It seems that all too frequently we see eruptions of hatred in our world. We see episode after episode of hatred boiling over into violence. We see this on the international stage, locally, and everywhere in between. It has become an un-ending parade of horrors that we are compelled to witness. Our schools and places of worship have been consistently targeted. People who have been marginalized within our society have also been targeted although they often don’t get the same level of media recognition.
Hatred is the child of fear. When it grows large enough, hatred gives birth to violence.
There is nothing new about hatred boiling over into violence. Tragically, this has played out in human history from our very beginning. Here we are, now in the 21st century, still hating and killing each other.
In one respect, fear is the beginning of our evolution. Our ancient ancestors survived, in no small part, due to their ability to experience fear. As they learned how to balance their fear by applying their intelligence to dangerous situations they learned how to be careful. As our ancestors developed the habit of cautiousness, our existence as their descendants became assured.
Long ago we humans learned to fear whoever seemed “different” in some way. Long ago this was literally a matter of life or death. It’s not so hard to understand the power of such primal learning. Once upon a time it was highly adaptive and beneficial. Such conditioning runs deep in us even now.
Hating can be understood as going on the offensive in order to protect and defend against some perceived threat. Attack “them” first and make “them” think twice about attacking ”us.” Assuming, of course, that “they” are actually planning to attack.
Haters are afraid.
They fear annihilation. They fear degradation and humiliation. They fear being displaced, replaced, and having their culture erased.
This is an intensely painful fear!
How can such pain-fueled hatred be met?
Conventional wisdom would suggest that you “fight fire with fire” and respond with exactly the same kind of energy and if at all possible, do so with even greater force. The main problem with this conventional wisdom is that it’s really unwise It is the inside-out, upside down logic that wants us to believe that someone with cancer is going to be saved by having more cancer cells injected into their body. If your doctor told you that was your treatment plan you would probably seek a second opinion.
Instead, we need to go further down the rabbit hole. It’s not enough to see that hatred emerges from fear. We are speaking here of a fear that is the result of not recognizing the difference between fact and fiction. We need to understand where that fear comes from. When we go deeper we find this fear is product of ignorance.
In human terms, this ignorance is the belief that someone or some group is actually not good enough and therefore undeserving of equal treatment or even existence. Such beliefs are based on irrational judgements of perceived danger: “They are threatening our way of life.” “They are going to take over and we will be at their mercy.” “There’s not enough for all of us so someone will not get what they need.” Will it be “us” or “them” that is deemed unworthy? Ignorance says that someone doesn’t deserve to stay in the lifeboat and everyone in the boat looks at everybody else while silently thinking “It’s not gonna be me that gets kicked out!”
What are the people in the lifeboat ignorant of? What don’t they know? More to the point, what are they believing that is not true?
Here’s the Big Lie:
The tragically-believed lie says that we are all separate from each other and the rest of Creation. The Big Lie is that we are separate from the Ultimate Mystery that created us. This ignorance of our true inter-connectedness and interdependency keeps us stuck in an Illusion of Separateness and trapped in the Fear of the Different Other.
The liberating truth is that each of us is profoundly inter-connected. We are intimately part of each other and all of Creation. All of Creation is likewise part of each of us.
We all come from the same creative energy, the same Sacred Source. In traditional religious language, we are all part of the body of Christ. If you prefer a more secular narrative, we all come from the same recycled stardust. As far as we can tell, biodiversity appears to be the modus operandi of the Ultimate Mystery that all of us have emerged from and continue to be a part of. Diversity, not uniformity, seems to be the way of the universe. It is interesting to note, however, that uniformity seems to be the clear and consistent preference of all authoritarian groups throughout human history.
What drives a segment of the human population to embrace a social system that requires everyone to “follow the leader” in order to avoid being severely punished? What is the incentive for people to stop thinking and being responsible for themselves and allow “those in charge” to think and decide for them?
In a sense, this can be seen as a choice made out of frustration with the democratic process-how nothing ever seems to “get done” to improve things. In another sense, this choice can be understood as an evasion of personal responsibility insofar as it is a consent to let the powerful make decisions without interference from those without power. In return the powerless are promised to be looked after and protected by the reigning elite. It’s the old deal of trading away freedom in exchange for security.
If we know what a bad deal this is how do we keep agreeing to it? What motivates a person to sign on the dotted line?
A conspiracy of ignorance and fear.
Our “old programming” for irrational fear has never been deleted. It remains dormant within us just waiting for an injection of energy into its system. Unfortunately, there are groups who want to cultivate fear in as many people as possible. The reason for this is simple: People are much easier to control when they are scared.
We are presently caught in a riptide of fear-based hatred in our society. This is the consequence of a culture that has been structured according to a primitive fear of the Different Other. The violence that is the natural progression of hatred is the response to a misperceived threat. This misperception is part of the “old programming” that remains within us such that different-ness is misunderstood as danger. Since this fear is embedded in our culture we must recognize that it is systemic in nature and systemic problems must be met with systemic solutions.
We need to recognize this fear as a remnant of our ancestral survival. It is now time for the old way of survival to step back and make room for living as we were meant to live as human beings, as Sacred Children of the Ultimate Mystery. While we recognize the old way as an early human adaptation, we must now firmly assert its obsolescence. This primitive fear has served its purpose and now our evolutionary journey needs to continue toward a rational compassion that excludes no one. This attitude of compassion rests on the scientific foundation of the inter-relatedness of all life on this planet. The reality is that we are all part of the same family. Perceived differences are superficial and obscure our unity only by a veil of ignorance.
The work of our time is to remove the veil of ignorance that interferes with the expression of natural compassion for all. We seek to open the way for an appreciation and expression of the healthy diversity of the human family. The challenge we face today is to love courageously in response to all forms of hatred and any violence that emerges from that hatred. We do our best to love the person infected with hatred and refuse the temptation to retaliate with violence when the hate-infected person lashes out. It is extremely difficult work but it is absolutely necessary because we are all in this together. We cannot escape our inter-connectedness. Either we will all go down together or together we will all rise up and be who we really are: People of Courageous Love.