January 8, 2007

On hatred

hate
verb
    To regard with extreme dislike and hostility: abhor, abominate, despise, detest, execrate, loathe. See love/hatred.
noun
  1. Extreme hostility and dislike: abhorrence, abomination, antipathy, aversion, detestation, hatred, horror, loathing, repellence, repellency, repugnance, repugnancy, repulsion, revulsion. See love/hatred.
  2. An object of extreme dislike: abhorrence, abomination, anathema, aversion, bĂȘte noire, bugbear, detestation, execration. Informal horror. See love/hatred.

I read a lot about inter-personal relationships and dealing with other people. It comes with the territory for any aspiring Buddhist. One of the keys to the Way is learning to think of others with something called "loving-kindness", and a boddhisatva is someone who has achieved enlightenment but put off nirvana in favor of helping others find relief from suffering. I don't see any of that in my future anytime soon. It'll be hard enough for me to just learn patience in this lifetime.

I've also seen a few profiles and blog posts over at MySpace that touch on this subject. There are people who say that hatred has no place in their life. There are others who strive to be the best person they can. There're a lot of this type out there in the world. Sometimes it seems, though, that they're outnumbered by the haters. I hear that bunch all the time, and see their bumper stickers. "I hate this person, she's so..." "I hate (insert religious/political/etc group here)." "I hate Bush." What I find myself wondering when I think about all of this is: Do the haters really feel that strongly? Or has that word just become that commonplace? Isn't it possible that these people just need a good thesaurus?

Take George Bush, for example. A whole lotta people are hatin' on Dubya these days. I can't find it in me to say I hate him. Really, I mean it. I could easily say that I hate his policies and his smug manner, but a more accurate description of what I feel regarding Bush himself would be... apprehension. Or even fear. Or sorrow. But I couldn't honestly say I despise the man as a person.

Now, as for the whole "loving-kindness" thing, I have issues with that as well. I'm just not that cheerful and perky, and I'm not sure that I want to be. There are too many ignorant people out there. Oh, I know that they're the ones I should be sending the most lovingkindness to, and hoping that they'll someday get a figurative smack upside the head and find enlightenment but, in reality, they just plain get on my nerves. I don't hate them for it, but I don't go out of my way to be friendly towards them, either. What I try to do is to treat them with neutrality. I respect their right to act like a doofus, but I've got to also be allowed my right to not want to deal with them.

Thing is, people can't handle that. I'm totally baffled by a woman I work with who is flat out afraid of me. I don't recall ever yelling at her (though I have been impatient and abrupt a few times), and I've even said nice things to her now and again. Mostly I'm just neutral in my dealings with her. She apparently must perceive my neutrality as something threatening, though, because I've seen her hands shake when she's had to ask me a question. Another colleague has told me that I should give people more compliments. Why? Is that the only way that people can think of you as a decent person? If I'm not all warm'n'fuzzy and telling people how pretty their hair is, then I must apparently hate them? Why does my approval of them matter so much anyway? Surely the fact that I think they act like a doofus shouldn't have any impact on how they live their life.
But now back to those people who use the "H" word so freely. I'd be willing to bet that hatred is not what they really feel in most instances. I'd also bet that if they took a realistic look at the subject in question, and then added a few more words to their vocabulary, that they'd probably express themselves much less vehemently. In reality, what they "hate" is probably not the person they're dealing with, but that person's behavior. Unfortunately, many people don't seem able to step back and look at things objectively enough to see the difference. We're a bunch of knee-jerk reactionists driven by a genetic need to defend ourselves against what's "other", and we respond with excessive emotion and poor choice of words.

So there you have it. My answer to world peace is for us all to take a deep breath and pull out the thesaurus.


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