This post is long overdue. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a symposium on “Remembering Charles Darwin”, during which the concept of Parent-Offspring conflict was extensively discussed. One aspect of the Parent-Offspring conflict was the constant attention-seeking tactics of the child, which caused the parents to devote their attention to the offspring, thereby preventing them from having the time to create more progeny. The parents, of course, cannot blame their young one for this particular phenomenon, and so the unconceived sibling is effectively “killed” by the kindness that the parents show towards the child.
This concept sent me a long way back to when I had read “The Taming of the Shrew”, where Petruchio alleges that he is killing Kate’s spirit, but he is doing it with kindness. His definition of kindness is rather crooked, for he categorises starving his wife and depriving her of sleep as kindness. In his defense, brutality at that time was physical abuse, so this kind of psychological trauma could be seen as kindness, if only in a very screwed up way.
But the phrase has evolved considerably since the Bard used it, and today it has taken on a different meaning entirely, one which is much closer to the one referenced in the case of the Parent-Offspring conflict. Today, to kill with kindness is to shower the subject of your affections with so much kindness and love, that they (figuratively) choke on the intensity of the emotion. We see it more commonly that we assume, with couples constantly asking for “space” from each other, or children needing “time” away from their parents, or any other of the myriad of examples available.
Even literature has reflected this change. The expression of affection has become more and more superficial over the years, be it the teary-eyed romance of The Fault In Our Stars or the pseud-passionate love affair of *shudder* The Fifty Shades of Grey. Art forms, in general, seem to have taken it upon themselves to be proponents of this new form of kindness genocide, with increasing amounts of pop music reflecting sickly sweet ideas which are not only gag-worthy but also completely ineffective.
The popular song by Florence and the Machine entitled “Dog Days Are Over” inevitably comes to mind when discussing this concept. To those who may not have heard this song, there is a line in it which goes: “she killed it with kisses”, and that line, for me, is a perfect representation of this idea.
We have, in my humble opinion, lost the subtle art of expressing ourselves and our emotions effectively, without making unnecessarily overt gestures. Only the other day, I was reading something written by an acquaintance of mine, and couldn’t help but notice that a very simple (and very overused) concept had been presented with gross overuse of words and an unflattering amount of literary elements. Everything stated in that page long passage could have been better expressed in a simple paragraph by a competent writer, and, of course, got me thinking.
Is it simply an unprecedented extrapolation of the age old adage “the more the merrier” which has landed us here today, at a stage where we feel it necessary to pile things on to such an extent that we eventually end up crushing our object itself? If so, proverbialism has done us a great disservice.
In keeping with the theme of this post, I shall stop writing here, with deep hope in my heart that the mass murder of things by kindness will cease shortly.