Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Anger, Hate, and the Democratic Party

160 days until classes start.

Accomplishments yesterday include more work on "Bigotry and the Immorality of Moral Sentimentalism".

I am posting the drafts of this paper as I word on them on the in progress section of my Desirism website. If anybody is interested in seeing what I have so far, they can take a look. You will see that it is clearly a work in progress. I am posting it as I write it. It will improve and change over time.

I was also involved in a discussion yesterday that brought up a distinction between anger and hate.

Anger is sometimes justified. If I were to discover that somebody had taken or done harm to property of mine for no good reason, I would be angry. That anger would provide me with motivation to engage in some moral instruction - in the form of punishment and condemnation - of the responsible parties. Yet, anger can be justified when it is directed to an actual wrongdoing. It may even be necessary and good insofar as it actually motivates the moral instruction. It may need to be tempered, though, as anger runs a risk of inflicting more harm than is morally justified, which - in turn - promotes anger on the part of the other party - who then retaliates - and we end up in a war.

Hate, on the other hand, has the effect of encouraging people to invent things to be angry about.

The type of hate that I am referring to is one that emerges in tribal psychology. This concerns the human disposition to divide the world into "us" and "them". They then promote injustice by allowing "us" to get away with things that, when those things are done by "them", result in condemnation. Examples of us versus them tribal thinking include racial prejudice such as white supremacy, nationalism, religious and anti-religious bigotry, factionalism such as that found between political parties, and sexism.

Trump is a champion of tribalism with his unjust treatment of Mexicans, Muslims, and other immigrants.

Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign also championed tribalism, targeting "billionaires" and "establishment democrats" as "them" to be hated.

A part of the effect of tribalism is that it creates a bond among members of the "us" group, creating fierce loyalties and, as mentioned, unjust preferential treatment of members of the in group to go along with the unjust hatred of all members of the "them" group.

Hate, as I am using the term here, is an integral part of tribalism. The "us" group is united - and, unfortunately, strengthened - by its unjust hatred of the "them" group.

This is where the distinction between "anger" and "hate" comes in. One can be justifiably angry at another for wrongs done, but anger does not apply to groups. At least, righteous anger does not legitimately apply to groups. It applies to the individuals who have done the wrong. Applying it to innocent members of the group who have done no wrong is unjust.

What "hate" does is inspire members of the "us" group to invent reasons to hate members of the "them" group. If they cannot think of reasons to be angry, they invent those reasons. They come up with conspiracies, re-interpret events (communications and actions in particular) to give them the most sinister interpretation, and otherwise manufacture what they need to give their hatred of "them" an appearance of legitimacy.

This "us/them" psychology, left unchecked, is that which motivates wars between nations and civil wars between peoples within a nation. It is that which made slavery possible, and produced genocides such as the Holocaust. In less severe forms, it gave us such things as Jim Crowe laws and discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.

The Tea Party is a tribal group of this type - motivated by and strengthened by hatred.

As if to make up for lost time, tribalism is coming to dominate the Democratic Party as well. You can see it in the hate-filled rhetoric, the imagined wrongs, and the eagerness to misinterpret words and deeds targeting "establishment Democrats".

This is not something new or unique. It is common. It explains much of human history. The rise of hate-motivated factionalism in the Democratic Party, in fact, is to be expected, given human nature.

Yet, while it is something to be expected, it is also something to be lamented.

No comments: