An act that deliberately causes suffering (physical or emotional, or both), as well as a person doing such an act, is called cruel. The term cruelty has negative connotations and is therefore rarely used when the suffering is regarded positive, for example when a person who was found guilty of a crime or other offense is punished. The term cruelty is also rarely used in cases where a certain indifference to suffering is necessary for a person to do their job without getting emotional damage themselves.
Cruelty and violence
Cruel ways of inflicting suffering may involve violence, but violence is not necessary for an act to be cruel. For example, if another person is drowning and begging for help, and another person is able to help, but merely watches with disinterest or amusement, that person is being cruel - but not violent.
Cruelty and culture
According to Friedrich Nietzsche, almost all higher culture comes from the spiritualization of cruelty.
In history, one can find many examples of cultures who were culturally (and/or technologically) highly advanced, but also very cruel - for example, the Romans. This disproves the common notion that cruelty is a typical sign of 'barbarism': in fact, cruelty and high culture often goes hand in hand. However drawing the opposite conclusion is incorrect as well: one can equally often find great cruelty in less advanced cultures.
Cruelty against one's own people (as well as those of other countries) is often found in dictatorships. Cruelty is also very common at times of war or armed conflict.
Cruelty and sadism
|“||In every one, male or female, there is more or less , a "lust of cruelty," which shows itself in different ways, in different people. "Lovers of the Rod" like to give pain to their victims by flogging them in various ways. But many a man who takes pleasure in seeing a woman writhing, and crying with pain while undergoing corporal punishment at his hands, may in all other respects be tender-hearted.||”|
|— From the anonymous novel "Frank" and I|
Cruelty as a sexual paraphilia is called sadism. However note that when people play together in consensual BDSM, the suffering inflicted on the bottom - whether it's bondage, humiliation, whipping or "torture", is actually for the bottom's pleasure. Therefore consensual BDSM does not require true cruelty on the top's part.
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