recently, is 'aggressive'. In the past few days I have seen a firm's brochure praising its 'aggressive approach to the worldwide sale of megayachts', a reference to a writer of semi-pornographic novels as 'skilfully and slyly aggressive' and a rising politician as 'charming Congress with his verbal aggression'.
Such usage is not all that new. 'Aggressive' can be defined (OED meaning 2c) as self-assertive, pushful, energetic and enterprising. As far back as 1930, a Vancouver newspaper advertised for 'an aggressive clothing salesman with ambition to manage a large store. Good salary.' This did not mean, I think, a salesman of aggressive clothing, for such garments are rarely seen in Vancouver, a notably peaceable city, but of clothing in general. Freud pioneered the way in rehabilitating aggression. Writing on hysteria in 1912, he said he was no longer dealing with sexual passivity 'but with pleasurably accomplished aggressions'. He thought 'the sexuality of most men shows a taint of aggression'. Well, mine doesn't, I'm pretty sure, and I sometimes wonder whether old Sigmund ever experienced sex, though to judge by the number of obnoxious Freuds around today, he or some members of his family must have done. Adler was another fellow who tended to rebrand aggression into a positive image: he praised a certain type of neurotic for using his skills so successfully 'to dominate and torture others' (The Neurotic Constitution, 1921). Child psychologists and education experts are also in this game. Thus that old know-all A.S. Neill laid down (1962): 'Well, every child has to have some aggression in order to force his way through life.' We might agree with that had not Neill spoilt it by adding: 'The exaggerated aggression we see in unfree children is an overprotest against hate that has been shown towards them.'
Strictly speaking, aggression, a French word in origin, merely means to approach, to march forward. Then it acquired opprobrium: 'To make an attack, to set upon.' In legal circles it meant 'to commit the first act of violence, to begin the quarrel'. An aggressive is essentially an unprovoked attack. The question of provocation, a favourite Marxist-Leninist term, means that aggression has a precise meaning in communist theory. Hence the Comintern statement: 'Aggression can be predicated only of Imperialist powers.' This is the Marxist version of the Christian distinction between 'Just' and 'Unjust' wars, and you can read all about it in R.N. Carew Hunt's monograph Guide to Communist Jargon (1958). Adam Smith, interestingly enough, believed it was quite wrong for a country to get involved in wars where no clear act of invasion had occurred. In his preface to The Wealth of Nations (1776) he wrote: 'The business of government is to check aggression only.' But then, what exactly in practice constitutes aggression? After the Suez business in 1956, the UN General Assembly appointed a committee to define aggression 'once and for all time'. The last that was heard of this endeavour was in 1959 when the committee itself voted unanimously to delay for three years the attempt.
You would think that writers, being interested in words and their meanings, would be particularly concerned about defining aggression. I am not so sure that they are. Many of them are certainly aggressive. I am reminded of this by the recent death of Norman Mailer, and I will come to him in a minute. In Shakespeare's day, writers actually killed each other in tavern duels. I have never seen a writer's murder but well recall the early 1950s, when the annual party of the TLS might well end in a series of fisticuff bouts between poets, well fuelled by neat whisky and dry martinis. Come to think of it, it is only four years since I saw two poets, having drunk nothing more inflammatory than white plonk, stage a donnybrook in a Mayfair entresol. I would like to read a serious book, quoting sources, on fights in the cause of art. Charles Lamb's elder brother John, described variously as 'rude', 'genial' and 'burly', detested cruelty to animals, and in 1810 wrote a pamphlet on the subject, with particular reference to the boiling alive of eels. But he was pretty ruthless in using his big fists with men. He once knocked down Hazlitt, 'following an argument about the colours of Van Dyck and Holbein'. Of course Hazlitt could be provocative. He took the incident well, saying, 'I do not mind the blow. Nothing but an idea hurts me.'
That was not the attitude of Mailer, who was all for 'setting upon' (primary definition of aggression) people long before they got in with a blow or an idea either. He was in a mood to thump me on two widely separate occasions. The first was when he was on wife number two. He had attacked her with a knife and had spent some time in the slammer, in consequence. I was appearing in Ken Tynan's lunchtime TV programme on books, interviewing a politician. Just before (live) transmission Ken appealed to me, in a panic, to do Mailer as well, as the interviewer had not turned up. I agreed, though I did not know much about Mailer, then not so notorious as he later became. In fact I confused him with James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity, a better novel, in my view, than The Naked and the Dead. I did not know much about Jones either, though I was aware he had recently been to a school for writers run by Mrs Adlai Stevenson. So I began by asking him about it. 'Mr Mailer, did you find it helpful to your writing, to be in this, er, institution?' His eyes narrowed to slits. 'No, I did not. Why should it?' 'But, Mr Mailer, I thought that was the whole object of your being there?' He slowly leant forward, like a small Balkan army. 'That's not what the judge said.' I now realised something was seriously amiss, so I hastily switched the topic to the comparatively safe subject of battle adjectives, and precariously got through our five minutes on air. Afterwards, I saw Mailer five vodkas later in the hospitality room, eyeing me in a hostile manner, and moving towards me to renew the encounter. So I hastily called for my studio car and driver, and left.
Some harmless encounters followed over the decades. Then I found myself attending a supper party in Upper East Side Manhattan with a now white-haired Mailer and wife number six. She came from Arkansas and I thought her delightful, until she began complaining of the media treatment of her friend Bill Clinton, then in the White House. 'Why,' she moaned, 'the New York Times reporter had the nerve to say that at his press conference this week the President made gas.' The verb intrigued me. 'Mrs Norman Mailer the Sixth,' I said formally, 'are you actually saying that those cads on the Times went so far as to state that the President farted!?' 'There's no call, Mister, to be so gross!' she replied. She went over to Mailer to complain, and in due course I saw the old white-haired chimp or champ begin to knuckle himself towards me. So again, I called for my driver and left. My policy is never to get into fights with writers. Who wants to give a black eye to literature?
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
|BUY THE BOOK|
Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).
Eminent British historian and author Paul Johnson's latest book is "American Presidents Eminent Lives Boxed Set: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant". Comment by clicking here.
12/04/07: Pursuing success is not enough
11/07/07: Are famous writers accident-prone?
10/31/07: Courage needed to disarm Iran
09/20/07: Who Will Say I Promise to Lay Off?
07/24/07: Greed is safer than power-seeking
04/02/07: Benefactors must be hardheaded
03/07/07: American idealism and realpolitik
11/28/06: Space: Our ticket to survival
10/24/06: Envy is bad economics
10/11/06: Better to Borrow or Lend? Rethinking conventional wisdom
08/22/06: Don't practice legal terrorism
08/08/06: A summer rhapsody for a pedal-bike
08/03/06: Why is there no workable philosophy of music?
07/11/06: Historically speaking, energy crisis is America's opportunity
07/06/06: The misleading dimensions of persons and lives
06/06/06: First editions are not gold
05/23/06: A downright ugly man need never despair of attracting women, even pretty
04/25/06: Was Washington right about political parties?
04/12/06: Let's Have More Babies!
04/05/06: For the love of trains
03/29/06: Lincoln and the Compensation Culture
03/22/06: Bottle-beauties and the globalised blond beast
03/15/06: Europe's utopian hangover
03/08/06: Kindly write on only one side of the paper
02/28/06: Creators versus critics
02/21/06: The Rhino Principle
© 2006, Paul Johnson