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IDEMA: What are the origins of all the hate we see today?

• Sep 20, 2017 at 2:00 PM

We have seen so much hate on our TV screens lately. The faces of those carrying torches in Charlottesville on a Friday night yelling out hatred for Jews and the Nazi slogan, "blood and soil." The faces of ISIS murders in Spain and elsewhere who seem to love killing women and children.

What are the origins of such hate?

Psychoanalysis of the Freudian variety offers some insights. Here I only have space to examine three.

(1) Freud's theory of group formation. He argued that groups are bonded together by a shared ideology, such as religion, but what fuels the energy of such a group is hatred for an “outgroup.” This theory comes from Freud's experience as a Jew living in Vienna leading up to World War II.

Symbols such as the swastika or statues of Confederate generals, such as Robert E. Lee, stir up deep emotions, which often become channeled toward those who are not part of the group. When these symbols become attacked or torn town, then violence erupts.

Even something as mundane as school spirit illustrates the theory. As football season has started, we now see normally rational men and women become irrational when it comes to their teams and their array of symbols, such as a helmet, and something close to hatred is projected onto a rival school and team. Riots at soccer games in other countries have been led to multiple deaths, all because of a sport! The origin of the word "fanatic" will be amply demonstrated by numerous fans in numerous football stadiums in America until the madness ends with the Super Bowl.

(2) Freud's theories of sexual repression. When our deepest needs for love and intimacy are not satisfied, people sometimes lash out with violence, fueled by envy. Islam, like some forms of Christianity, creates much sexual repression. ISIS often turns captive women into sexual slaves, and we have seen the tragic consequences of celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church. Most of the 9/11 murderers were drinking vodka and looking at porn the night before their cowardly actions, with the false belief that heaven would give them the sexual satisfaction missing in their lives.

People who hate often destroy that which they most desire. If you look at the lives of those who hate, in most instances the haters lack deep emotional attachment to other human beings, especially in the realm of sexual intimacy with deep emotional needs being satisfied. Their anger and frustration fuel their hatred — against women, for example.

(3) Freud's theory of narcissism of small differences. In his writings, he often points out that small differences, such as skin color or religion, stir up deeper resentments and hatred than vast differences between people, such as income inequality or one’s country.

Race is a false category. We are all part of the human race, but something as minor as skin pigment can stir up the deepest hatreds.

Look at the relatively small differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims — an argument on who carries on the mantle of the Prophet — and consider what those differences have done to the Middle East and now the world. Those two groups of Muslims have much more in common than they have differences — but these differences, which look minor to an outsider, have stirred up deep hatred and violence. Same with Roman Catholics and Protestants.

How do we overcome hatred, whatever the origin? No simple answers here. We must look at all religions historically and critically and understand their differences and similarities. The realization that no single religion has a corner on the truth would be a good start. It is difficult to debunk a deeply cherished religious ideology, but a serious examination at truth claims using our powers of reason and critical thinking may cauterize deep historical wounds. I have faith in education, but much of it is failing us when it comes to critical thinking and knowledge of history.

People who are isolated, lonely and troubled must somehow be brought into community. How do we welcome the loner who sits in front of a computer all day, for instance, into a loving religious community? Perhaps this is impossible. But we must make connections with people when we see that such connections may be the difference between health and insanity.

Skin color seems to be stirring up the deepest hatreds within our own country. We must immediately throw out the false category of race. We must realize that skin pigment simply has to do with evolutionary protection against the rays of the sun in different parts of the globe. To repeat, we all are members of the human race; we all bleed the same red blood as Shylock, a Jew, points out in Shakespeare's play, "The Merchant of Venice," to his Christian accusers.

Can the power of reason overcome the passions of hate? Can love lance the boil of hate?

If so, let's begin with our politics. And our religion.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune community columnist

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