Content Warning: Can be viewed as moral imperatives. Neuropsychological Infohazard.
Previous in Series: The Precept Against Echovictimia
“But that was just it – hate was exactly the right word. Hate is a force of attraction. Hate is just love with its back turned.”
Wikipedia defines hatred as a deep and extreme emotional dislike. It can be directed against individuals, groups, entities, objects, behaviors, or ideas. Hatred is often associated with feelings of anger, disgust and a disposition towards hostility.
The neuropsychology of hatred isn’t particularly well understood (like most things neuropsychology related for now growth mindset), but it’s generally understood to be a sort of “composite emotion,” it’s made up of other feelings and qualia compounded together, similar as Terry Pratchett points out, to something like love.
But love is complicated and can be broken down in all sorts of interesting ways with regard to how we use the word, and hate is similar, unfortunately. But we throw around the word hate a lot in our society, and polarization and hate seem omnipresent.
From our perspective, hate builds up over time as you learn more and more unpleasant information about something. The information about topic X that you take in triggers a disgust/anger reaction, which from a memetic standpoint is really good at making you spread that information. This produces a multi-person social feedback loop that over time induces this state of mind in an individual that we call hate. In a way, it’s a form of operant conditioning, with the thing the hate is directed at becoming connected to a previously experienced negative stimulus or information and acting as a pointer to the conceptual dislike you’ve built up around the idea in thingspace.
Let’s take the example of Islamaphobia, commonly cited as a form of unreasonable hate or fear directed at Muslims or people who vaguely resemble the conceptual idea of Muslims in the head of the Islamaphobe.
So you’re Joe A Redneck living in We’re Still a Dry County Arkansas, and you’ve never actually met a person of Middle Eastern descent. However Fox News is constantly telling you that Muslims are terrorists, that Islam is a violent religion, that these people are bad and scary and want to hurt you, and did you see what those crazy ISIS people are doing now? So that association comes to dominate Joe’s mind, and he builds up an unconsciously conditioned hostile response to any brown skinned person. So now a family from Pakistan moves to We’re Still a Dry County and tries to open a corner store. Joe Redneck has literally no positive mental associations with brown skinned people and a truckload of bias built up from the consumption of all this media, and so he comes to the implicit conclusion: These people are going to murder me and destroy my life if I don’t manage to do the same to them first. Then Joe decides to set fire to their business in the middle of the night and helps drive them out of town, despite them never doing anything to him to warrant that.
This also nicely explains why it’s hard to talk people out of hateful positions, you’re trying to induce extinction of a conditioned response, and that is going to cause an extinction burst, where Joe does the conditioned response even more strongly out of the hope that maybe he just wasn’t trying hard enough to make it work the last time. You’re also implicitly threatening Joe because he believes the worst set of possible things about Muslims, and telling him “maybe you shouldn’t hurt them” is comparable to saying “maybe you should just let them hurt you” which is rather threatening.
So how do we escape this, and stop ourselves from falling into this mental trap?
Well, the first pieces of the puzzle is already in place, in the form of the Precept of Universalism, and the Precept of Niceness, but we’ll now close the links entirely by adding in the tenth major precept:Do not waste your energy on hatred, or impeding the path of another, to do so is to hold poison inside of yourself.
10. Do not waste your energy on hatred, or impeding the path of another, to do so is to hold poison inside of yourself.
The necessary components to avoid falling into this trap are 1) the knowledge that the trap exists, 2) a precommitment to avoid the trap if possible 3) The knowledge that most people are more like you then like the ISIS chainsaw murderers, regardless of their religion or skin color.
With these three things in place, then even with very little to go off but Fox News, we can probably still avoid falling into the trap. We have to dismantle the narratives that hate generates in our mind and continue using the narrative we believe is the most accurate and the most likely to produce good outcomes, regardless of what moment-to-moment emotions we’re instilled with. Thus we have our minor precepts:
- Hate is a state of mind that will attempt to drive one to commit harm out of the belief that a harm will befall them if they fail to act.
- Hate makes the act of harm pleasurable and makes it seem good, but this is poison.
- The poison corrupts our reasoning and moves us further from the truth.
- The poison is insidious and will resist attempts at its eradication.
- Let go of hatred, and let anadoxy be your compass in all things.
- Do not let hatred control your decision-making process, but reason through all actions and take the best course of action available to you.
- Hate not those that hate, for they do not know what they do to themselves.
- Hate not the hated, for popular consensus should not be allowed to encourage the poison’s spread.
We can think things are bad and want to get rid of them without falling prey to the negative emotions inherent in that, but we need to always be thinking about things, questioning if something is really bad or good or if what we’re doing to change things is really bad or good. When we let hate control that process, it induces a whole host of cognitive biases and throws all sorts of emotional levers in our psyches. We should reject hatred and the effects it induces in our minds, we should strive to be better than our hardware.