Friday Sermon: Hate

By Babatunde Jose

Poison isn’t always something you eat or drink – it can be an emotion.

And hate is one of them, eating you up inside

and causing destruction.

Hate is a mighty strong emotion. This mental venom can pollute your spirit, poison your soul and seep into all of the relationships that surround you. Anyone who has found themselves wrapped up in the arms of hate knows how damaging and mind-consuming it can become. Even the word carries power, particularly if it comes from a friend, a family member or a child. While hate can be directed at almost anything – animals, foods, jobs, and movies – the most destructive is hatred toward other people. Royzman, McCauley, and Rozin (2005) described hatred as the most destructive affective phenomenon in the history of human nature.

Hate has been considered an emotional attitude, a syndrome, a form of generalized anger, a generalized evaluation, a normative judgment), a motive to devalue others or simply an emotion. Despite these different views, it is remarkable that there is little theorizing about hate. Even more surprisingly, there is not much in-depth empirical research on hatred, especially not in psychology.

Why hate? Why yield to its sombre and implacable force for which, locked on itself, manifests its will to destroy for reasons that bring embarrassment and despair to the human condition? What good may derive from hatred? Is there, can there be nobility in its realm? Has a work of art been produced by hatred? Literature and hatred, spirituality and hatred, beauty—can they go together? Hatred is reductive; it cheapens. All wars begin in the hearts of men, not on battlefields. Why then is there still so much hatred around, in so many places, and what is its role in history? When we hate the venom in us is unleashed on our victim regardless of right or wrong. Nothing he does is put in proper perspective but seen through the narrow prism of hate. We deride, denigrate and condemn our victim either an individual or a collective. Hate ‘brings out the beast in us’; it is never ennobling but undignified and disgraceful. Yet, our society today is full of such shameful and indecorous behavior, particularly among the so-called elite; intellectual and political.

In the collective memory of humankind, most societies have been ruled by something else than hatred. Ancient Greece celebrated wisdom, Rome glorified authority, Christianity emphasized love even in its fanaticism, Islam preached fanaticism even in its remarkable overtures to outside beliefs, and Judaism pleaded for  The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Program justice and truth even in exile.

Hatred is a feeling. It can cause an emotion of anger, or resentment, which can be used against certain people, or ideas; as we witnessed during the herdsmen/farmers imbroglio. A lot of hot exchange of intemperate language took place, leading to the denigration of whole ethnic nationalities and those that personalized them. The problem is still with us and it is only simmering and could turn into an all out ethnic conflagration in the near future. The holocaust had its roots in the minds of men who saw the Jews as the cause of their socio economic problems. It started as an act of scapegoatism. We are slowly but surely marching towards that station.

Robert Sternberg saw three main elements in hatred:

1.   A negation of intimacy, by creating distance when closeness had become threatening;

2.   An infusion of passion, such as fear or anger;

3.   A decision to devalue a previously valued object.

Hate has a unique pattern of appraisals and action tendencies. Hate is based on perceptions of a stable, negative disposition of persons or groups. We hate persons and groups more because of who they are, than because of what they do. Hate has the goal to eliminate its target. Hate is especially significant at the intergroup level, where it turns already devalued groups into victims of hate. When shared among group members, hate can spread fast in conflict zones where people are exposed to hate-based violence, which further feeds their hate.

History of Hate

We know hate has been around for a long time because it is mentioned in texts that date back for centuries. Hate is mentioned in the Book of Genesis and in Indian Vedic scripture. The ancient Greeks also contemplated its meaning. Fourth century B.C. philosopher Diogenes Laertius defined hate as “a growing or lasting desire or craving that it should go ill with somebody,” and included it among the irrational urges that plagued humankind.

The ancients often acted upon their animosity. In the second century B.C., the great Carthaginian general Hannibal pledged to his father eternal hatred against the Romans, who had seized valued provinces from Carthage. Hannibal made good on that by invading Italy. But the Romans responded even more venomously. In 146 B.C., they set out to wipe the hated Carthaginians off the face of the Earth (remember the Latin phrase Carthago delenda est -“Carthage must be destroyed” from the Third Punic War), burning down the city’s houses as their trapped inhabitants screamed for help.

Hatred was condemned by most of the world’s Holy Scriptures, from the fifth century B.C. Buddhist Dhammapada and the Christian New Testament to the Quran, which admonishes believers to “let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably”.

But modern societies have become much more efficient and deadly at fomenting hatred’. While humans have the basic neural wiring to hate, getting an entire group of people to hate requires convincing them that another person or group of people is evil or dangerous. We are now approaching that threshold today in our country. Save for the timely arrival of Koro, our elites were fanning the ember of inter-tribal hatred and beating the tom-tom of ethnic jingoism all in the name of jostling for political space or Lebensraum which we defined as a place in the sun. It had become a daily mantra in main and social media. Name calling and use of unprintable epithets and diatribes have become the norm and the polity had been put on a wartime footing.

The trick is convincing people that the explanation for their problems is someone else who is threatening to take away things that ought to be theirs, or is a menace to their safety and getonity. In the modern age, such persuasion to hate has become much easier, thanks to the development of communications technologies that enable hateful words and pictures to be easily disseminated far and wide.

Is hate wrong? It is tempting to jump to the conclusion that those who feel hatred toward others are mentally ill. But that doesn’t explain the vast numbers of ordinary Germans and Bosnian Serbs who morphed from friendly neighbors to eager murderers of their countrymen. That’s why some mental health experts think that if the tendency to hate is a disease, it’s ‘more akin to herpes than a rare cancer’.

Enmity and hatred are among bad characteristics prohibited in Islam, and they sometimes result in other vices such as backbiting, lying, accusing, scorning, abuse, offence, injustice, envy and niggardliness. They destroy man in this world and in the hereafter. In response to Qureish barring the Prophet and his followers from entering the Kaaba in Mecca, Allah said: “And let not hatred of a people – because they hindered you from the Sacred Mosque – incite you to exceed the limits.”(Quran 5:2) He also said: “And let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably; act equitably that is nearer to piety.” (Quran 5:8)

The Holy Prophet said: “Indeed, hating each other causes uprooting, not of your hair, but of your faith.”

Finally, Matthew 7:12 is the twelfth verse of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This well known verse presents what has become known as the Golden Rule,  the text reads: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

May God teach us how to live with each other.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend.


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