Our Need for Hatred (December 2004)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 12:19

Saga Magazine
December 2004

Our Need for Hatred

Dorothy Rowe

In October 2003 the government announced that much tougher sentences would be imposed on offenders convicted of assaults motivated by a hatred of homosexual men. A year on and there has been no significant reduction in these crimes. Perhaps if the government published an account of why people commit such crimes the offenders would become very reluctant to commit further assaults because they would know that through these assaults they were revealing something about themselves which they wished to keep hidden. Indeed, we should all be careful about revealing whom we hate because in doing so we disclose what we see as our own despicable weakness.

When someone attacks us either physically or psychologically by denigrating and humiliating us our first response is fear, the emotion which says, 'I am in danger.' If the attack is repeated again and again and we can find no defence which makes us feel safe we say to ourselves, 'I shall destroy this person because he is trying to destroy me.' Actually we don't have to say these words to ourselves because we feel them, and we call this feeling hatred. The source of our hatred is our own weakness, our inability to make ourselves safe. Men who hate gays are not always physically weak, indeed they are often physically very strong, but they are sure they have a despicable weakness inside of them which they must hide from others. This weakness is their own homoerotic feelings. The way our society socialises boys means that for most boys their closest relationships are with other boys with the result that as they are growing up they have many different experiences which could be called homoerotic. Men who accept themselves and are able to live comfortably with themselves accept that, while their sexual feelings are largely heterosexual, they also contain an element of homosexual understanding and interest. Men who cannot live comfortably with themselves cannot accept the homosexual component in their sexual feelings. They hate this in themselves and they deal with this hatred by projecting it on to homosexual men and attacking them, perhaps just verbally, but sometimes physically. The solution to the problem of homophobic crime may not be longer prison sentences but prison sentences where the offender is required to confront what he sees as his secret weakness and come to see it not as a weakness but an acceptable part of the complexity of what it is to be a human being.

But what of those people whose hatred cannot come to an end until there is a political solution to the situation in which they find themselves? Whenever I see pictures of young Palestinian boys hurling stones at Israeli troops I see the next generation of men who are prepared to lay down their lives for their cause of fighting those whom they see as their enemy. These boys feel weak, necessarily so because they are just boys. Ordinarily a boy can look to his father to protect him, and he can deal with his weakness by telling himself that he will soon be a big and strong as his father. However, in Palestine the fathers are unable to protect their sons. The boys see their fathers as weak and their enemy as very strong. They see themselves as having to do the job their father is incapable of doing. They want to be as strong as the Israeli troops, and so the boys create a hatred which says, 'I will destroy my enemy in the way my enemy is trying to destroy me.'

Even if tomorrow there was a political solution on which both sides could agree and immediately teams of experienced child therapists descended on Gaza and the West Bank it would take many years for these boys to feel strong enough in themselves to give up their hatred. My son's half-brother Nick Rowe, formerly a dancer with the Australian National Ballet, and his wife Maysoon, a dancer whose family live in Ramalah, have been in the West Bank for the last five years working with children using games and dance in order to teach them how to play. The lives of these children have been so taken up with the conflict between Palestine and Israel that they have never learned how to play. Yet it is through play that children learn how to cooperate with one another and to resolve differences without feeling the need to destroy the person who threatens you in some way. Nick and Maysoon found that the children had not learned through play how to take turns and operate as a team. Unless these children, and the children of their enemy, learn the skills of cooperation and sharing, and understand how hatred is a defence against one's sense of inadequacy and weakness they can never as adults agree on a political solution to end the conflict. The same applies to all those places in the world where conflict rages.

Many people, and not just those who live where conflict rages, use hatred as a way of trying to convince themselves that they are strong. If you feel weak then you see other people as dangerous. This is why so many people hate strangers, anyone who isn't the same race, nationality or religion or, sometimes, anyone who isn't family. We don't like to acknowledge our own weakness and, even more, we don't want other people to know that we see ourselves as being weak.

The solution isn't to keep your hatred secret. Unexpressed hatred makes you physically ill because it creates a stress which prevents your immune system which protects you from illness from operating efficiently. The solution is to give up despising yourself for being weak. Recognise you're ordinary just as everyone is. Don't waste time and energy on hating. Instead deplore and criticise the stupidities and cruelties that people commit and do what you can, however small, to help people live without the need for hatred.

Dorothy Rowe Friends and Enemies HarperCollins