The times we live in the west are described as postmodern. The hallmark of postmodernism, is very broadly, the lack of a belief in absolute viewpoints, be it absolute truth, absolute realities, instead, each person is viewed to have their own version of each of these. In social situations, we see this as the need to accept other people’s viewpoints, regardless of our ability to compare them to our own. In architecture and art, we see it the dispersing of absolutism in regard to absolute authenticity, with much of postmodern work embracing, or appropriating items from other periods, juxtaposed into the now. And in culture, we see a decline in absolute beliefs, like religion, or political stance. Accordingly, with it being harder to make absolute statements, irony has become a friend to postmodernism in culture; though its use does hint at an absolutism in the background, the basis upon which a things is ironic to.
In this move from absolutism though, identity seems to have suffered. If one cannot attach a strong identity to something, one may feel lost. And irony isn’t a sufficient base.
Tribalism, the idea of having a strong identity with a group of people, has tended to be anti-postmodern, because it tends to depend on absolute beliefs. But this shift to postmodernism occurred before the advent of many of the new technologies in our society like social media. And curiously, there has been a shift back to tribalism, which may be very much the product of these new avenues of communication which lend themselves nicely to identity building.
I believe the rises in hatred we have seen are directly the product of this new tribalism.
Postmodernism may be easy to flourish in affluent society. But I believe that in economically stunted situations, situations such as in the west where rent prices have grown faster than wages, postmodernism, after a time, becomes a dangerous base upon which to organize one’s life. And this, I believe, is why we have seen the move to tribalism.
The Wests current times are marked by two factors daily: one, the expansion of labor, commerce, and communication worldwide as facilitated by the internet, and two: fear of terror.
The fear of terror most notably swept the nation after 9/11, but in the last few years, it has been in response to increased threats from increased militarization of Islamic radicalism. And Islamic radicalism is NOT postmodern. Groups such as ISIS depend, and kill for absolute principles. Accordingly, I believe it is in response to this, that some tribalism in the US has sprung up, with folks taking more absolute stands in the face of fear.
With the rise of domestic attacks by lone gunmen in schools, malls, and by the increased coverage of killings by police of suspects, we also see a rise in tribalism, as people confront emotions and turn back towards the absolute.
Meanwhile, some groups in the United States have never embraced the acceptance of multiculturalism demanded by postmodernism, most notably in the political right. While the left was moving towards accepting everybody, the right was hardening it’s fight against multiculturalism, be it towards sexual orientation, the rights of immigrants, or the acceptance of religious beliefs. We’ve seen it the most frequent in the rhetoric of Donald Trump, a candidate for president whom centers most of his time around tribal dialogue, with the tribe being those whom view his version of America as noble, and immigrants and Muslims consisting of the group deemed as ‘other’.
Both Trump and ISIS share some similarities in how the operate. But most notably it is in their use of Hatred to fuel further work. Neither group really suggests hatred, but rather the removal of certain entities, with Trump’s removals via new policies and walls, and in ISIS’s case, via violence and killing.
The hatred arises when one feels the need to defend. If one erects a wall in their garden, perhaps to keep things from eating their plants, and that wall is violated, they themselves may begin to feel hatred towards the little critters who come and eat their plants. This basis of logic depends on two absolute beliefs, that no animal should eat the plant, and two, that the gardner is entitled to control the area. If we parlayed this to immigration, we see the same two absolute beliefs occurring, that no one should immigrate without permission, and two, that we control the land. Accordingly, if our survival depends on these elements, then when boundaries are crossed, we feel our survival to be threatened, and may resort to hating what threatens us.
Hatred is closely linked to caring. It is very difficult to hate when you care about nothing. Most commonly, the situations we feel hate arise in ourselves is usually in response to something we care about being violated. On the more superficial levels, ‘I hate this traffic’, perhaps because we have plans that we care about and our time is being obstructed, thus obstructing our plans. Or, ‘I hate these wild rabbits that keep eating my lettuce’, because we care about our lettuce, and want to enjoy it. In more serious situations, we may feel ourselves loving our way of life, and hating the terrorists that threaten it. Or may love our sense of community, and hate the crime that threatens it. Or in the most extreme cases, love God’s world, but hate those who threaten to destroy it. The later bit being the line ISIS takes.
But hatred is not a necessary response, though it can be somewhat hard to avoid if other beliefs are not in place. The key to not hating a thing, seems to be understanding that we do not control anything absolutely. We don’t control what others believe, or what others do, and accordingly, we have to accept that conflict will occur between folks with different intentions and beliefs. However, this runs into big issues when we shift into the realms of government, where the job of the state is implicitly to control. Each country, by the doctrine and nature of it’s self as a state, feels the implicit demand to control how it operates it’s borders. Accordingly, the Islamic State (ISIS), though not operating as a physical place, feels the need to defend it’s vision of an all Muslim world from those who would threaten it. So in dealing with these models of states, we begin to see much more hatred, as they themselves depend on exerting absolute control.
And we see this hatred arising in response to the social situations in which control is exerted, such as in the cases of African-American men being shot and killed by the police. In these situations, we, as a citizenry, feel violated that a human being is being shot by state apparatus (the police, exerting absolute control of laws), and us being subject to absolute laws, see this as wrong, and accordingly, find ourselves hateing the police.
When emotions are involved, not hating, and accordingly, not accepting that we can control a thing, runs very close to a feeling, or worry of, apathy. When we see people being shot by the police, we feel that not saying something, not addressing it, not fixing it, leads to our position as being part of the problem, as endorsement of, the killing. And this is true. As citizens we must stand up against injustice. However, we must exercise caution when we feel the beginnings of hatred towards those who perpetrate injustice. First, hatred tends to be spread thick, human’s rarely apply it explicitly. So, in the case of cops killing black men, we find a tendency to hate all cops. We can go back through history and find many examples of spreading hatred based on the actions of a few, to many, and this is dangerous and flawed.
Perhaps we need to look at what Hatred, as it seems to be applied, actually is. It seems to be a feeling of ‘I don’t care if you die’, and sometimes ‘I want you to die’. As a species of living beings, human’s, we tend to want to care for our species, and the last thing we want is to hurt others. So generally the times when we find ourselves wanting to hurt others, it is in defense of our species. So it’s based on what I would consider a good intent. However, if we look at the world historically, it is this conflict of the perceived protecting ourselves as species that has given rise to the most hatred, it’s just the basis of threats that change.
In the end though, hatred does not help the species. It is the easy reaction. And exercising it perpetuates the ease to which it is dispersed. In every case, it’s justification is the product of quick and generalized thinking. The quick solution to complex problems. And the more complex the problem threatening us, the more easy hatred is to arise.
Some people have found a way to combat this. Instead of using hatred, they use their love of humanity as the basis to avoid it. And the more complex the problem, the more determined they become to find an appropriate, yet possibly difficult to arrive at, solution. They take responsibility in knowing that complex issues cannot be solved with simple ideas. And they struggle in that, and work to fix the issues.
If ISIS approached the world this way, instead of sending bombers around the world to try and kill folks into their belief structure, they might instead try and just share what the benefits of their belief structure are, and respect the humanity of their fellow humans to either accept or reject it. Of course, they would also have to lose their feeling of need to control everyone’s religion. And accordingly, If we wanted to deal with the unjustified shootings of African-Amercan men by the police, we would apply ourselves to investigating the root causes, and working to stop them from implementation in the systemic operations of police. And accordingly, if we wanted to keep our borders free from ‘illegal’ immigrants, we would need to look at the causes of such immigration, and address the issues behind it, and accordingly, address the domestic issues of why such immigration is a problem for jobs, perhaps looking at our own wage structures as part of the problem.
If there is a positive side to hatred, it does serve as an indicator for where complex problems really need to be addressed with deep thought and sustained work. But for the sake of ourselves as human beings, let us not lose sight of the basic nature of our existence: Our survival depends on all of us living, and thriving. And our sense of freedom depends on all of us respecting the rights of others to these opportunities. And hatred does not work towards that goal.