Why do We Hate (Talk TV with Trisha Goddard)

Uploaded 4/1/2024, approx. 9 minute read

Sam Vaknin is a guest that we've had on our show many times. He's absolutely brilliant. He's a clinical psychologist and I want to talk with him about the psychology of hate.

Sam, thank you for joining me yet again and sorry for me getting in tripping over my tongue. It's history you're forgiven. I work with sometimes medication gets in the way but it certainly helps me as well.

So Sam, let's talk about hate. Why do we hate?

Do different people have different reasons? And the other thing I'm interested in is politicians and leaders and people in power using hate to separate us.

But let's start off about what makes us hate.

Okay, as is my habit I'm going to respond with five minutes of your show to provide an overview of what it is that we think about hate in philosophy and psychology and so on and so forth.

So if you were to listen to any pundit or any in public intellectual they would tell you that we hate people who are not like us. And this is called negative identity. We define ourselves as the opposite of other people.

I'm white because I'm not black. I'm Christian because I'm not Muslim, etc, etc. And this is known as negative identity.

And so we tend to hate the other.

And this phenomenon is known as alterity. It was first described by a Jewish French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas. And so today the common view is that we hate people who are who do not resemble us, who are not like us in any way, shape or form.

And the further away from us they are, the greater our hatred and resentment and rejection and aggression and so on and so forth.

That's the common view.

And we tend to stereotype these people, we tend to stigmatize these people. There's only one problem with this point of view. It's not true.

Actually, we know in psychology and in anthropology and in other social sciences that we tend to hate most those who resemble us most.

This was first described by a British anthropologist. His name was Ernest Crowley. And he coined the phrase nearly we, almost we. And he said that we tend to be aggressive and we tend to be hateful. And we even tend to envy people who look like us, share our values and beliefs and so on and so forth, or people who wish to become like us, people who want to emulate us, people who insist on them.

Is that because we see them as a threat they could take over? I'll come to that in a minute. I'll come to the Y in a minute.

And so we also tend to hate people who attempt to become us. So people who claim the same rights and opportunities we have, people who adopt our value systems, people who kind of imitate us in any way.

And the reason is, of course, because it challenges our sense of uniqueness and our sense of superiority. We tend to be a bit narcissistic when it comes to our core identities. We tend to believe that we are somehow unique, somehow special, somehow inimitable and so on and so forth.

And suddenly this group, and they look like us, they resemble us, they speak the same language or attempt to speak the same language, they demand the same rights we have, same opportunities. They constitute a threat. They constitute a threat to our privileges in a way.

Sam, I'm just thinking with the hate of people coming across the channel in small boats. They want people to see, they want what we've got. They're challenging us. But what about the fear of their bringing their religion?

You know, there are those add-on things that those people who want to be like us, those add-on things that we use as an example of why we should fear them.

Well, Freud in 1917 coined the phrase narcissism of small differences. He said that when people are very, very different to us, and when they segregate themselves, for example, in some kinds of ghetto or whatever, we tend to simply ignore them. We frown upon their presence, but we don't become aggressive. We don't become violent. And we don't become active, proactive.

But he said, the more these people come to resemble us, the more they begin to dress like us, folk like us, study in our schools, adopt some of our values, behave in ways which we do, demand the same rights, share the same resources, acquire the same opportunities. The closer they get to us, the more violent and aggressive we tend to become.

And of course, the great, the worst example is the Nazis and the Jews. As the Jews became more and more assimilated and integrated in German society, this provoked Nazism and the end result was Auschwitz.

So, Sam, let me ask you what many, many people would say that they, for instance, hated black people or they thought this about black people. But then I got to know my black next door neighbor or the guy down the road and they became friends. And they'll kind of made an exception for the people that the others that they've made friends.

So, I mean, in that situation, proximity is, you know, it breeds friendship, not hatred.

As a rule, proximity and intimacy breed hatred and conflict.

I refer you to a study titled War and Relatedness published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2009. The authors are Spohr Laury and Vaz Chia.

So, we know by now that intimacy and proximity are predictors of strife and violence and aggression.

What we tend to do, we tend to isolate a few individuals and we tend to say, they are the exceptions. They are not the rule.

You know, some of my best friends are Jews or some of my best friends are blacks. And that's because they are not like other blacks. They are not like other Jews. They are special and that makes me special, of course.

So, there are two, I think, there are several mechanisms in action, if you bear with me.

The first one is known as reaction formation. Reaction formation is a defense mechanism. It's when you reject something in yourself that is reified or manifested in a group.

So, for example, if you're a latent homosexual, you might become homophobic. You reject and resent this part of you and so you become a hater of homosexuals as a way to prove, to demonstrate to the world, or to be patient, that you're by no means homosexual.

And so on and so forth. And this is known as reaction formation.

We tend to envy sometimes minorities or underprivileged groups. Sometimes we envy them for whatever reason.

So, for example, you could hear statements like, they get an unfair share of social security or social welfare. They get an unfair share of our resources and so on.

So, this is reaction formation.

Another mechanism is known as splitting. Splitting is when we say, they are all bad and that makes us all good. It's like a morality play, good versus evil, black versus white, and so on and so forth.

And the last mechanism I would like to dwell on, although that's a very partial list, is projection. Projection is when there is a part in us that we tend to reject, that we tend to hate, that we feel uncomfortable with, and then we attribute it to other people.

So, if we feel that we are weak, we would say, we are not weak, we are strong, they are weak. We are not greedy, they are greedy. We are not envious and hateful, they are envious and hateful.

So, this is known as projection.

All these mechanisms collude to create a rejection of other people.

But I... So, politicians will use hate. It's a very useful tool.

And I just quoted one politician, Lee Anderson, talking about, you know, we shouldn't put up signs at Ramadan, but it's the language they use and the way they talk. And it works. It absolutely works.

There's a sociologist, his name is Bradley Campbell, and Bradley Campbell said that we have transitioned from the age of dignity to the age of victimhood. We live in an age of entitled competitive victimhood. Everyone in his talk is a victim. He's been victimized by someone, and so on.

And politicians, politicians hitchhike on this tendency to self-victimize or to perceive oneself as a victim. And now, ironically, the privileged majorities also feel victimized by minorities, for example, or by immigrants, or by newcomers, or by people with a different skin color, or you name it. In order to feel victimized, they are hunting for who is the abuser, who is the victimizer, and so on.

And so, in today's age of victimhood, it's a big problem because the majority perceive the minorities as imposing costs. It's like if you claim to be a victim, if you're a black person in the United States, for example, if you're a woman, if you're a woman and claim to have been victimized by men, the patriarchy of a millennia.

So, then you have rights. Because you're a victim, you have rights. And these rights impose obligations on society.

We see, for example, the movement for reparations in the United States, slavery reparations. So, the minute you define yourself as a victim, it has a social cost.

And the majority reject this, resent this. They hate it. They say, you know, you've been a slave, you're a woman, you're a member of a minority, and you make me pay for it. You abscond with my scarce resources. You are exploiting me. You are abusing me. No, you know, I've been here before you. I've preceded you, and now you're coming, and you're taking away what's mine.

So, there is an element of victimhood, and there is an element of scarcity as the global economy becomes more and more problematic everywhere. This is going to, this wave of hatred is going to be on the ascendance.

Sam, so it's Easter. Is there any good news? What, and we've only got a few minutes left, but what makes love then in that case? How do you, can you turn some parts of hatred into love?

What makes people, you know, the very special people that can see the differentness and not care about it, can love somebody for themselves?

You can't, you can't, of course, convert hatred into love, but you can teach people two things.

You can teach them empathy skills, the ability to put themselves in other people's shoes, and this, this requires education and exposure to other people, their lifestyle, their history, their culture, and so on and so forth.

That's the first thing. And the second thing is to reduce the anxiety attendant upon the existence of competitors for scarce resource.

So, to convert other people not into a threat, but into an opportunity.

Let me give an example. In the United States, there's a bargaining anti-immigrant or anti-immigration movement, reified and personified by Donald Trump. But the irony is that the American economy is flourishing exclusively because of immigration. Immigration is the engine of growth in the United States. People don't know that. They perceive immigrants as competitors when actually immigrants are consumers. Immigrants are investors. Immigrants are workers. Immigrants make the American dream possible.

So, there's a lot of education here to be done to expose the lies and, and fallacies in, in, in racism, in homophobia, in misogyny, in transphobia, in all these movements, because they are founded on misinformation, all of them, without a single exception.

Thank you. That's a really good point to end on this, this Easter. It really is. And it's something that I hope to do on this program, bring you different voices, different points of views. I don't know, foster a little empathy. That would be good for Easter, wouldn't it?

Sam Vaknin there, renowned clinical psychologist there.

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