Friday, March 11, 2016

The paradox of hate

In a recent internet article, Charles Mudede asks an important question: Why do so many white Americans, mainly working class, support the billionaire Donald Trump?  What do they get out of it?

His answer, also important, is that doing so gives these people a platform in which to openly enjoy their hate.  He goes on to Spinoza for philosophical answers to the idea of hatred as the feeling you have toward a person who makes you unhappy, that is, who diminishes your power to act.
Hate is more than this, I think: it arises from the emotional life, from fear--often leading to anger--that others are a threat because they are outsiders or because they have something the hater wants.  Hate energizes, giving powerless people a reason to live. We see this in studies of white supremacists, people at the bottom of the social order in terms of education and income who feel powerless; hatred of those in government or of minorities or immigrants or gays or whoever gives them a target for their deep-seated resentment and a source of pleasure, of superiority, as if they can overcome their fear of change and injustice by racial hatred.

I remember a retired neighbor ten years ago whose hatred of Bill Clinton still raged years after his presidency. Clinton was a convenient target for resentment. By hating him, my neighbor felt stronger, more in control of his own life.  Many single out Jews for hatred because of their successes in business and many other fields, suggesting that envy is at work.  Envy comes from the Latin invidia: a form of hatred slightly different from jealousy, which I see as a fear of losing what one loves (see Othello, whose enemy, Iago, is a figure of pure envy in Shakespeare's play).

Many people, lacking a sense of history, sense that the world is such a total mess that only someone outside politics (Trump) can possible save what's left of the system they grew up with (white-dominated society). They fear losing control of their lives because of "big government" and "crooked politicians."

They fail to see, as Mudede  points out, that in turning to the Republican party, they turn to a colossal failure, whose leaders have refused to provide working-class whites a real opportunity to enjoy their hate. 

A man I met today who supports Trump says he does so because Trump is non-political, self-financed. Is that all, I wondered. Doesn't he see the dangerous race-baiting and mob violence (seen today in St. Louis) that attends Trump's rallies?  Of course not. He doesn't want to admit his own hatred (racism).

Why aren't more thinking people angry at Donald Trump and what he preaches? Because they are not thinking, but reacting emotionally, based on fear; and because they want to enjoy whatever superior pleasure they derive from hating.  Very sad, very troubling.

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