"We hate some persons because we do not know them; and we will not know them because we hate them."
- Charles Caleb Colton
It can be safely said that the greatest atrocities in our history are products of misinformation coupled with misunderstanding. Our ignorance has been the greatest benefactor of our greatest crimes; our greatest errors in truth have found their origin in generalization. Consistently throughout history, it can be seen that the tendency of the human mind to put people into groups has aided in some of the greatest terrors of our entire race, the most prominent and ghastly being the Jews' Holocaust, and the more recent Taliban regime.
The recent spate of hate crime in India and all around the world has done more than threaten the safety and welfare of citizens. It has inflicted on its victims incalculable physical and emotional damage. But more than that, it has clawed at the very fabric of free society. Crimes motivated by invidious hatred towards particular people or groups not only harm individual victims but also send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group the victim belongs to. Hate crimes can and do intimidate and disrupt the societal order and vitiate civility, both of which are essential to healthy democracy.
This brings us to a couple of basic questions. What is hatred? And why do we hate? Hatred or hate is a word that describes intense feelings of intense dislike. It can be used in a wide variety of contexts, from hatred of inanimate objects to hatred of other people or groups of people. Hate for individual(s) is intended to degrade or intimidate, or to incite violence or prejudicial action based on factors such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance, mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be construed by some as a liability, or as different to oneself.
Philosophers have offered many influential definitions of hatred. Rene Descartes viewed hate as an awareness that something is bad, combined with an urge to withdraw from it. Baruch Spinoza defined hate as a type of pain that is due to an external cause. Aristotle described hate as a desire for the annihilation of an object that is incurable by time. Finally, David Hume believed that hate is an irreducible feeling that is not definable at all.
In psychology, Sigmund Freud defines hate as an ego state that wishes to destroy the source of its unhappiness. In a more contemporary definition, the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology defines hate as a "deep, enduring, intense emotion expressing animosity, anger, and hostility towards a person, group, or object" Because hatred is believed to be long-lasting, many psychologists consider it to be more of an attitude or disposition than a temporary emotional state.
Social theories such as 'egalitarianism' claim that social equality should prevail. In some societies, including most developed countries, each individual's civil rights also include the right to be free from government-sponsored social discrimination. Additionally, the concept of 'liberalism' emphasises individual rights and equality of opportunity. The theories may seem different on a superficial level, but they essentially are united by their support for constitutional liberalism, which encompasses freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, an individual's right to private property, a transparent system of government. Adherents of these ideologies support some variant of a liberal democracy, with open and fair elections, and where all citizens have equal rights by law.
In a realistic democratic society, citizens are not expected to approve of the beliefs and practices of others, but must never disrupt normalcy on account of them. Laws must include recognition of the gravity of crime and the compelling importance of preventing their recurrence. Additionally, any form of hate crime must be prosecuted and punished with appropriate severity. Intolerance, without thought, of lifestyles or identities differing from one's own, can find no place in a society which believes in and abides by democratic principles. Any individual or group of individuals obstinately devoted to prejudices, especially when these views are either challenged or proven to be false or not universally applicable or acceptable, must be construed as a perpetrator of hate crime.
To those who'd read this blog, I say this. Before you strike hatred, be sure that your enemy is worthy of your hate. For it is near impossible to hate what we can even vaguely understand, and of those who we despise, we haven’t the faintest clue.
Blogroll of Indian Atheists and Agnostics
9 years ago