Monday, December 12, 2005

Overcoming Hate

I believe that hatred between people, or groups of people, is based on ignorance of each other.

Think about how you make a friend.

All friends start out as strangers. But then one person shares something personal with the other. Then, the other responds in kind by sharing something personal back. If the level of sharing stays at that level, then they remain friendly acquaintances. But if it continues deeper, so that the sharing escalates into sharing deeply personal thoughts and feelings and fears of each to the other, then the friendship deepens. The two become close friends. A type of love develops. This is because we are all worthy of love. By sharing ourselves we show our “love-worthiness” to another, and they show theirs to us.

You may not agree with all the actions of a stranger. But when you take the time to truly understand them, and understand what they feel and understand what motivates them, then you begin to understand why they do what they do. And you can find forgiveness.

Sometimes we are simply overcome by events and the best intentions go awry, but a true, deep understanding of the other will withstand a lot of troubles. When you have invested significant time and energy and effort into a relationship, you care for the other person’s welfare, and they care for yours. This is friendship.

The opposite of friends are enemies. Typically, enemies are people who don’t know each other well. They don’t know each other’s mind, so they don’t understand their needs, fears and desires, therefore they don’t understand their motives, and therefore don’t trust their actions.

In the TV series called "Star Trek: The Next Generation" there was an episode about a highly renowned negotiator called Riva. He was called upon to settle the dispute between two warring factions on a troubled planet. As he walked into the briefing room on the way to the planet, the crew of the Enterprise started to give him an explanation of what caused the war and the basis of the disputes. He stopped them.
He said something similar to this: “This war has been going on for over 100 years? Then I don’t need to hear what originally started the war. Your facts will say that it is over some disputed piece of land or such, but by now that has become irrelevant. It has carried on too long. By now it has become personal. They hate each other personally, and the only way to fix that is to find some common shared goal that they each want to strive for and work toward. We must forget the past and work toward that future.”

I think that is a wise insight toward how people hate each other, and how to fix that, but I also suggest the idea of getting to know each other better. On a personal level. Truly understanding each other at a level that allows one people to see the other not as some demonized group, but as people, like themselves. People with similar hopes, dreams, fears. Sting once wrote a song in the midst of the cold war of the 1980’s called “Russians Love Their Children Too” . That’s it.

In February, 2006, Steven Spielberg will be trying a project to encourage peace in the middle east between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He will buy 250 video cameras and he will split them into two groups. He will give 125 of them to Israeli children and 125 to Palestinian children. Each group of children will videotape their daily lives and make a film of how they live. They will show their friends and relatives, and they will talk about what it is they want and their hopes and fears. Each will pour their personalities out, not to each other, but to the camera. To a piece of art. A film. Then Spielberg will take the movies made and swap them, giving the Palestinians’ movies to the Israelis, and vice versa.

I think this is an excellent, highly commendable act. I love the concept of this project, and I am very impressed by Spielberg for thinking of it and putting it in place. THIS is how you eventually solve a 100 year war. Not with missiles. Not with rhetoric. Not even with enforced “tolerance” of each other – but with understanding. To understand someone truly and deeply is to see the goodness and the worthiness in them. That is how you overcome hatred. That is how you make a friend. And THAT is what is needed.


At 6/20/2006 11:32 AM, Anonymous igor said...

Mmm, Al-Quaeda Leaders Love Their Children Too...., what'd you say to that?

I agree with you that ignorance is important part of the mental process of "hating". In Russian, there is a saying that can be translated as "understanding means forgiving".

Still I don't believe that mere ignorance is or can be a base of hate.

When I think about human behavior (hate, etc), I try to treat people not as "people", but as just animals (like in biological life-forms) (which they are!). Then a lot of things became clear and simple: in this particular case, interests of some life-forms come into conflict with interests of other life-forms. What is called "hate" is just "how its brain feels" when a life-form trys to advance its own interests over interests of other life-forms.

Conflict of interests between life-forms (of the same species!) is .... how to say that ..... NORMAL. This is how biological life was, is, and will be. Most life-forms are "individual" - the conflicts of interests are between individual life-forms. Some life-forms are "social" - those life-forms group together into "parties" - their brains work so that the individual life-form perceive "group interest" as its own interest - there are conflict of interests between "groups"....

Also please note, that a brain doesn't differenciate between "real" conflict and a perceived one... animals' (ours!) brains exist in a perceived world - and that's where ignorance plays its role - ignorance/knowledge affects perceive-ness. One way or another.


Not really related, but it seems to me that the Internet in its current, anonymous, no holds barred status is tremendous amplifier of hatred. Generally, during last several years I began tilting to think that the net effect of the this Internet on humanity is negative...

At 6/21/2006 5:45 PM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

Hi Igor,
I am just now back from vacation in Hawaii, so I've been away and haven't been answering messages on my blogs for a while.
Anyway, to your points:
True, ignorance may not be the sole cause of hate, but it is a required part of it. It is much easier to hate someone else and despise their actions when you don't know them and don't understand the reasons why they do what they do.

I learned an interesting lesson about Italians when I was young. I certainly didn't hate them by any means or to any degree, but I simply had a misconception about them. And this point is about the ignorance.
In those days, many of the immigrants into Canada were from Italy (that changed later, when the Indians, Pakistani, Chinese, and now Russian immigrants have come in in large numbers)
At the time I was growing up, the Italians were the ones who did the construction jobs. They built the buildings, the roads, etc.
So, as a kid, I had a certain mental picture of what Italians were like: Burly, not educated, loud, rough, crude, mostly illiterate, old-fashioned, capable only of simple, manual labor types of jobs... along those lines.

Then, one day, I went to Italy. To Venice. I saw Italians as they are in Italy, and it gave me a completely different, much broader, much more advanced perspective of them. Now I saw them as artisans, and a people with an incredible, proud heritage long in centuries. It finally sunk in that these people once ruled the world in the days of the Roman Empire.
I saw the incredible art. The music. The culture. I saw their individual beauty, both physical, and in a higher sense. I saw their sense of style. Italian women, I saw, could be VERY beautiful - not just the older, short, stocky, overweight types with mustaches I had seen in the black dresses, constantly obsessing about food. These Italian women in Italy were slender, smooth, well-dressed, delicate even, sophisticated, feminine. And I saw the young men as masculine, good-looking, energetic, more risque than our society, but not so crude or primitive as I had thought before.

In short, I learned about their greater value/higher achievements as a culture, as a people, and as individuals.
Also, it gave me an insight into the whole issue of immigration and emmigration.
I now saw how people can leave their home country, move to a new country, and because they did not assimilate into the new country, stay with their own former countrymen, and become locked into a time bubble.
In other words, they become isolated from the new society they are living in and therefore fail to keep up with news and trends and sayings, and the flow of culture as it evolves and progresses. Also, they are isolated and closed off from their old country because of distance and lack of shared circumstance.
They become their own kind of mini culture. Italian immigrants in Canada became different from Italians in Italy because they couldn't keep up with new things happening in Italy, AND they couldn't join in with new things happening in Canada. They lived in a somewhat isolated little bubble. They see each other, they talked, in Italian, of course. They talked about the old days. They talked about things happening in their little community, but not in the rest of the country because they don't read the English newspapers. Over time, they fell behind.
This, I suppose is the downside of Canada's approach to immigration as a 'Cultural Mosaic' rather than a 'melting pot' approach.
But that is a completely different topic. Though, I wouldn't mind hearing your perspective on it, Igor. The Russian community is not as long-established in Canada yet. You do not have decades and decades of local traditional groups to immerse yourself in and lose sight of the other, Canadian culture around you, perhaps. So you might not feel it as much.
With Italians, Greeks, and Chinese, there are areas you can go in the Greater Metropolitan Toronto area where you are isolated from modern Canadian culture completely, and live immersed in Italian(Woodbridge), Greek(Pape & Danforth), or Chinese culture(Chinatown, and Agincourt).
All the newspapers, the movies in the theaters, the food, the spoken language of the residents, the signs on the stores - even the street signs - all in the language and culture of their forefathers.
The last time I was there, (11 years ago) The Russian areas of Bloor/Spadina and Bathurst/Steeles hadn't become that way yet.

I would add though that this isolating effect is probably less now with the internet being everywhere. Just like a remote mountain village, or a far northern community used to be completely isolated from the world and therefore stayed behind, but is now connected to the world through the interenet, thus it is the same for culturally isolated groups. They can stay connected much easier now than they could in the days before say, 10 years ago. So perhaps the effect is now less than it was.
But, still the lesson this taught to me was valuable.

To your other point about the internet being evil. Well, I don't know about that. If it's controlled, then who controls it? And what are THEIR interests, and how are they being served? Are those interests shared by everybody? Or do they twist and tweak the rules to suit their personal advantage like everything else?
In some ways, I like the fact that the internet is an open, uncontrolled environment. That tells me that I have at least a chance at getting un-filtered truths (mixed in among the hyperbole, and fantasy, and lies, of course)
It means that those in power do not have the ability to completely squash information that is inconvenient to their purposes. That is essential to change and growth, and justice.
Injustice thrives when it is hidden from public scrutiny.

China has managed to filter news items and stories and blogs, etc. that are about uncomfortable topics - and that is sad.

So the freedom is great. And the anonymity does allow some people to come out of their shell. The shy can speak in public on any topic they wish to. The homely girl can flirt with men, and vice versa, and these people who are shunned in normal social life because of their appearance can have some taste of social interaction similar to what beautiful people have all the time. This enhances their self-respect and supports their basic humanity even. So the anonymity serves some good purposes, too.

What I don't particularly like is the way the anonymity affords a way for those who wish to act in a harmful manner to damage others.
They can say any harmful thing they wish with impunity. Make any acusation, bear false witness, ruin another's reputation, with no recourse for the afflicted party, by simply saying their lies under an assumed name.
People generally act more responsibly when their own personal reputation is on the line, and when they can personally be held accountable for the things they say and do.

It is a matter of honor with me to write my blog articles and publish my songs and write and publish my book all under my own, true, full name.
I am responsible for my opinions and statements. If I give offense, it is unintended (for I mean no offense to anyone) but I will step up and own up to it. If apologies are called for, I will give them. If clarification is needed, I will give it. If I am shown to be wrong, then I will admit it and change my opinion to the correct one. There is no shame in correcting your path. There is shame in deliberately staying on the wrong path out of pride, though.

Anyway, I disagree that the internet is all evil, but I agree with you in the sense that anonymity allows misbehavior both unkind, unjust, and criminal.
Some people will do anything if they are wearing a mask to hide their identity.

At 6/22/2006 11:49 PM, Anonymous Igor fedchunov said...

... (t)o your other point about the internet being evil...

Whaa..??!! Did I say that?! No, I did not! I merely expressed opinion that, maybe, the net effect of Internet on humanity could be negative.
The "net effect", as you know, is the balance between totals of positive and negative effects. No more, no less. Technical term.

Evil??!! Val, you seem to have a tendency to .... how to say that .... melodrama-tize things (out of all proportions)..

Internet is just a tool. Technical invention. It cannot be "evil". Like a bow and arrows are not "evil" (pun intended). It's what people do with things can be "evil", if you want to use this word, not the things themselves!

Coffee. Is it "evil"? It does have both positive and negative effects on both consumers and producers, and the net balance isn't obvious, y'know...

I wonder, what kind of mental picture of the world do you possess... I admit, I am at loss... despite spending quite some time at your blog.

At 6/23/2006 8:20 AM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

True, you didn't use the actual word 'evil', but when you said it was a 'tremendous amplifier of hatred' and a net negative effect, that implied to me something akin to evil, in the casual spoken sense of the word. As in something very negative. Not necessarily in the classic religious sense of the word implying the work of Satan or anything so dramatic.


At 6/23/2006 11:43 AM, Anonymous Igor Fedchunov said...

imagine, I tell you : "John Doe says that Internet is evil!"

what would you think of Mr.Doe ? "what a ... jerk" you'd think, right?

At 6/23/2006 12:15 PM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

I see your point and I see why you don't want to have your comments over-simplified, so I apologize for that.

However, I don't usually judge someone like that and simply think 'he is a Jerk".
I know that people do and say the things they do and say because they are motivated to do them. They are being rewarded at some level for that behavior.
So, rather than simply dismissing him, I would instead try to understand what motivates his behavior. I always tend to look beneath the obvious to try to see the underlying mechanisms in the world, in systems, in people.
This gives me a much more interesting and positive world to live in, I find.

At 6/23/2006 4:38 PM, Anonymous Igor Fedchunov said...

There is absolutely nothing for you to apologize for. A simplification is welcome more often than not.

But ! it wasn't a simplification ! I akwardly (as usual) tried to hint to you that what you walked with from that my comment was NOT a simplification, but an impression.

In intellectual (ha-ha, look ma, we are intellectuals !) discussion a simplification is ok 'cause, by definition, it leaves the gist of what was said intact.

Impression, on the other hand, is a no-no: correctness of an impression is like a lottery.

To quote yourself - somewhere here in this blog, you said that our perceived view of (impression - as here) reality is usually incorrect...


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