Friday, August 29, 2003

a letter!

A very interesting meditation on hate arrived today.

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A few thoughts prompted by the article about hate and faith.

I feel that there must be more than one emotion encompassed by what we call
"hate." I know one emotion that I shall call "broad hatred," for lack of a better
term. This is what I feel towards groups such as the Taliban, the Kmer Rouge,
and similar regimes. The groups to which I feel broad hatred engage in
activities which are horrific, extreme, and destructive on such a scale that I
cannot help a visceral anguish and certainty that this, at least, is evil. This
feeling encompasses a desire to destroy the said groups either by killing the
core people who espouse the philosophies by which they act, or by destroying the
influence of the philosophies themselves. Note that this does not mean that I
feel it would be wise, or appropriate for any government to necessarily take
action on this basis, I am merely describing a personal perspective on the

Broad hatred colours your view towards the recipient and is, for me, driven by a
combination of horror, fear, and sympathetic identity with the victims. It is
also, for all of the emotion involved, a cold thing easily subject to the
rational mind.

Another form of hatred with which I am familiar I shall refer to as "specific
hatred." If one were to generalize "love" as a general outpouring of positive
emotion, arising from a sense of kinship or identity, or an intense feeling of
bonding driven by strong emotional, physical, and intellectual attraction, then
specific hatred would be the opposite of love. It is very personal, it derives
in part from fear, just as broad hatred, and it is fundamentally irrational.
Specific hatred is hot and not easily subject to reason. It is the feeling a
person feels towards someone who murdered a loved one. My mother spoke to me
once of a friend whose husband was in prison for life. A former construction
worker with no criminal background, he threw away his career, his freedom, and
everything he cared about and commited a crime to get himself thrown into prison
so he could kill a man who murdered his daughter. Specific hatred. I don't think
most people know this emotion, nor can it easily apply to a large group. In
order for a large group (say Muslim extremists) to be the target of specific
hatred, either a sufficiently large segment of that group would have to do
immediate, personal harm to you, or you would have to be able to objectify
the group beyond the scope of a sane mind. Specific hatred is inherently
destructive to all parties involved.

Applying this to some world situations- I feel broad hatred towards the North
Korean government, towards some extremist Islamic groups, and towards many of
the small tribal groups in Africa involved in bloody and terrible little wars. I
think that the pacification and removal of these forces by religious, social,
economic, political and perhaps military pressures should be a common goal of
the majority of the human race. Within reason, guided by reason, and with a fine
eye towards protecting the greatest number of people from harm.

I do not hate Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or Mr. Kim in any personal sense-
but I recognize them as evil. They must be opposed and should neither be
placated nor supported in any way. Similarly the Nazis.

From a religious perspective, I believe that it is dangerous to hate, and
dwelling on the reasons for hatred is ultimately self-destructive. This does not
equate in any way with forgiveness nor with forgetting. I will never forget the
actions of the Nazis (or Germans as a whole) during WWII. I will never forgive.
I believe that all pressures available should be applied over time to ultimately
destroy the beliefs that allowed such acts to seem rational or supportable to
any group of people, and such action has been taken over the past 60 years. I do
not hate the Germans, however, either as a group or in specific, and recognize
that they are a people and a culture of long history and value. It is quite
alright to feel justified anger towards God , or anybody else. It is acceptable
to defend yourself and your people. It is acceptable to do harm in order to
prevent greater harm. It is not acceptable to get revenge once a person or group
is no longer capable of commiting harm. It is permitted for a Jew to set aside
any mitzvah to protect human life. To the spiritualist in me, the ultimate goal
in life is to travel a path that causes no harm, supports no harm, and creates

-Edwin Thomas

*** *** ***

I might apply Edwin's term "specific hatred" to my feelings toward Kim Jong Il. This is may be an ethnic thing (my being half-Korean & all), but I don't know. Whenever I make my claim that South and North are no longer one people, I do so in the bitter knowledge that the Kim family to the North is largely, if not entirely, responsible for this sorry state of affairs.

It gets complex, the whole hatred business. If we stick with the Kim case for a second: Kim is fetishized, part of a state-sanctioned cosmology of Kimism that blankets the North. A hate that focuses on him almost inevitably radiates outward to the NK society in his thrall, because they're all part of the same narrative weave, like it or not. It becomes extremely difficult to separate the brainwashed NK citizen, a cog in the greater NK machine, from the machine itself, currently embodied in Kim Jong Il. Maybe it's a combination of broad and specific hatred I feel toward Kim. I don't know. More cogitation needed.

Hatred needs sustenance, though, and that again implies the bugbear of attachment-- tanha over time. I can reify my hatred, objectify it, make it something I can latch on to, and thereby perpetuate it (with occasional updates as needed). Edwin's right that hate is dangerous. A dangerous mindset can lead to dangerous action.

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