Those who love to hate — and hate is like a powerful drug…
I have always been fascinated with human behavior, especially the extremes, like hate groups, and other such fanatical people or causes. There are many experts who have theories about why hate groups are rising again in so many places around the world. It reminds me of some buried old toxic waste that seeps out now and then through cracks in the earth, but now looks to be a large fissure opening up wider all the time.
As an old student of anthropology and psychology, I have become interested in finding out more about one part of that kind of fanatical human behavior—the expression of hate. Where does it come from—the hating of someone or group of people that you have no personal knowledge of in most cases? If learned, can it be unlearned? I am familiar with the theories, as most people are—that villainizing one ethic group, for example, is learned and passed on in families like grandmother’s recipe for fruit cake, or a regional accent. Most of us know that this kind of hate most often springs from a learned fear caused by insecurity. However, the hater will go to great lengths to deny any fear. This fear is so powerful and disturbing, it becomes necessary for a hater to band together with others like themselves for a kind of assurance that they are not afraid, they are just getting ready to protect “their people” from some perceived threat.
Fear, insecurity, brain wiring, environment, all these things surely contribute to one’s world view. I have also come to believe it taps deeper into fear than we may realize. Fear is a very primal thing, and some people seem more susceptible to embracing it. Fear can be a good thing, a warning system to protect us—it most surely is primal. Humans learned early on that different could mean trouble, a threat. Different must be avoided, destroyed before it/they can destroy us. What stands out to me, is that this primal reaction seems to still sit as a warning buzz inside the head of the haters, the prejudiced, those quick to find fault in others who are not like them. None of us are exempt from what our culture has taught us about other groups, but most of us have let our intelligence override this kind of thinking as we gain a better understanding of ourselves and others. The haters, on the other hand, are convinced that they are in some sort of danger even if they can’t seem to articulate it in a reasonable way. So, it festers, this buzz, and fear eventually becomes hate.
America is the land of protest—we have perfected it. Now these organized haters/protestors log on to their webpage of hate and join their friends in planning the next display of that special brand of evil. You won’t see, or I never have, a solitary man on the corner with a flag and AK47 screaming insults to those going into a Temple across the street. He would know not to do that because they would come for him in the white coats. No, people like this need many voices to help convince themselves they are right, and that they are doing this for “their people” against the others, the different—the Jews, the immigrants, the liberals, just fill in the blank.
The more of “their people” they can gather, the more powerful they feel, the louder they yell, the stronger they become. Only when they band together do they become everything they want to be—important, in charge, looked at, and most crucial of all, they are feared. Even if for only an hour or two it’s a high better than any drug, and they can’t leave alone. They will not give it up, the demonstrations, the gun show, the shouting of slurs, because it tamps down their fear, feeds their hate, and makes them feel important. They will be back, again and again to feed this need. Hate is a powerful drug.
I’ll never forget the protest not long ago where one of the mob’s mantras was, “the Jews will not replace us” and I was puzzled about that. Replace them where, doing what? I can’t speak for all Jews, but I feel pretty certain that we don’t want anything that belongs to them.
Every time I see a group of those guys marching around like they’ve stepped out of some weird movie I can’t help but think about a family of Chimps that we studied in physical anthropology. When a new male wandered into the camp, the males in the home group would band together to get rid of “the other” by displaying a certain type of behavior. There was much screaming, beating of chests, marching around, displaying of genitalia, and riling up each other to a violent display of aggressive behavior. When I see those guys screaming slurs, wearing Nazi symbols, caressing their guns, I always recall that group of Chimps acting out their drama. Some humans have evolved very little in all these many years. The one big difference is that the males in the human hate groups (possibly worried about getting arrested) display their guns as a stand-in for their genitalia. No, things haven’t changed much. Fear is primal and powerful, but when it becomes hate, it is a destructive force unlike any other.