Hating the “right” group
Group generalisations can lead to horrors – even when motivated by benign causes
[Updated 27/5/14] – Following the 20th Century nightmares of concentration camps, mass slaughter of certain groups, etc, I think it was widely understood – for a while at least – that Nazi ideology was abominable not because it directed hatred towards the wrong groups, but because hating any group seems nonsensical and eventually leads to violence. When people are perceived as mere units of group identity, dehumanising horrors can result – as history has repeatedly shown.
This insight seems lost – to the extent that it now seems fashionable, or “radical”, to hate groups that are believed, from a position of moral rectitude, to be deserving of hatred. For example, it even seems a badge of honour in some “radical left” circles to uncompromisingly despise the group classed as “corporate journalists” – since, by definition, it’s a subset of the larger “corporate” class, which is to be righteously reviled because of the mass suffering and destruction to the planet caused by corporations and the corporate system.
(There’s a “radical right” version of this in which the group known as the “liberal elite media” is hated as being a subset of the larger elite “liberal” class. There are also gender-based versions which follow a similar logic).
So, fungible group hatred has become respectable – as long as it’s the right group. And the “debate” between Left and Right now consists largely of: “Which are the correct groups to vilify?”
Despising ideas, beliefs, policies, actions, etc, attributed to a group, isn’t the problem. Rather, the problem seems to appear when unacknowledged mental processes result in false inferences about individual people, based on classing them as units of a group-abstraction.
Try describing the “reality” of any individual human being in terms of what defines any given group (social, political, religious, ethnic, racial, gender, whatever), and you will likely invoke the – usually unconscious – logic of “essences” (which Aristotle originally spelt out, but which has always been pervasive in folklore). It’s also the logic of medieval demonology, and, to quote Lakoff, “the logic of essences is all over conservative thought” (The Political Mind, p79).
Absolute categorisation of individuals based on this Aristotelian (or folk) logic of “indwelling (group) essences” shouldn’t be confused with the scientific approach of calculating statistical probabilities about nominal members of a group based on empirical data. But it would take more than a brief blog post to do justice to this whole area.