The contagion of human emotions evolved from a time when group unity was necessary for survival. The negative emotions are more contagious than the positive, probably because a tribe united in hate is a more effective adversary than one united in love. In our time, hate is the most contagious, enduring, and degenerative emotional state.
Hate has personal, interpersonal, and societal dimensions. In all of them, it dehumanizes both the hated and the haters.
Unlike anger, hate resists efforts at emotion regulation; it typically takes life-changing events to reduce its effects. Where anger is about prevailing against perceived threats, hate is about destroying them. Once anger and resentment cross the line into hate, it’s extremely hard to come back from it, in part because it relieves self-doubt with an artificial sense of moral superiority. Hate endures because it justifies the harm done while hating.
When people feel unsafe within themselves, the expression of hate makes them feel empowered. It provides a sense of purpose in tearing down or destroying that which we hate. People without a sense of purpose are especially susceptible to hate.
Hate is heavily embedded with bias and distorted or oversimplified thinking. This makes it difficult on an interpersonal level to mitigate projection, to discern whether people we hate merely reflect qualities we don’t like about ourselves. Hate expressed on an interpersonal level is almost certain to evoke hateful responses from others. Expressing hate creates more hate.
On a societal level, hate holds groups together with a common enemy but tears them apart without one. Hate groups invariably develop factions and infighting, if not civil war.
Hate is embedded in presumed righteousness. Every hate group asserts its hate and aggression in the name of justice (human or divine). They feature indoctrination and forced reeducation, which, of course, increase hate.
It’s always difficult and misleading to apply class analysis to individuals, yet it’s occurring in the neo-Marxist, oppressed-oppressor struggle currently sweeping the Western democracies. Thus we have highly privileged individuals claiming victimhood within oppressed classes. Worse, a few bad actors exploit their oppressed-class status and devolve the struggle for equality and justice into a quest to become oppressors. Historically, Marxist regimes effectively replaced oppression with suppression.
On a personal level, we must find the source of hate within us. If you’re afflicted with hate, examine its effects on your health, well-being, and relationships. Develop a sense of purpose in building rather than destroying.
On an interpersonal level, fearlessly assess whether the qualities you hate in others are qualities you possess but disown. Qualities we dislike about ourselves must be accepted to be improved.
On a societal level, we must realize that we don’t want to increase hate, which we certainly do by expressing it. We must pursue justice with a clear notion of what it is, what it would look like. We must visualize the world we want to see and how we can contribute to it. We must replace the motive to destroy, engendered by hate, with the motive to build, engendered by passion.
Social media has unique power to spread hate. It can also spread kindness, compassion, and, dare I say it, love.
Let us begin.