Hate, the book: 026

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Two
Chapter Six
Creating a Definition?  (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

As is the case with most objective studies, it’s wise to rule out what the subject of the study is not. And so it is with our study of hate.

Our next step, then, is to understand what to exclude from our research.

For example, hate is not the opposite of love as so many believe. If anything, it’s the opposite of infatuation, as we’ll soon see.

Even before we discuss what hate is not, we will dip into the phenomenon called “frame of reference.”  This is a fancy term that means I look at things differently than you.  I may even be looking at things differently today than I did a year ago.  Like other aspects of research, our understanding can only be helped by full and honest disclosure of all aspects of our “frame.”  So even though this may seem obvious, it still bears mention.
Hate is subjective, and its existence depends on where we stand on the subject.  One person views what appears to be a hateful scene and says “this is hate.”  Someone else disagrees with that assessment.

It’s not our place, yet, to say whether either assessment is right or wrong. It’s our duty right now to understand why this subjective phenomenon exists, and ensure that we can work to eliminate it from our definition.

Before we examine the subjective peculiarities of hate, we’ll ask an even more fundamental question: is hate real? And, if it’s real, how real is it? These may sound like silly questions, but consider this: Are there any animals other than man capable of hate? Is a newborn human capable of hate?

Of utmost importance is an examination of how we should study hate. That’s the foundation of this entire section.

Obviously, we have to choose what tools we’ll use in our examination, and what methodologies we’ll employ.

At this stage, it’s useful to determine if there are tools and techniques we can avail ourselves to that have proved useful in the research of other areas. But before we assemble our toolkit, we must start where all research inevitably starts by identifying the exact questions we have to ask in our study.

Does this appear to be quite a bit of work to generate a simple definition? It should, because it is going to be a lot of work.

At this stage, I’m breaking down this task into the most simple components possible, so we have a few chapters to go through order to generate a working tool.

But it’s worth the effort. Remember Charles Darwin said at the beginning of this chapter that clearly understanding our emotions will be critical for the welfare of mankind.
Nowhere is that more true than the subject of hate.

Unfortunately, we’ve made virtually no headway in our understanding of hate since Darwin’s time.

It’s time to change that by defining exactly what hate is.

It’s going to take some work, but I promise you it will be fun. And it may well pave the way to saving the human race.

So let’s go!

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 025

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Two
Chapter Six
Creating a Definition?

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

We have also seen that expression in itself, or the language of the emotions, as it has sometimes been called, is certainly of importance for the welfare of mankind.”
Charles Darwin, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, Ch XII p367.

This second part of our exploration of hate is to come to a rock-solid understanding of what comprises hate. We want a good definition.

Unfortunately, we tend to assume that hate means the same thing to everyone.

It doesn’t.  Bring the topic up for discussion and chances are you’ll get into a disagreement about what exactly hate is.

Analyze this argument and you’ll discover that both of you have been discussing two entirely different things.

The goal of this section of the book is to clarify the subject of hate, to provide a foundation of understanding so that it can be discussed intelligently and unambiguously.

That way we’ll all be talking about the same thing, which is why we need a definition that everyone can agree on and that can objectively measured.

Before we can arrive at such a definition, we have to consider hate from a multitude of angles.

For starters, we must acknowledge that right now it is something inevitable and something we have to live with.

To use a landscape analogy, consider hate as a dangerous canyon within the geography of the human psyche.  As with any objective study, we must approach our subject with absolute neutrality.

What are the costs of accepting hate in our lives? Does hate provide any benefits to people? If so, what are they? What is the impact of hate in our society?

Returning to our landscape analogy, to understand the canyon of hate, it’s helpful to know how it got there in the first place.

Consider a real canyon in a remote area inhabited by superstitious tribes. One tribe believes God created it by throwing a lightning bolt down from the sky. Another believes evil spirits created it through an epic battle.

These are obviously myths. But, as is the case with the above tribes and their canyon, there are plenty of nebulous notions regarding hate that obscure our understanding of its origins.

And while we can never know with absolute certainty how hate became a part of the human psychological landscape, it’s nevertheless helpful to analyze commonly held notions about it.

Doing so will help us discern the impact of hate in our lives and prove invaluable to developing a working definition.

Thus, we’ll be able to more easily identify false notions about hate, making it easier for behavioral scientists of the future to advance our understanding.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 024

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part One
Chapter Five
Help Who?  (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

Our immediate reaction to this reality is to aid the apparently innocent victims.  But they may not be as innocent as the world perceives them.  Now let’s turn our attention to the Taliban massacre of 130 innocent children in their elementary school. The first thing that strikes you is that these men are murderous, barbaric monsters.

But consider their motives for a moment.  To them, those children and that school represented an ungodly, blasphemous way of life.  And as radical Muslims, they believe god demands vengeance and violence against such transgressions.

Here’s something else to consider.  The children of any one of those zealots might have been killed by drone aircraft.  Thus, grief-stricken and believing the Koran demands revenge, any one of them could have incited his fellow Taliban followers to reject reason and civility for passion and action.  For these Taliban likely see themselves as original victims, as martyrs fighting original hate on its own terms.

Do we need more examples?  I pray not, for it is indeed painful to put myself inside the minds of such obviously deranged beings.

Yet to understand hate and root it out, we can’t limit our empathy and understanding to the apparent victims. Considering both sides of a hateful conflict is the only chance we have of effective action against hate.

And it is here that the crux of our problem arises. Since we do not know exactly whom to help, what should we do? Now that we’re considering both sides of a hateful conflict, we see that the apparent victims may not be so innocent after all.

Now consider the human tendency to view the world as an “us versus them” proposition. If “our” side is perceived to have been wronged, we feel justified in retaliating against those we believed wronged us.

But it’s clear that vengeance perpetuates hate. It reinforces the root cause of hate, and thus obscures it from view.

Perhaps you may think we could simply restrict our interventions to those who we feel are neutral or ambivalent, such as a religious order, or doctors without borders (medicins sans frontiers) the Red Cross, Red Crescent, or some other charitable organization.

But what if religion is at the root of a particular hateful conflict? And are these good-hearted doctors helping save the lives of people who later turn around and exact hateful revenge? How do we know our charitable dollars are used effectively and in the best way?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  Never again can we afford to live with the narrow provincial “outside agitator” idea.  Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
Rev Dr. MLK Response to an open letter by fellow clergyman criticizing his participation in civil rights demonstrations – 16 April 1963.

The reality is we simply, and painfully, do not know and can never know. Our side, the other side, those caught in the middle, the children, the mothers, even those wholly unaffected perhaps…who’s to say which side is right?  They all have parts in this passion play, whose star attraction is hate.

To some extent, all of these individual parities deserve attention.  Whom we should attend to first, and how, are subjects we will address in the last sections of this book.  Up to now, my purpose has been to show you that determining who’s responsible for acts of hate is not as easy to sort out as you may have thought.  In order to properly deal with this critical issue, we must have a more solid definition of hate itself.  And that is where the next part of this book leads.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 023

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part One
Chapter Five
Help Who?

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the last chapter we discussed the many different methods there are for addressing hate, both traditional and modern. Now, forget about them.  Forget that we are a world of opposing views, entrenched passions, passing grudges and prone to emotional choices.  Forgot even that you and I are different people.

Imagine, dream if you will, that you and I are united in thought. Not only you and I, but everyone. Let’s say we all agree that there is an optimal way to help someone, anyone, resist the forces of hate.

Now what?

The problem we would now face is that we would have to choose whom to help. For typically there are two sides in every hateful conflict.

In simplest terms, there is the side doing the hating, and expressing their hate in such a way that causes harm to the other side.  Our initial reaction is to help the side that has been victimized by hate.  Yet when we look closer at the situation, we see that the lines separating the two sides becomes blurred.

Upon this inspection, determining which side is perpetrator or victim becomes difficult.
Let’s consider several examples of hateful situations that illustrate my point.  I think you’ll see that, upon closer inspection, there’s more here than initially meets the eye.

Let’s start with an example that appears to be of small consequence for most of us here in the West – the civil wars in Uganda and other West African nations.

Are these life-and-death struggles between power-mad dictators and their own people? At first glance it seems likely, and accepting that likelihood appears to be the easiest way to understand the horrors of these conflicts, like for example, why 10-year-old boys are being molded into killing machines, why young girls are routinely raped and sent off into sexual slavery, and why entire villages are being burnt out of existence.

However, there is another possibility.  Maybe these villagers and their children instigated the conflict.  Maybe they were working clandestinely to overthrow their governments. Who can know?

Unless you lived there, you don’t know.  But what we do know is that in parts of Africa horrible crimes are being committed on an incredible scale.

Our immediate reaction to this reality is to aid the apparently innocent victims.
But they may not be as innocent as the world perceives them.  Now let’s turn our attention to the Taliban massacre of 130 innocent children in their elementary school.  The first thing that strikes you is that these men are murderous, barbaric monsters.
But consider their motives for a moment.  To them, those children and that school represented an ungodly, blasphemous way of life.  And as radical Muslims, they believe god demands vengeance and violence against such transgressions.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 022

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part One
Chapter Four
Hate is Natural?  (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.

The problem with science being so fragmented is that you and I are not neatly divided into neat little boxes of genes, proteins, cells, and endocrine systems.  These and every other physiological component are completely diffused and comprise what we consider to be, ourselves.  So until scientists take a more macro approach to their analyses, they will all be working like those blind scholars feeling bits of an elephant.

The second great problem is with the hard facts themselves.  How can any scientist determine what is or is not hate by simply measuring one’s neurons or dissecting one’s genes?  For hate is not a constant that can be measured or dissected.  It’s ever-changing, like a chameleon.

Some people can have hate in their hearts one day, but not the next.  Some people have it always; some, never.  How is a scientist supposed to study something as nebulous as hate? We’ll cover this in more detail later, but for now we can use Rush Dozier’s statement about the limbic system as an example.

The limbic system is an old part of our brain. We know it’s old because we share this brain structure with lots of other animals, like alligators. Since both humans and alligators have a limbic system, this means the structure must be common to both of us and date back to when we shared a common ancestor. That means going back hundreds of millions of years.  That’s old. So our common ancestor must have been rather lizard-like, so we call the limbic system our “lizard brain.”

The lizard brain does some very important things, like telling us to breathe.  That’s a good thing. Now, if Rush Dozier is right about hate being part of the lizard brain, then hate must be an extremely old emotion.

I don’t think it is, and here’s why. How many alligators hate other alligators? If hate really is a part of the lizard brain that tells me to breathe, then it must always be “on.” How is it then that some people don’t hate at all? Some have hated and learned to love? In fact, children start life off without hate, correct?  If hate were somehow tied to the lizard brain, a newborn should be leaping out of the womb ready to fight.  Why don’t they?

So, is hate natural?  We don’t know.  No one has ever addressed this question directly, in detail.  Many have touched upon it, and we’ll hear from them soon.  This is the fundamental problem with today’s “scientific” approach.  Hate in and of itself is not yet properly defined, and until a proper definition is made, scientific soldiers against hate are searching for answers in the dark.  And a solid definition is the one thing all these approaches need in order to effectively combat hate.  That’s why I put the word, “scientific,” in quotes.  Until there is a solid definition, we aren’t doing real science.  A definition is what we will try to create, in Part Two.

To be continued …