Why the Hatred?

>> Friday, November 11, 2011

I have never entirely understood hatred. I've studied it because lackluster villains induce comas not excitement. And because it confounds me frequently; the kind of thinking behind the most common types of hatred escapes me, the kind of hatred that is focused on what one is, rather than who.

Let me be clear, when I talk about "what one is," I'm talking about immutable and choice-driven aspects of a person that frequently engender a reaction, a judgement, in people that has nothing to do with actual characteristic. Male. Female. Asian. Black. Latino. Blonde. Short. Jewish. Christian. Athiest. Muslim. Tattooed. Old. Young. Tall. Gay. Straight. Rich. Poor. Tax collector. If you think any of these aspects gives you insight into the personality, the nuances of a person when you know nothing more about them than one of these aspects, you are a fool.

Which brings up the second kind of "what one is" that I prefer to think of as "who one is." Those are those aspects of one's personality as indicated by your behavior, the way you act (when people are and aren't looking) that determine who you really are as a person. Some are qualities, like being kind or tolerant or irascible or short-tempered. Some are "what's" determined by key things someone's done like spree sniper, rapist, serial killer. I'm not saying I know enough about someone just because he's a serial killer, mind you, that I can explain all his nuances, but I know enough to feel comfortable taking whatever steps necessary to keep him off the streets. But it's a different kind of what, one he's earned, unlike the others, because taking the lives of others for your own pleasure makes a pretty strong statement about what kind of person you are. You've demonstrated who you are. Another quick example. Being sexually attracted to children doesn't make you a monster; using children sexually, including contributing to demand for child pornography, does.

I hope that's clear enough for my purposes. Although I'm not a big hater, I can see hating people for what they've done, the who they are. But I have never understood, never embraced, hating anyone for what he or she is.

And that includes people who happen to be gay. Historically, homosexual folks have certainly seen their share of hatred and then some. Even in the Bible, they're treated pretty harshly (presumably one of the reasons Sodom bought it back then, though I've always wondered about Lot, considered a "good man" enough to be saved who offered his two virgin daughters to the slavering crowd of would be buggerers, apparently, hanging about his stoop. He did so to protect his guests, but I have to say, the definition of "good man" is just a bit off my own. But I digress...)

Actually, a huge portion of that antipathy can be traced to Abrahamian religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as many primitive and cultures with other religions accept or ignore homosexuality without issue or even considered it perfectly natural. And, why not, it happens in nature, too. In cultures where it's prohibited, homosexuals have been ostracized, branded, killed out of hand, exiled, castrated, executed in particularly heinous ways, imprisoned, excommunicated, called sinners and generally considered "scum." The fear and vitriole associated with this particular crime/sin is often extreme and certainly seems so (to me, at least) today when so many other prejudices are looking more and more foolish and outdated.


I think Shakespeare touched on one reason. People like to look down on people who are different. Studies have been done to see how readily children will ostracize a particular physical trait (eye color, in the case I read) and they responded with little prompting to single "different" people out. History certainly provides plenty of evidence of people mistreating other people based on color or religion or ancestry or geographical location, so I think it would be foolish to dismiss that explanation out of hand.

And it is easy to condemn someone for a trait one will never have oneself. Whites looking down on blacks. Nazis looking down on Jews. Conquistadors looking down on heathens. Etc. The part that's challenging for me on that, though, is that most of those big prejudices were deliberately set up by people wanting to control others with patriotism, hatred and fear. There was a perceived gain by doing so.

Beliefs about the superiority of different skin tone and having a "true" religion allowed people to justify displacing and/or enslaving "heathens." Natives on two continents were exterminated or pushed aside while natives of another continent were forcibly brought in as slaves. Religious and racial superiority were used to justify such actions. Human nature, where one thinks one will feel better about oneself by thinking another is "lesser," played into that nicely and is the crux, I think, for this kind of hatred. Ironically, it doesn't work and, frequently the hatred goes on an ever increasing spiral to find more to hate because hating others does actually make you feel good. Or, at least, I've never actually seen a happy hater.

With all of  the ME3 religions (I'm calling them that because I hate typing out Christianity, Judaism and Islam every time and they were all started in the Middle East) condemning sodomy, homosexuality is a convenient thing, especially if you consider sexual orientation strictly voluntary, to hate in someone else especially if you feel yourself completely innocent of that particular failing, with never a possibility of "falling" to it.

But I don't think that's all. Part of the mechanism for instilling hatred against those that are different is instilling fear. Nazis called out that Jews were hoarding money while the regular Germans suffered with war reparations. Others insist letting black people into your neighborhood will contribute to crime and send property values spiraling down. With gays, there are several fears: fears that accepting homosexuality will pressure children into adopting it against their will and the fear, particularly with gay men, that gays are a rape risk for straight men and children.

The first fear seems demonstrably untrue, given that heterosexuals (many of them, not all) have been force-feeding that the only healthy romantic relationship is a heterosexual relationship for generations - and we still have gay people. Some of them might be in heterosexual relationship and subsequently unhappy, but we haven't fundamentally changed them.

As for the latter, I'm sure there have been gay rapists and pedophiles, but being gay makes you one no more than being a priest does. Rapists are about imposing power and domination over someone else which means gender is probably not an issue other than a woman is frequently perceived to be an easier target. If serial killers are any indication, the same goes for pedophiles (When reading about serial killers over the past century, I noticed that those that were picky about gender either went for (a) prostitutes - female or (b) vagrants - male. Those that wanted an easy target and didn't care about gender went for children. Sad but consistent). But reality isn't what we're talking about here; it's perception and that perception of gays being more dangerous to children, to "normal" people feeds the hatred, in my opinion.

In my opinion, it's the fear factor that make people who ordinarily would never treat another person poorly turn a blind eye to much of the discrimination that goes against gays and lesbians now.

But, I speculate that the worst, the most vocal and unyielding in their hatred, the ones who seem driven to share and spread the poisonous litany against homosexuality with a rabid fervor are those who aren't so secure, are the ones who have perhaps struggled against their own inclinations. Such individuals might be so vehement either because they need their hatred to make themselves "feel better" despite their embarrassing urges (since they aren't acting on them) or they scream the loudest in the hopes to makes sure no one ever suspects them of being gay. I don't think it's a coincidence many of the most vehement politicians, when it comes to slamming the doors on gays, often get caught up in homosexual scandals.

Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind when it came to explaining it, but I doubt they're exhaustive. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts including refutations of my own cogitation. The better I understand hate, the better I can fight it, in fiction and in real life.


  • Relax Max

    Pedophilia is a sexual orientation. It is a genetic predisposition same as heterosexuality. It is a genetic "mistake." Of course, we wouldn't say "mistake" in the case of a genetic predisposition for homosexuality. I have never heard of a homosexual being "cured" and I have never heard of a pedophile who doesn't continue to follow his genes when released from prison. Our particular society doesn't abide pedophilia. It (our western society) used to not abide homosexuality. Things change, and sometimes for the better.

    Turning your head on things that don't seem quite right comes under the banner of "tolerance." I'm not a believer in tolerance of all things (some people are) but usually tolerance is the right course. Accepting people who are different and not hating them is the proper thing to do, especially when you are not harmed and society is not harmed. You are right about not persecuting GLBT people. At the same time, I hope our society still hasn't acquired enough tolerance to condone pedophila (though some "free thinkers" such as NAMBLA do.) I think they allowed the abuse of children in this manner back in Roman times. Other societies have very different rules today. Are ours better and theirs horrifying?

    In another post you said you didn't care what adults did behind closed doors, that it wasn't any of your business (and, presumably, none of society's business, either.) Though you may not have said it in your recent posts (or maybe you did) I know you also intend the caveats of "mutual consent" and "no harm to either party."

    Yet what of the heterosexual sadistic male who beats up his wife? The police can haul him off to jail and put the wife in a shelter, but she'll never testify against him. Instead, she'll go bail him out and go live with him again. Why? This is just as hard a question as the one about "why anger" that you posed. Is she a masochist? Does she think she somehow "deserves" beatings? In her twisted thinking, does she think his beating her means he loves her? And, above all, do we "tolerate" this consensual behavior, even those someone is getting hurt?" If not, why do we not force the husband to keep away from her even if she wants him? Difficult questions and no easy answers and much of this.

    What of lashing with leather whips? What of cutting the woman (or the man) and rolling in the blood until they are sexually satisfied? Doesn't harm YOU. They love doing it. None of YOUR business. None of society's business.

    Involving children IS society's business. That particular sexual orientation will land you in prison and get you on a list for life. Not necessarily so in some Middle Eastern nations. Or Thailand maybe.

    We arrive at the core of what do we want our society to be. What kind of society do YOU want? Is "tolerance" and minding your own business really all it's cracked up to be? Is there not a point where we need to define what we want our society to "tolerate"? Is society REALLY not being harmed? I wonder sometimes.

    Well, this has nothing to do with homosexuality, though, or anger. I digressed.

    You pose some interesting questions in these posts. I know you didn't ask to talk about pedophilia. I am still thinking about hatred. I still don't think any of you have hit on it yet exactly.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Well, I did talk about pedophilia, briefly. I said, "Being sexually attracted to children doesn't make you a monster; using children sexually, including contributing to demand for child pornography, does."

    I'm perhaps less convinced that pedophilia is a sexual orientation (based on the data from the same serial killers that frequently targeted children - there's strong evidence they went after children because children were easy targets - which could explain why they go back). However, they get no free pass because children should be protected until they are in a position to make informed choices.

    Consenting and adult are the key elements for me. I know some people in the BDSM world (long story) and I know most are very careful with the masochists in charge. People get themselves stabbed and pierced and their tongues split and all kinds of scary things. Consenting adult, it's not my business. And my opinion continues to forward into suicide. I don't think it should be illegal, including assisted suicide. Why should someone else decide if someone should have to go on living?

    The battered spouse case is sticky. I know enough about the victim mentality (and I lived two years more with a husband who was throttling me on the kitchen floor while my three year old screamed in the background) to know you can't stop the problem without the victim's consent. I didn't want to be beaten. I wanted to believe it was a mistake. I was an idiot.

    Once children are involved, I'm not sure the spouse should get to choose any more (and I will be responsible to my daughter for the example I set those two years for the rest of my life). But you're not wrong in saying it's a sticky wicket, a lot more gray.

    I'm tolerant, absolutely, when everyone involved is a willing adult partner in everything going on (a battered wife frequently isn't willing to be battered even if the rest of the marriage is blissful). The further we move from consenting, the less tolerant and more involved I believe society needs to be. With children, no tolerance for misuse. If society doesn't protect it's children, in my opinion, it's failed.

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