Ugly is as Ugly Does

image of eric alterman

A recent Facebook exchange brought to mind what always struck me as a significant etymological fact having to do with the German word for ugly.

That word is “hässlich,” an adjective derived from the verb “hasse” which is literally translated as to hate.

When we derive adjectives, an ambiguity is sometimes created in that the characteristics of the adjective can be projected onto either the implied subject or the object of the verb. This is apparent, for example, in the English adjectives “tolerant” and “tolerable.” The former designates an individual who is able to tolerate other individuals or situations while the latter refers to a person or thing able to be tolerated.In the case of hässlich, the adjective is generally understood as referring to the object, namely, a hated person or thing, more or less equivalent to the English word “hateful.”

But also possible is a translation of the adjective which attributes hateable characteristics to the subject. Those who reflexively hate are, by this definition, ugly. All this is directly relevant to a comment on my previous posting which weighed in in support of Eric Alterman’s despicable albeit impressively honest admission that he’s “totally cool with . . Trump voters los(ing) their health insurance, their clean air and water . . . Fuck their economic insecurity.”  Asserting her belief that “Eric is right” the commenter went on to note that we “couldn’t pay (her) enough to be concerned about their well being.”

That the commenter was a self-described revolutionary Marxist was one more data point supporting the conclusion that while professing much mutual contempt for each other, the neoliberal and radical left share common ground, among other things, in their contempt for those who voted for Donald Trump.

Another point of comparison has to do with affective style as much as substance. So suffused with hatred is this combined leftist element that they couldn’t stifle their id for a brief moment-parading the ugliness of their views for all to see. These were made more pronounced by the season when even the least charitable are expected to at least give lip service to the gospel sentiment of “peace on earth and goodwill towards men.

While they are, of course, the last to recognize their own ugliness, anyone who has experienced their outbursts has a good visceral sense of it.

And those tendencies, I submit, have a lot to do with why we lose.

But ugliness in the sense in which it seems applicable here is, fortunately, not an inherent characteristic which we are powerless to fight against.

Rather it is a common behavior which we have the collective ability to control.Doing so would go a long way towards building the foundation on which we will need to wake up from the perpetual nightmare we will be living through for the foreseeable future.

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