Saturday, July 23, 2011

Consuming hate: the imperialist passion

A man, with apparently little qualms, walked through a crowded youth camp randomly killing dozens of kids, the death count appears to be reaching around 90. He is consumed with hatred for Muslims, yet it is not Muslims that he kills. His victims are young Norwegians.

Do not get confused. I am not saying it would have been better had he killed some Muslims instead. I am just pointing out how his hatred became so displaced that he ended up snuffing out the lives of young people who previously he wanted to save from the so-called evils of multiculturalism.

Anders Behring Breivik has been described by police as "Right-wing Christian fundamentalist." I wish I could be surprised but my journey among fundamentalists tells me they are hateful people. They are people obsessed with hatred. They constantly look for the "evil" in others to damn it, condemn it, and punish it.

But often, as much as they hate gays, Muslims, feminists, and others, the people they are most likely to harm are those closest to themselves.

People tell me that being consumed by hatred can be good, if you hate the right people. But the more I see hatred in action the less I am convinced by such advice. Instead I see people consumed with hatred becoming less and less able to distinguish between potential victims.

I think of a radical "libertarian" group that prided itself on being the guardians of purity. Lead by an impish little "intellectual" this organization would go around chanting "smash the state." But they never smashed the state. They became consumed by the desire to smash and, like their guru, spent most their time smashing other libertarians. They were, and are, impotent when it comes to smashing the state. So their desire to smash something gets twisted into an attack on people most like themselves.

Yes, hatred can be a powerful motive. But I see people often so given over to the hatred that they cease to discriminate about where they focus their rage. And, too often, the desire to destroy becomes so powerful that they don't give a damn anymore as to who is their victim.

I have trouble finding the positive in hate. I see hatred turning into rage and rage turning in violence. Through that metamorphosis it becomes less and less discriminating until it simply turns into a hatred for everything or everyone.

Rarely does hate pinpoint its targets. It tends to broaden them beyond any justification in fact or history. For instance, a man who is the victim of a crime by someone of another race may easily learn to hate the entire race, not just hate the person who victimized him. Hatred isn't a laser beam capable of focusing on minute, specific targets. It tends to be cluster bombs destroying anything and everything within a relatively large area. Previously I wrote:

Hatred is an imperialistic motive, it always seeks to conquer new territory, and it seeks to expand in a person’s life. There is a reason that you find bigotry against one group often accompanied by bigotry against multiple groups. The typical Jew-hater I’ve met also hates black people and gay people. The fundamentalist who despises gay rights is often equally opposed to Mormons, Jews, Catholics, and others.

People inspired by hatred easily become violent. And violence is inherently destructive. That is precisely why a libertarian opposes institutional violence or coercion. Violence breeds more violence, it takes a society on a downward spiral. Martin Luther King wisely said: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.” Action inspired by hatred teeters constantly on the edge of violence.

And that is contrary to the basic principles of peaceful cooperation that is at the heart of libertarianism. Hatred fuels hatred and evils multiply. Our first priority as libertarians is the defense of the rights of the individual, not opposition to some policy or government. Policies change, governments change, but individual rights are a constant.

What distinguishes libertarians from the anti-government crowd is not that we oppose many government policies but that we support the rights of the individual. Ours is an agenda inspired by positive values, by the love of human freedom, by our belief in the sanctity of the thinking mind, not by hatred for a president, or an administration, or any government.

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