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Monday, March 28, 2022

Will Smith’s action lacked an “objective correlative”, an emotional reaction proportional to that which induced it


By Professor Gilbert Morris

Will Smith assaults Chris Rock
TS Eliot spoke of an “objective correlative”, an emotional reaction proportional to that which induced it. Eliot thought Hamlet’s response to his situation lacked an objective correlative.
Will Smith’s action lacked the same: the impulse to defend honour implies there is honour to induce its defence.
Mrs. Jada Smith’s behaviour even her recent illness does not imply a defensible honour in the manner of Mr. Smith’s undertaking.
This is especially true when one considers that Mr. Smith knew already that he would have the mike and an adoring global audience and could have humiliated Mr. Rock by mere explaining that Mrs. Smith was in fact unwell!
Rock would have poured on apologies and the vindication would have been proportional.
What would have impelled Rock to joke about Jada? Well, he’s a comedian and everyone is game. Second, he and Will are friends: could he have been intending to defend his friend?
I have no interest in this situation, expect it’s an opportunity to discuss a foundational moral point concerning emotional proportionality in the vortex of human behaviour that justifies it.

Consider: Had 50 Cent or Shaq made that joke, would Will have risen from his seat?
There is an internal calculus when nice boys contemplate violence. It occurs in seconds, a sort of “sizing up”. In Will’s calculus Rock was vulnerable and essentially defenceless.
That is what’s pernicious!
So, what actually drive Mr. Smith?

Well, who knows abundantly?
One surmises that he didn’t defend Mrs. Smith at all: he defended himself and perhaps his children watching with the need to witness an alignment of familial loyalty; which is to say, a defence of their mother by their father.
The hear is strange and estranging. One understands defending a devoted wife, friend and companion, but first she must be a devoted wife friend and companion.