cruel fun

Cruel fun is one of the kinds of fun I mentioned in a post called “when fun goes bad.” Today I find myself mysteriously moved to write more about this particular kind of fun.

I’m not sure if it’s the same thing as “mean fun.” I mean, I’m not sure if the practitioners of cruel fun mean to be mean. Or even if they’re particularly aware that they’re being cruel. The point that needs to be made here is that they, for all their cruelty, are having fun. Actual, genuine, regardless of what else you might want to believe they deserve, fun. Fun of the cat-and-mouse-type, of the killer-whale-and-seal-pup-type. And it’s natural, this kind of fun. As natural as nature.

Scientists and other play apologists like to attach meaning or at least purpose to this kind of fun. They say that the animals are “practicing” skills that they need to survive. So it’s not bad or anything. It’s survival.

Human animals are also practitioners of cruel fun, examples of which are plentiful, excuses for which only slightly less plentiful.

But the thing is, the thing we need to acknowledge is – it’s fun, it’s play, and it’s cruel.

I so much want to tell you that fun is good, that all you really need to find happiness is let yourself have more fun. But the truth is that neither play, nor fun, nor even happiness is, as I wrote yesterday, “a moral or ethical choice.” Choosing fun is choosing life, to embrace life, to be alive. It is not necessarily choosing to be a good person, or a wise person, or the kind of person you are when you are at your best. That kind of person chooses the kind of happiness that is most meaningful to him, the kind of fun that resonates most fully with the fullness of his human being. And even though you are always and only you, and even if you might be having fun, you are not always that kind of person. You are not always that kind.


  1. Laura Allen on October 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Bernie – I am compelled to comment here because I feel strongly that cruelty is the only unforgiveable act and cruelty for fun is the worst act. Unlike animals, humans can always make a choice in how they treat other beings. When you make a choice to treat another creature or fellow human with cruelty, that is bad enough but to make that choice for your enjoyment – that is EVIL.

    • Bernie DeKoven on October 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      I agree completely. I wrote this post because it seemed to me to be important to acknowledge that fun can be cruel, that we can find fun in cruelty. I wrote this post not to encourage or even condemn cruelty. But to accept the truth of it, the fun of it. There’s the kind of fun a cat has with a mouse. I hate witnessing it. But the cat won’t let me ignore it. It is even natural. And for us to understand fun, I believe we need listen to the cat. To understand fun, we need to understand it in all its flavors, all its manifestations, whether we approve of them or not. Not everything fun is good. Being cruel is never good. The point is, it’s fun, nevertheless. Yes, we should have as much fun as we can. Yes, we should have even more fun than that. But not all kinds of fun, because some kinds of fun kill.

      (Just found this comic. Thought you might find it relevant.)

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