Hostility, Hate, Contempt

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Finally, in addition to, or sometimes even combined with, the motive

of self-interest, motives related to hostility, hate, or contempt may inspire

our gift giving. Gift giving as an intentional act of unfriendliness

is perhaps a less usual way of looking at the phenomenon but is not uncommon.

The extent of the hostility may vary from relatively harmless

practical joke gifts, like the exploding cigar or the jack-in-the-box, to

gifts motivated by really deep-seated feelings of anger, hate, or disdain.

We may give a gift to someone who has affronted us or treated us badly

in order to let this person sense how ignominious his action has been.

Aggression can be the underlying motive of a meager gift given to somebody

whom we used to bestow with abundant gifts in the past. Anna

Freud’s “altruistic surrender,” abundant giving to a person of whom one

is intensely jealous and whom one deeply hates for that reason, is another

example (A. Freud 1986 [1936]).

Fiske’s FourModels and theMotives to Give

The four models of human relationships outlined in Chapter 1 can clearly

be recognized in the psychological motives described here. However,

although the models correspond to some of the motives, the models

do not cover the motives entirely. The motives reveal more of people’s

motivations to give than the models do. This comes as no surprise because

Fiske’s models are based mainly on sociological and anthropological

material. The statements of our respondents, quoted in Chapter 1

as illustrations of the models, make clear that there are four ways in which

people may relate to gifts and, through these gifts, to other people: community,

authority, equality, and market. The first category of motives

mentioned earlier, the positive affect, seems akin to the type of feelings

involved in community, the model that has disinterested concern and

commitment to other people – often family and loved ones – at its core.

However, the strategic aspects that may go with gifts apparently given out

of “pure love” – the want for attention, the wish to make up for some

wrong or to soothe one’s conscience – show that community may be too

superficial a way to describewhat is going on in a social relationship based

on sympathy.Moreover, motives like insecurity or anxiety may very well

underlie gifts given within the mode of community: lovers giving abundantly

to one another, thereby trying to diminish their insecurity about

the status of their relationship, or children giving loyally to their parents

because they are afraid to lose their affection.

Motives arising from a need for power and prestige are in accordance

with the relational model of authority. But here, aswell, the motives of insecurity

and anxietymay accompany the power motive and complicate its

meaning. As Adorno’s famous research on the authoritarian personality

makes clear, insecurity and anxiety are often at the roots of authoritarian

ways of behaving (Adorno 1950). Expensive or abundant gifts given with

the aim to acquire a superior position over other people or to make them

dependent upon us may, at a deeper level, reflect the fundamental insecurity

about the impact and efficacy of the respective resources of giver

and recipient and, thereby, about the status of the relationship.

A very common type of motive in gifts is the self-evident giving “because

it’s only normal,” the tit-for-tat reflected in the relational model

of equality.When a friend invites us to dinner, we bring flowers or wine;

she does the same, when dining with us, just because it is the normal

thing to do. The reported motives based on self-interest are corresponding

to the relational mode of the market. Self-interest may go together

with hostility and aggression, but this need not be the case. Gifts given

by the pharmaceutical industry to the physicians are motivated by selfinterest

but are not expressing hostility.Hostility is an additional category

of offensive motives that may occur in any of the four relational modes,

thereby complicating their impact. Just as disappointed or frustrated love

(Fiske’s community) is susceptible to turning into aggression, so can relations

normally characterized by authority or equality become perverted

by anger or vengeance.

In many fairy tales malevolent gifts play a prominent role, for instance,

Snow White’s poisoned apple. In the Introduction we have seen

that the German and Dutch word Gift, meaning poison, has its etymological

roots in the word “gift.” Some gifts are literally given with

the intention to sacrifice somebody’s life; think of the legendary poisoned

cup. In the following section examples from our own research

(Komter and Schuyt 1993a) show how, behind the cheerfully colored

wrapping of the gift, intentions of the giver may be hidden which are

not in the least congruent with the recipient’s frame of mind toward the

giver.