An Epidemic of Hate

“Folks never understand the folks they hate.”​JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL, ESSAYIST AND DIPLOMAT.

HATE seems to be all around us today. Such names as East Timor, Kosovo, Liberia, Littleton, and Sarajevo​—as well as neo-Nazi, skinhead, and white supremacist—​have been etched in our minds along with lingering images of charred ruins, freshly dug mass graves, and dead bodies.

Dreams of a future free of hate, conflict, and violence have been shattered. Danielle Mitterand, wife of the late French president, remembered about her youth: “People dreamed of living freely in a fraternal society they could trust; of being at one with themselves living among and with others; they dreamed of living healthy, peaceful and dignified lives in a strong and generous world that watched over them.” What happened to those ideals? She lamented: “Half a century later, our dream has admittedly come under attack.”

The present resurgence of hate simply cannot be ignored. It is more widespread, and it is appearing in increasingly blatant forms. The sense of individual security that millions take for granted has been compromised by a wave of senseless acts of hate, each seemingly more horrific than the preceding one. Even if we are spared hate in our home or our country, it lies in wait for us elsewhere. We probably see evidence of it every day on the television screen in news and current affairs broadcasts. Some of it has even spilled over to the Internet. Consider a few examples.

The last decade has seen an unprecedented rise of nationalism. “Nationalism,” observed Joseph S. Nye, Jr., director of the Harvard Center for International Affairs, “is becoming stronger in most of the world, not weaker. Instead of one global village there are villages around the globe more aware of each other. That, in turn, increases the opportunities for conflict.”

Other forms of hate are more insidious, hidden within the borders of a country or even within the limits of a neighborhood. When five skinheads murdered an elderly Sikh in Canada, this event “highlighted what some see as a resurgence of hate crimes in a country often praised for its racial tolerance.” In Germany, after declining steadily in previous years, racist attacks by extremists surged by 27 percent in 1997. “It is a discouraging development,” remarked Interior Minister Manfred Kanther.

In northern Albania a report revealed that more than 6,000 children have become virtual prisoners in their own homes for fear of being shot by enemies of their families. These children are victims of the vendetta tradition, “which has paralysed life for thousands of families.” In the United States, according to  the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “racial prejudice motivated more than half the 7,755 hate crimes committed in 1998 that were reported to the FBI.” Some of the motives for the rest of the hate crimes involved prejudice regarding religion, ethnic or national origin, and disabilities.

Moreover, newspaper headlines each day point to an epidemic of xenophobia, which is directed primarily against refugees, who now number more than 21 million people. Sad to say, the majority of those expressing hate toward foreigners are young people, egged on by irresponsible political figures and others looking for scapegoats. Less obvious signs of the same phenomenon include distrust, intolerance, and stereotyping of people who are different.

What are some of the reasons for this epidemic of hate? And what can be done to eradicate hatred? The following article will deal with these questions.

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Cover, top: UN PHOTO 186705/​J. Isaac

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Daud/​Sipa Press