Hate, the book: 036

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 Eight
Study How?  (Continued)

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

As a final observation on definition, I will also acknowledge that it’s possible to move too much to the other extreme, and that is to define something too much.  There is also a cost for this because it takes work to create a definition, more work to test and create a consensus, and more work still to learn and teach it.

In the case of hate, we must invest considerable effort toward a better and greater understanding. We must consider this a modest investment as the potential rewards of clarifying what hate truly is could transform our world into a paradise.

With that potential reward in mind, I am willing to do whatever it takes to further our understanding of hate, like writing this book. And since you’re still reading, I assume you’re willing to roll up your sleeves as well.  So now let’s continue surveying the landscape and consider the terrain.  Like unproductive rocks or inhospitable swamps, we can disregard certain aspects of it that are unlikely to yield benefits.

In the case of our examples, we have several that can be easily discarded. These are anything having to do with vegetables (from my broccoli example), the stories referencing the sports teams, and finally, the infamous couple on the magazine cover.  In other words, if “hate” really is a form of “dislike,” then we’ll ignore it.  In our landscape then, we will investigate the stories of the father protecting his daughter, the abused college student, and the natural death of an unnatural preacher.

Before dissecting these stories, let’s talk about the qualities of what we expect to see. Much like the artist who prefers to record his landscape during the “magic hour,” we too must be choosy about what we are observing in order to ensure it is of the highest quality possible.

The painter, poet and photographer consider the magic hour to be just after dawn and before dusk. Those are the times when the sun’s light is shifted towards the red portion of the spectrum, enhancing and deepening colors, making the land come alive.

We must attempt to do the same with our landscape. In our case, we are “observing” events well after they have happened. In some cases, we are reading stories that could have started as rumors, which then acquired layers of legitimacy at the hands of other editors as they repeated the story.

It may have started as a dry police report, or as an obituary listing, or as a press conference statement announcing the start of a lawsuit. Regardless, the reporting of these events inevitably passed through an unknown number of people aside from the credited writers.  These secondary players all contributed something to the published stories via their state of mind, personality quirks, prejudices and personal agendas.

Chief among these secondary players were the editors, who likely imposed their own subtle bias into the process. It’s easy to imagine these editors having cut the length of any of these stories due to space constraints, or forcing the writer to make the accounts more dramatic to appeal to the perception that readers like punchier conclusions and heightened conflict.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 035

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 Eight
Study How?  (Continued)

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

The lesson is that we must pay close attention to fundamental actions, not just facial expressions or superficial things people say.  That said, let’s put the subject of Darwin down for now and go outside.

As we re-enter the light, we see it’s still snowing, and that it’s creating a mess.
We also see, as we observe our metaphorical landscape, that the subject of hate is equally messy.

The term “hate” is used liberally in sports, celebrity, random acts of violence and consistent antagonistic preaching. This is not to say popular use is “wrong,” for within any living language the landscape of definitions is always changing.

But what we can say is that the current use of the term “hate” within the English language is that it is so broad as to be sloppy. And this sloppiness comes at a cost.

That cost is two-fold.  The first is communication confusion.  If a definition is messy such that I can think of it in one way and you another very different way, that means we are disagreeing on what it is.

Yet we use the same term.  So I can say I hate a sport team, and mean I wish them to lose the big game.  You might also be right in assuming I want to do them physical harm.  Or I might say that I hate broccoli, and in your mind you could fear that I intend to go to the local grocery and vandalize all their inventory of this hard, green, bunchy vegetable.
However, what I really meant was that I can only stand to eat broccoli if it’s been covered in a thick layer of catsup.

Messy definitions are a hindrance to communication.  Of course, you “normally” assume exactly the opposite of what I said here.  I hate your team means I want them to lose, while I hate broccoli means I don’t want it on my plate.

Are these silly examples?  Perhaps, but I have chosen to give them to make my point.  Imagine now cases where the differences are smaller, as in “I hate my teacher” or “I hate my life.”

The second cost, perhaps even casualty, of a sloppy definition is this: it stands as an obstacle to our ability to measure the phenomenon or event.  If I can’t accurately tell you what it is, how will you ever be sure of its existence?

You can’t.

The most basic form of definition is that of differentiation, self from non-self, light from dark, up from down.

So it must also be with hate.  We must define it in such explicit terms that we all know and agree when it exists.  In today’s landscape there is a lot of fog and mud around the subject of hate.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 034

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 Eight
Study How?  (Continued)

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

Overall, in this landscape of ours, there is a great divergence in the use of the word hate.

The first great divide comes from popular and non-threatening hate, such as the reaction to Kim Kardashian and Kayne West. The other side of the divide is where violence occurs, both in mind and body. And even among these three items we have a great diversity of use of the word “hate.”

In our first example, a violent moment emanates from a chance encounter.  Nasty words are spoken, and the state will pursue retribution and justice under the legal definition of the term hate.

In the second, the crime occurs over a significant time period, during which a series of acts are perpetrated by college roommates acting in concert.

Perhaps just as worrisome as those who committed those acts is the fact that so many others failed to act. This can be considered even more outrageous only because some of those who failed to act are in fact paid to identify, protect innocents, and eliminate such behaviors from their institution. It may be that failure is what the lawsuit addresses.

Finally, the third sample is perhaps the purest form of what we seek. No physical violence can be traced directly back to the man who preaches hate.  He uses no weapon or other physical artifacts.  Yet his actions are such that there is a great likelihood that others who heard his words might well have acted violently against the targets of his vitriol.

The most obvious evidence of this is their penchant to protest loudly at the funerals of soldiers.

Why do they protest at an unrelated soldier’s funeral?  Perhaps because that is where the cameras are.  Whatever the reason, his words influence others.  His words and the practice of his brand of religion are both protected under the US Constitution.

But who protects the minds that he influences, possibly in ways causing harm to others?  We will focus on the single story, on the dead man.  But even given that no one was hurt, is hate still present here?

We’ll get to that question shortly, but at this point we have surveyed the landscape of hate long enough.  Now it’s time to duck back into our cave and consider our next step.
Before we venture back outside, let’s curl up with a good book, after all it’s snowing like crazy at the moment.  This particular book is full of great observations, but one seems most relevant for us in our analysis of hate.

“Fear, on the other hand, is often confused with surprise, or with anger and / or disgust.”
Preface, Darwin’s “Expression of Emotions in Animals”

This statement, by Professor S.J. Rachmann, is about trying to ascertain emotional states based on facial expressions.  Professor Rachmann was an expert on the psychology of abnormal behavior.  If an expert like him acknowledges confusion about emotions related to hate, can we deduce that confusion is bound to pollute any analysis of hate itself?

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 033

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 Eight
Study How?  (Continued)

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

Take a look around. Now that we’ve cleared our heads and have a general idea as to what we’re looking for, we must inspect the landscape.

How best to do this in today’s instant information era?  Ask a search engine.
On the day after the vernal equinox of 2014, I enter “news” and “hate” into the search box and receive – no filtering here! – these top hits.

The first several listings are about sports teams. A basketball tournament is going on, and the sports writers have no hesitation using “hate” to describe popular opinion. One article is entitled “Why does everyone hate Duke basketball?” Another single listing is about a famous, or perhaps infamous couple, Kim Kardashian and Kayne West; “Kim and Kayne cover Vogue and twitteratti hate it.”

The last three items are more to the point of this survey.  First, a father dies shielding his daughter from an attacker.  The alleged perpetrator is charged with a hate crime, ostensibly for calling him a “nigger.”

Second, a San Jose college student has filed a $5 million suit against his school for failing to shield him from hate directed towards him by his fellow students.

Third, a man named Fred Phelps is dead. Phelps has attained notoriety by preaching to his congregation about hating certain groups of people. This article notes his passing, and that his children intend to continue promoting his hatred.

In our landscape we see “hate” describing popular opinion. We see it applying to the entertainment genres of sports and personality. In this way “hate” is used so that it could also be applied to stewed spinach or watching a four-hour foreign movie without subtitles.

This form of hate has nothing to do with people or behavior, it’s simply being used as a strong form of the sentiment, “dislike.”

Then there are the other three stories. And it appears within these stories we will begin to tease apart the essence of true hate.

In the first story, a father dies shortly after protecting his daughter from an epithet spewing psychopath. The father did not die at the scene of the altercation, but shortly thereafter.

In the second, a young man is tormented by roommates with epithets, hateful symbols, and finally physical violence.

He was dark skinned, while the others were light. Luckily no great physical or mental damage seems to have been inflicted. And, as the story relates, the student remains at the school and aims to improve the system through legal means.

Third and finally we have a man who apparently never physically harmed another, yet was infamous for preaching to his congregation about intolerance towards others. The ‘others’ he chose were homosexuals in general, but as I understand it, he also managed to preach and instigate public protests against other groups as well.

Could this have been an elaborate scheme to attract a larger congregation?  Perhaps.  But since he’s dead now, we can only evaluate Phelps based on his actions.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 032

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 Eight
Study How?  (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.In physics, the concepts of gravity, mass, and energy are all solid fact. Multiple universes and superstrings are not.  In the history of the sewing needle, bone needles that are more than 10,000 years old are fact.  Needles that are ten times older are not.  The study of hate must be built on this same type of solid foundation of fact.

Because of the special emotional nature of our subject, there is one more point to address. Having an open mind, being able to question everything means more than simply saying “I will study hate with an open mind.”

It means that we will consider hate a phenomenon that we can be entirely neutral about. Including, perhaps, the hate we find in ourselves. We must have the strength, courage, and patience to know that our neutral stance is the best and perhaps only way to understand and eventually contain hate in our society.

As neutral observers, then, we cannot condemn hate – and neither can we condone it. Hate simply exists.

With this neutral view, we will study it and evaluate its impact upon society and individuals, and even ourselves.

Are those impacts positive or negative? As neutral observers we don’t yet know. However, if they are good and desirable, we can certainly try to promote the positive.  If not, we can try to mitigate the negative.

Emotion, experience, expectations, must be rejected at all costs.  Any prejudice we bring to this study will only serve to make our job harder, leading us into the trap of hate. Hating hate, so to speak, is an attitude we can’t afford.

In our study, we’re going to try and use current events and modern knowledge, as much as possible. Not only does this make our subject more interesting, it may also provide more relevance in understanding hate as it exists today.

But modern events aren’t the only game in town. Going back to our metaphor of that physical landscape outside our cave, let’s think about what else there is besides the mountains, grass, trees and other aspects of what’s directly visible.

For example, there is solid mass underneath our feet. There are the natural processes taking place out of sight, and in deep time.

Layers of rock, plate tectonics, all this subsurface matter impacts our world.
And the same principle is true when it comes to understanding hate. For there are other sources of deep knowledge that we must consider.

These include evolution, biology, neurology, chemistry, psychology and other sciences. These disciplines all offer us special kinds of insights into our subject that are available only through deep inquiry.

Unfortunately, until we have a better idea as to what our landscape looks like on the surface, we must wait before we start digging into this deeper terrain.

With that in mind, let’s emerge from our cave and into the light.

To be continued …