“That’s not what I meant ”
Murder or Manslaughter
Murder and Manslaughter, consequence-wise, are the same - somebody is killed. But the intentions (or the lack thereof) to kill make a big difference .
- Murder (intentional killing) is an unlawful killing of a person with malice aforethought.
- Manslaughter (Unintentional killing): An unlawful killing of a person without malice aforethought, in which, there are two types of manslaughter.
→ Voluntary Manslaughter: is the killing of a person in which the offender had no prior intent to kill (but had criminal intent) or acted during the “heat of passion”
→ Involuntary Manslaughter: is the killing of a person that results from recklessness or criminal negligence (without criminal intent). It is sometimes called “criminally negligent homicide”. (E.g. running a red light and accidentally killing a pedestrian).
Intentions (malice aforethoughts) can turn anything into weapons but what is scarier from the above distinctions is recklessness can turn anyone into a perpetrator (manslaughter).
“That’s not what I meant”
A: “I think…”
B: “You mean..?”
A: “That’s not what I meant.”
B: “So what did you mean?”
A: “ What I meant is …?”
B: “Oh. I thought you meant…”
Meanings implied in intentions are one’s own making. But meanings of already spoken words or of already committed actions, once released, are no longer controlled by the person himself. The meanings can be reinforced or denied then recreated through interactions between him and the other. To put it differently, meanings are subject to interactive interpretations. But sometimes, if not often times, the meanings of those already spoken words and of committed actions do not stand the chance to be refined but concluded by the consequences (the impacts on the partners). In that case, no matter how much one tries to defend the “absence of his intentions” with “That is not what I meant”, “I didn’t mean to do so”, “I only meant well”, the damage is done. The level of damages varies from hurt (feelings)→ injured → killed. At criminal courts, the absence of his intentions may be charged with “involuntary” (the act results from his recklessness rather than his intention) and therefore, the sentences can be reduced or he can be even acquitted (if he is diagnosed mentally sick). But when it comes to feelings that are hurt by spoken words, there is no court as a legal go-between to judge his intentions and to sentence him. He can just get away without even knowing the consequences (of course unintended on his part). That is the beginning of how people drift away from each other.
When walking into any social interaction, a certain level of tension is produced as one brings in some pressure to assert himself through his words and acts. Over interactions, as he learns more about the others he is supposed to adjust in oder to apply a proper amount of pressure on the others to assert himself, thus tension is reduced. Recklessness is the case when he doesn’t give proper care to one’s own words or acts while interacting, thus applying more pressure than what the others can take and as a result, a friction occurs, meaning the other would get hurt or injured or as the worst scenario, killed as the friction increases.
Pressure is heavier than a stone
A stone, no matter how big it is, can’t kill even one bird, let alone two, on its own. It is the pressure applied to move it (not matter how small the stone is) that kills. The pressure can come from “GOD” (a typhoon, an earthquake, a tsunami). It can also come from people’s intention to kill (not just birds) or people’s failed intention to care (recklessness).
A sincere opinion, like the stone, not matter how cruel it can be, may not kill people. It is the pressure implied in how that opinion is delivered to the other, that kills. The pressure implied in “you should” “you must” “Do it” “It’s bad” “It’s good” among other ways to deliver his sincere opinion does carry the intention to impose his opinion on the others while leaving no room for alternative or counter interpretation from the others. The others may be quiet. Or they may just walk away from the social interaction. Some may choose to response to the pressure with counter-pressure. Pressures escalate as the two sides no longer listen to each other but busy asserting themselves through clear-cut affirmative or negative expressions. These exchange of pressure is not part of meaning-refining processes but just rounds of attacking and defending, which may lead to the severing of the relationship.
Japanese are often times thought (usually by foreigners) to be “aimai” (ambiguous) in what they say. In their defense, they are only “aimai” in how they deliver what they want to say, which is already developed in a colloquial set of “aimai” phrases. The meanings implied in the “aimai” statements are still crossed to the others, regardless. Of course, there are people ambiguous about what they want to say, either because that is their original intention or because they are not articulate type. These types are not limited to the Japanese genre, I believe.
The most “abusively” used “aimai” phrase is kamo-shirenai (かもしれない- maybe/I am not sure) at the end of sentences. It appears not only in conversations, but also in formal presentations or even in writings. The phrase may indicate the uncertainty and ambiguity in what one wants to say. But how it is used implies a subtle sense of interactiveness with the others, rather than only about expressing himself. “This is what I think” and by adding “kamo”, it releases the pressure (of imposing his thinking) on the others (audience) from the previous statement and gives rooms for the others to digest. That is yasashii (gentle) rather than aimai (ambiguous), I think (kamo shirenai) 🙃😉
The self is not one's own making, but constantly refined through interactions with others, especially through the activity of talking with others- this probably the most dominant activity in the life of a human being. “Speaking must be seen not as bringing out what is already inside, but as a way of changing what is inside” (William J. Clancey , Situated Cognition on Human Knowledge and Computer Representations, Cambridge University Press 1997). The presence of the others, no matter how little (age-wise) they are, and how they respond to what “I” say play an important role in “changing what is inside”. And the other way around. One is reckless when he fails to pay attention to the presence of the others but only himself, resulted in acts of only asserting and defending himself. The self never grows that way as meanings in his doings are, instead of being refined through interactions with many Others in the outside world, confined in his tiny little world. He becomes either ignorant or arrogant.
That “he is either ignorant or arrogant” is present in all of us at least at some point in life. The recognition of the importance of the presence of the others would make one humble and, then naturally, become gentle. Instead of denying the others with the negative “that is not what I meant”, gently assert “what I meant is…”