The Futility and Self-Destructiveness of Biased Hate
Do you happen to hate certain people without their having done anything offensive to you? If so, are you certain of the facts which justify your hatred? Have you personally experienced hatred directed at you simply because of your identity?
The target of prejudicial hatred is an “other,” a stranger who is perceived as dangerous or inferior. He/she has likely done nothing hurtful to the hater, nothing, that is, other than merely existing. Perhaps he looks or sounds different, or belongs to a detested group which “deserves” disdain and discrimination.
These haters are zealous “true-believers” whose minds are sealed. Their hates are based on entrenched “facts” about race or gender, religion or ethnicity, political affiliation, social class or nationality.Their biased beliefs are immutably ‘etched in stone’ and they’re supported by people with similar biases and “isms.” Presenting them with strong evidence to the contrary has no effect.
Children naturally develop affiliative feelings of comfort, liking and love, as well as antagonistic feelings of dislike, discomfort and anger. But not hate: They do not innately feel hate towards any individual or group.
Hate is not part of our genetic code: It is entirely learned. Attitudes require verbal and cognitive abilities, but inculcated hate needs repetitive didactic or demonstrated teaching.
Embracers of hate are sure their prejudices are valid because these “facts” were learned from influential teachers like parents, family, friends or from social media. When their lessons are effective, hate is soon experienced and passionately expressed by the eager learners.
Hate has hurt so many and has ennobled so few. It diminishes one’s humanity and is ultimately self-destructive and futile.It saps energy and exacts an emotional and physical toll on the hater as well as the “hatee.” It stimulates the hater at first, but it eventually corrodes his innards, and exhausts, controls and consumes him.
There are many words and feelings which give credence to the fact that negative feelings reside within us: Intolerance, hate, anger, aggression, selfishness, exclusiveness, rejection, disdain, envy, resentment and enmity. All are variations on a theme of social antagonism.
Likewise, many words reflect our “positive” human thoughts and feelings: Tolerance, liking, love, hope, respect, acceptance, empathy, embracing, altruism, cooperation, caring, nurturance and inclusiveness are all variations on a theme of social affiliation.
Words of affiliation and antagonism express our widely varied and nuanced feelings, thoughts and behaviors. The “good news” is that “affiliation-related” words and behaviors are more in line with humanity’s natural state of being than those which are “antagonism-related.”
One can easily bemoan the current state of our world and our long history of inflicted inequities, brutalities and suffering. The truth is, however, that humanity has been slowly (but surely) moving (“evolving”) in the direction of better health, education, empathy, benevolence and yes, peace.
In his extraordinary landmark book, “Better Angels of Our Nature,” Harvard’s Steven Pinker demonstrates convincingly, based on data (“real facts”), that our human propensity to “affiliation” is winning out over “antagonism.” Homo sapiens has been the beneficiary of our extraordinary inventiveness, science and creativity.
Pinker shows that we are better fed, educated and medically treated than ever before. We live longer and healthier, we’re better protected from the elements and diseases are being eradicated. We are also culturally enriched, entertained and enhanced. It may be hard to believe, but there is much less violence and war than ever before in human history.
Affiliation is more congruent with our evolutionary needs and propensities, and with what has actually been happening “on the ground” on Planet Earth.
This is indeed heartening: There is now reason to be optimistic and have hope rather than to despair and hate.
That said, there are potential dangers on the horizon. As impressive and valid as the arc of progress to human enlightenment may be, it is moving at a very gradual pace. A lingering fear is that the slow nature of this positive movement can provoke vigorous opposition and conflict to interfere or negate our momentum towards humanism.
Our incremental progress can be upended by two seminal regressive influences:
1) Demagogic hotheads who may use conflict, repression and violence to address the problems confronting civilization.
2) Willful and/or ignorant deniers of global warming who will do nothing to prevent the cataclysms which may engulf our planet and species.
We hope that the enlightened progressive forces of reason and compassion will continue to overcome the regressive supporters of ignorance and hate. Homo sapiens has already demonstrated wondrous creativity and resilience, which will no doubt continue.
We can ensure the eradication of hate, its replacement by humanism, and the perpetuation of humanity. But we need a universal commitment to benevolence and tolerance, so that a Positive Emotional Footprint is imprinted on us and our world.