The following stems from my reflections on the work I’ve been involved with recently with my former boss, Soffiyah Elijah, and the new initiative she’s spearheading, Alliance of Families for Justice (AFJ). While today’s post reflects on the ugliness of hatred and fear, it is also about our responses to the challenges of hatred and racism. I realize the ascension of a billionaire racist to the highest office of the land marks a time of anxiety and fear, we must mobilize.
The Alliance of Families for Justice is a powerful response to the dehumanization and caging of our people and the devastation our families are confronted with every day. Check them out here [LINK], get involved, give — don’t get angry, get right.
Anger and Hatred
Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd
— Bertrand Russell
Hatred has never conquered hatred. Hatred merely leads to revenge, and revenge leads to more hate. Hence, a cycle of suffering is set in motion that can go on and on. We only need to look at the world around us to see the sad evidence of this truth.
Hatred is an extreme form of anger. The teachings of the path I follow take anger very seriously because anger causes so much suffering. I see hate as being rooted in fear. Fear is a powerful core emotion.
Even when anger is not acted out and seems controlled, a person who is inwardly angry can instantly change the atmosphere of a room she enters. There is an invisible, but palpable chill and anyone nearby becomes more guarded and less spontaneous. This happens without conscious effort. It seems to be a response at a very deep (cellular?) level to the quality of energy that anger gives out.
You see this happen often in personal relationships, but the wreckage of collective hate is everywhere to be seen in our world. There is, for example, the ascension of a racist billionaire to the highest office in the known universe. Put there by millions who protect their anger onto blacks and Latinx.
When anger is acted out and results in violence, the damage is obvious. Some years ago, I read the words by the Cambodian monk, Maha Ghosananda, who observed “When this defilement of anger really gets strong, it has no sense of good or evil, right or wrong, of husbands, wives, children. It can even drink human blood.” This was a tragic comment upon a bloody civil war that had torn Cambodia apart and killed almost everyone he knew. It is also, in my view, what fuels the long-standing and shameful US practice of racialized social control which has resulted in the devastation and enslavement of millions of people — the vast majority Black and Latinx.
On the contrary, what is often not understood about hatred is the harm it does to those who cultivate it. The first person hurt is always the one who is full of hate. An mind full of hate is a suffering mind. An angry mind is agitated and tight, constricted and narrow in its thinking. Judgment and perspective vanish. All good sense disappears. One feels restless and driven. Nothing is satisfying, everything is tension. And this is what happens at the collective level. The vast majority of white people in the US, for example, are so angry, that they are easily manipulated into projecting their anger on the most vulnerable of the population.
What happens during anger is that the sense of self becomes very large, and so does the sense of “the other.” A major reason anger is so very painful is that it instantly creates a sharp distinction between self and other. An imaginary line is drawn that cannot be passed. For example, if I make the statement, “Any friend of those assholes, is not a friend of mine,” I am drawing a line (more on that later).
There is also an intoxicating effect to anger. There is a strong feeling of self-righteousness. Thoughts rooted in justification take over: “She abused me! Look at what she did to me!” This is combined with feelings of defiance and rectitude: “I am right!” However, underlying the intoxication of anger is the pain of a mind so narrowly constricted that it closes itself off from human connection. This also plays out on the national stage.
Whites, many of whom have been shut off economically, turn their anger on the false perception of hordes of undisciplined, immoral, unintelligent Blacks and Latinx who have destroyed “America” — the same America that needs to be “great again.” In the 1990s, it was the specter of black and Latinx “super-predators” who had no conscience and needed to be “brought to heel” like animals.
The results of such hatred can be devastating. Hatred is like a poison in the mind. It generates an unhealthy cycle of cause and effect. Every thought, word, or act, or social policy has an angry after-effect. Like throwing a pebble into a pond, an act or thought rooted in hatred sets into motion a series of ripple effects that go out in every direction. Caught in the grips of hatred, we can come to feel that we are stuck with what we have done, and with the effects that we have caused.
I believe that the majority of harmful patterns of behavior are rooted in unconscious anger/ hatred. People will gossip about others, spread false accusations about others as a way of maintaining this angry state of mind. Existing in an environment of fear (lack of faith), hate, and anger, they lash out at others and create policies in order to maintain their inflated egos.
I guess the answer is not to respond in anger, but to generate love instead. However, one can choose to love from afar. One can choose to minimize contact with harmful and negative influences. Yes we can disagree and still love each other. However, if your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and the denial of my humanity and right to exist, then I can’t do the kumbaya thingee. Still, my response must be rooted in compassion (of self and other) otherwise I will have become the face of hatred. Cornel West reminds us that we should, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
And so it is with my own decisions about the difference I want to make in this life. I think what makes decisions skillful or not has a lot to do with intent. If one has an angry or hateful intent, then, like the ripples in the pond, we all suffer the consequences. However, if the intent is based on compassion and an attempt to create, or be a part of, a social justice movement, then we can live knowing that we’re walking our path to the best of our ability.
For me the answer isn’t so much on closing down jails or prisons, or even undoing mass incarceration. I see mass incarceration and racialized social control as symptoms of a deeper problem. Rather, I see the work of envisioning and creating a world where there is no place for dehumanization, the real work. Everything else is still dehumanization.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…