Thursday, February 22, 2007

A less hateful world

Unlike fear, there is no rational basis for hate. Perhaps one can identify people without whom the world would be better off. That’s no reason to hate them. One might say the world would be better off without the uneducated or the selfish. That’s a reason to promote education or institutions that favor selflessness. Maybe that will eliminate the uneducated and the selfish in future generations. Why punish or kill the uneducated or the selfish in this generation if they’ll just come back in the next one? It’s no solution. Yet it is a solution to focus on the future and not worry about expressing vengeance in the present.

Hatred is not so patient. Hatred may not act in the present out of impotence, but it would if it could.

Unlike fear, there is no semi-objective way to look at the world and ask how much hate there should be in a person if he or she could take in the facts of the world without bias. If one can take in all facts objectively, why would there be any hate? There’s only hate when people look at their political, religious, or personal opponents and say, “It’s their fault!”

Anywhere one looks on the internet or in the real world, one does hear other people being criticized for what they say or do. Often that’s a hateful criticism. I would like to get away from that for the above reasons, that there’s no rational basis for hate, that it does no good, even in the intellectualized form of hate one can see where there are no obscenities, but the words are thoroughly biased toward someone else being the bad guy.

One principle that gets away from hate is to understand that our greatest enemy is in the mirror. It’s my own bias that causes me the greatest upset. In the language of Buddhism, my delusions and my attachments cause me the most trouble, more so than the biological and cultural nature of so many people. I like that aspect of Christianity that also says look at myself first, as with Matthew 7: 1-5. So I look at myself.

One way I try to be more objective is to be a scientist toward the hatred, indifference, and falseness that so many people embrace. It is the product of biological evolution and cultural evolution that we are this way. Whether one is polite about one’s evil intent or obnoxious, it is natural and acceptable by one’s subculture, if not the overall culture. People have cognitive distortions in almost every opinion they have. They oversimplify and overgeneralize. They use black and white reasoning. They deny this if challenged. They can’t be mistaken. They start from being right. The words they use to explain that must be defensible.

Even with that much, I’m starting to lose my objectivity. I hate how people butcher reasoning in what they say, how they ignore so many possibilities, how their prejudice is so important to them. I know why this is. This is one reason there is so much strife in politics, religion, and everything else. It adds to all other reasons that make all partisanship corrupt. And I’m sick of partisanship. I don’t have to think about it. As in that link, I’m having a perfectly good day, and then I’m grumpy because I see some excessive display of partisanship. I’d like my clients to escape from not having health insurance, but it’s not going to happen because politicians would rather push their own fantasies and play “gotcha” with the other side.

See, I’m losing my objectivity again. I’d rather just kill all the bad people than sit and watch objectively. I won’t do that because practically I can’t and the consequences of how much killing I could do are unacceptable to me. Some say I’m immoral because of that, that the only way to be moral is to see such killing as wrong. Perhaps that’s right. Yet I am what I am, just like everyone else.

So at some point I admit I can’t be objective. People are evil for how much suffering they cause and for not wanting to diminish that. I’m hurt by that. Others are hurt even more than I am. It helps some to understand how natural this is, but that is also why blaming others and not helping others is so ingrained in people, why hatred persists even when culturally acceptable hatred shifts from physical violence to verbal attacks.

Where is hatred going? I would like to think that as people improve materially, they have less reason to hate other people, but that doesn’t seem to be happening, does it? It does seem that hatred is more verbal and less physically violent than it once was. Why should that ever go away?

I turn to God, and I have a hard time getting a straight answer to how much God hates this world. I was raised in the Episcopal Church, where there was a determination in the 19th century that God has no passions. Does that mean a passionless love? That’s not the God of my experience. And love can mean hatred of things that threaten the object of that love. Maybe if God can see a big enough picture, He doesn’t need to hate, knowing that all this blaming other people is just something people have to get through. Then again maybe even God doesn’t have that wide a view.

Will people ever get away from hate? Atheists seem to think that if everyone gave up on the delusions of religion, there would be much less hate. Fundamentalists seem to think that if everyone joined their cult, there would be much less hate. Perhaps there would be for a while, but intellectualized hate is so subtle, and controlling other people is so much in our nature, I don’t know that hatred will ever leave us. Maybe someday we’ll have implants that will keep us from blaming people the way we do. It’s going to be a while before we get that far.

So maybe fear will decrease, but hate will stay with us. That’s not necessarily a good combination, is it?


Tim said...

Hi Dave - very interesting post - there's been a lot of debate in recent years regarding various implants we may choose in the future - i.e. silicon that makes us more humane by being less human, and I'm not sure what the ultimate outcome of such technology would be.

Fear and hate prevail in such abundance because they're such easy emotions to stir up in people, plenty of individuals willing to exploit that, and seemingly plenty of us willing to be exploited, imo. Pretty gloomy outlook, really, especially as I get the impression that people who hate more often than not aren't necessarily aware of their own hatred...

And fundamenalists as a group appear to be just as factional as any other group, religious or secular, plenty of bad feeling amongst themselves, but then they do tend to engender at the very least, a climate of fear amongst their own and anyone else who will listen... so there's not much hope of them coalescing into a single unified canon of belief.

At a very generalised level, it might be possible to argue that fear and hate help to preserve cultural diversity, and that's why they're so deeply engrained in us. Who knows...

DavidD said...

Thanks Tim, as may be obvious I don't plan where I go with these posts too tightly.

What I do know is both the intellectual folly of blaming others, yet even I can get that way. "What is wrong with these people?" I listen to those who say they choose not to be angry, but then I hear the anger in the intellectual judgments they make. So I don't know that anyone has overcome it. I don't even know God wants us to overcome it. Maybe He wants us to share His anger if we can ever figure out exactly what makes Him angry.

So I'm not sure what an implant would do. Give us a hopeful image whenever we start to blame someone or feel the frustration that leads to blame that leads to anger? Whatever it would do, it did occur to me as something that would help us in a way that intellectualizing our anger hasn't.

Tim said...

Hi Dave, I was just checking around for news and came across this at Science Daily...

which makes for some grim reading, and I can understand some of the transhumanist people who think the sooner we edit out such negative aspects of ourselves, the better, though I'm not sure how practicable or even desirable changing ourselves to that extent would be.

The interesting thing about the article is how the supposedly non-religious people reacted so similarly to their supposedly more spiritual counterparts, and I'm really not sure what's going on there...