Hate and Identity
Robert A. Levine
The concept of identifying with a group and seeing outsiders as a threat is known to be present in many animal species below humans on the phylogenetic scale. This can be seen in a pack of wolves, in lions, monkeys and chimpanzees, who follow the alpha male in the group and may harass or attack other groups, particularly during mating season. Prehistoric man tended to live in small groups, always suspicious or antagonistic to outsiders. When man advanced to living in tribes, the members of these groups identified with their fellow members and were often hostile to those whom they saw as interlopers or those outside their tribes. This need for identity or to be part of a special group or community continued during the period when nation states were formed.
Bonds between people were formed on the basis of national identity (nationalism), the similar characteristics including race, religion and ethnicity or genetic origins. Again, people who were different in various ways, even if living in the same territory and citizens of the same state, were considered as interlopers who did not belong to the in-group. Because of their status as outsiders, they were often feared and seen as threats, and hatred of these ‘others’ grew more pronounced. In Europe, this antagonism and hatred of other ethnic groups has been occurring for centuries in many nations, leading to pogroms and massacres of minorities living in these nations. Though the population of every European nation participated to varying degrees in the hatred and conflict against outsiders, it seemed to be more prevalent in eastern European countries and Germany.
Certainly, tribal and national identities and hatred and killings of outsiders has not been limited to Europe. It is a general condition of mankind and has been present in Asia and Africa on a large scale as well as in North and South America. Unfortunately, white Christian identity movements have been growing throughout America as well as in European nations. Animosity towards other religious, racial and ethnic groups has been increasing and becoming more mainstream, with some white Christian groups feeling that America is being taken away from them. They tend to forget that indigenous peoples lived in America before whites colonized the land and if any group should feel hostility towards others it should be them.
The main reason for the hatred generated from ethno-nationalists is because some people are different than them and may come from other ethnicities, worship in other ways, or be of other races. There is nothing wrong with identifying with a particular group and feeling proud of your identity and of the accomplishments of your group. However, that does not preclude living in harmony with other ethnic, racial or religious groups and respecting the identity of the people in these groups. Hatred arises from fear of outside groups and supposed threats eminating from them. These threats are generally imaginary and are based to a large degree in difficulties in communication between groups.
There should be no reason that pride in one’s identity should threaten another group’s identity and cause hatred on one or both sides. Different people should be able to live together side by side in the same nation and cooperate in making life better for all citizens. Those who espouse hatred and foment conflict between peoples should be shunned by all of those who believe that a better and more peaceful world is possible.
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