The Swerve Test

There is a road that begins, in my heart. with the general disdain I feel for most specimens of homo sapiens, and ends, in my spleen, with the blackest hate that one man can feel for another, the kind of hate most people, including myself, are fortunate enough never to experience, the kind reserved for a villain who has destroyed a loved one and witnessed by actions of murderous revenge. Arrayed along this road, like Burma-Shave ads on the highway to Abilene, are signposts, behaviors, that mark the boundaries between the states of disdain and dislike, dislike and loathing, loathing and hate.

It is somewhere around Wichita Falls, by my reckoning, that the countries of true hate begin. In mapping these infernal regions, I have found it useful to apply what I call "the sweve test," which is really a pair of tests: Driving along, I mount a rise to discover the person of my enemy, standing in the road a short distance ahead, and put to myself the question, "Do I swerve to avoid him?" If the answer is yes, then he has not yet passed into the territory of loathing; if no, then the second test must be applied: Mounting a second rise, I discover the person of my enemy standing beside the road a short distance ahead, and put to myself the question, "Do I swerve to hit him?" If no, he is loathed; if yes, hated.

The swerve test has much to recommend it. First, it is accurate: In the best tradition of Skinner, it avoids murky subjectivity by addressing only behavior. While my own estimation of the extent of my distaste for a particular person may vary with the weather, the proximity of my next meal or the quality of my last, or whether or not I remembered to take my medication that morning, the volition to actually effect his destruction, either passively or actively, is much less mutable.

Second, the swerve test is precise: We may imagine the swerve as a kind of behavioristic quantum--the smallest act measurable as evidence of intent. Here is a heavy mass, moving with great speed, having tremendous inertia, and by a small motion of my hand I can deflect its course and thereby choose to spare or destroy my enemy. In the first test, I must expend this minimum effort to save him, and in the second, to destroy him. The two outcomes differ only by a quantum.

Third and finally, the results of the test are easy to interpet: At the end of the day, the subject of the swerve test, like Schrodinger's cat, is either alive or dead.

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