The mindlessness of hate
First published Dec 21, 2009. I have always maintained that each one of us is barely a hair’s breadth away from becoming a genocidal maniac; all it takes is to identify an enemy (“They”), dehumanize them (“they are worse than animals/ they are like TB Bacilli…Hitler), create an existential threat (“they will kill us all”), remove all options for peace (“they hate us for our way of life”…George W. Bush) and finally, make it a good deed to kill them all (“we must wipe out this cancer”).
Presto. Every German, every Hutu, every Serb, becomes an instant tool for genocide.
Hate is an easy rallying point from which leaders can exploit the ignorance of their audiences by stoking the embers of fear and then fanning the flames of hate.
Humans have a herd mentality; most people like to group together under a common interest; it can be something as benign as admiring a singer or an actor or, it can be a hobby or sport like photography, basketball or even attendance in a church.
On the negative side, groups collect together to cultivate hate. Because hate is fear-driven, people like to believe they are involved in collective patriotism…defending their people and their country from the unimaginable dangers of the ‘other’. Such groups have a strong cohesion and mutual support that often outlives the group itself and is passed on from generation to generation, as with the KKK, and the Nazis.
Being human, we don’t like to admit that we are driven by irrational fantasies of hate. Once we identify someone to hate, we develop very intricate logic to justify and sanctify our position, usually holding God to be the final arbiter in our favor. We relied on God to justify genocide and slavery of peoples of the Americas, of Africa and of the Pacific. We created the myth of “White Man’s Burden” to justify colonialism and imperial exploitation of Asia, Africa and the Americas. We hunted down Jews for centuries and we supported all this with “evidence” from the Bible.
Politicians are very astute in identifying the “enemy”. They whip up the public’s fears and then present themselves as the best choice of people who will lead the fight against this “evil”; they are careful to always leave a shadow of fear looming in the background, in order to ensure their own continued indispensability.
Today, our politicians have identified Islam and Muslims as the greatest threat to the “Judeo-Christian Civilization”. Religious leaders rail against Islam and are rewarded by advantages from the Administration. Generals affirm the superiority of their God against “Allah” (even though God and Allah are the same) and find themselves promoted.
Today, we are freely imprisoning and torturing Muslims because after all, “It is a small price to pay for our security”. Indeed it is a small price…WE are not footing the bill, “they” are! Everything is justified on the basis of fighting “terrorism”.
The intellectual justification has begun.
Preachers are invoking the name of God to instill fear and to rationalize the hate against Muslims. Politicians and teachers are resorting to fantasies in order to “prove” how evil and violent Islam is, and as the FBI and (‘Fatherland’) Homeland Security have said, every Muslim is just another “Sleeper Cell” waiting for the signal to begin their killing spree.
Facts notwithstanding, many teachers find ways of “explaining” Islam as an irrational faith and that Muslims are not to be trusted, public school textbooks have found subtle ways to “show” how, throughout history, intolerant Islam was bent on conversion or slaughter. Our own Mountlake Terrace High School library has several copies of “Opposing viewpoints: Islam”, a book that seems to collect the most rabid and irrational Islam-haters, to “balance” articles by people who really wish to help readers understand Islam. The cover of intellectual inquiry is used to spread what would otherwise have been intolerable messages of hate. Interestingly, no such “balance” is to be found anywhere about Judaism, Christianity or Blacks.
When messages of hate and fear are inculcated into our children, we should not be surprised that they grow up to fear and hate their Muslim neighbors. Ultimately, when the flames of genocide engulf a country, only the blind and the deaf can honestly say they were unaware of the events leading up to the catastrophe.
Things do not have to come to such an end. People should be watchful of the messages they are getting, especially when the message is hostile towards “others”. In such a case, readers or listeners should try to find a learned person from the “others” to verify what they heard. More often than not, the story will be roundly debunked.
Always verify from someone of the same group because that is where the truth is. After all, if one wishes to learn about African Americans, then the KKK would be a poor source of information, just as the Nazi party would be a misleading source for Judaism.
Hate requires energy and resources to instill, nurture, cultivate and pass on from generation to generation, while knowledge creates the understanding that makes hate look silly. Knowledge about the “other”, be it Jews, Blacks, Muslims or Gays, will always remove the ignorance that so exploits our darkest fears; knowledge is like turning on the lights when one is afraid of the unmentionable demons under our beds at night.
In this country, which is based on the premise that “all people are created equal”, there is no excuse for the divisiveness that comes from Hate.
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