Saturday, September 15, 2012

Feeding the Hate Monster

This past Wednesday morning, I was walking up 7th Avenue to work from Penn Station.  When I was at Times Square, I glanced at a news ticker on one of the buildings and saw a headline that read that the U.S. ambassador to Libya had been killed.  I found myself doing a double take. 

When I got to the office, I went onto a news web site and read that the ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other embassy personnel were killed in an attack by militants on the embassy in Benghazi. 

I had read about the crowd that had scaled the embassy walls at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt the day before in protest of a film supposedly being made in the United States insulting the prophet Muhammed, but what happened in Libya took it to a whole new level.

Now, in the wake of the Libyan attack, further riots have taken place in Muslim countries throughout the Middle East.

When I read about the attack on the Libyan embassy on Wednesday morning, I have to admit I felt an incandescent rage.  Here was a clear cut example of people committing murder in the name of religion.  It filled me with a desire to see Muslim people get hurt in retaliation.  "Why not fire missiles from Predator drones at crowds of crazy religious fanatics as they protest outside of our Middle East embassies?  It would teach them a lesson."

As an atheist, I can't understand how people can get so violent over religion.  I suspect that less than 1% of the Muslims rioting over the movie has even seen the trailer.  All they likely know is that someone in America made such a blasphemous film, which means in their eyes that all Americans are responsible for it.  Evidently, they don't understand the concept of free expression that we have in this country, a right that applies to American Muslims as well.  If they had not rioted and gone crazy, I doubt I would have ever heard of this movie, which by all accounts is a cheap and shoddy piece of crap.

After my anger had abated somewhat and I got to thinking about it some more, I recalled an episode from the original Star Trek series titled Day Of The Dove.  In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise find themselves locked in perpetual combat with a band of Klingons on the ship, unknowingly goaded on in their hostilities by an entity that draws strength and nourishment from hatred and violence.  Below is a clip from the episode where Captain Kirk tried to convince the leader of the Klingons that they are all being manipulated to fight each other by the alien entity.



 

Eventually, the Enterprise crew and the Klingons drive the entity off the ship with laughter.  If only life were that simple, but hey, it's a television show.

The lesson that can be drawn from the episode though is that there are forces at work in our world constantly trying to manipulate us.  Of course, I'm not talking about aliens, demons or supernatural forces.  Such things are not necessary, when simple human malevolence will do.  There are groups of people in the Muslim world who want to harness hatred towards the United States, Israel, "the West," or just non-Muslims in general, so they seek to push the emotional buttons of their fellow brethren to urge them to violence.  Likewise, there are groups of people who seek to manipulate us to hate all Muslims and support violence against them.  Thus, we find ourselves all locked into a cycle of animosity and death. 

Hatred is a monster that requires constant feeding.  Some people are happy to feed the Hate Monster willingly, while the rest of us feed it without realizing it.  Tragically, knowing that the Hate Monster is real is not enough to stop most of us from feeding it.  It is difficult to resist the temptation to think that if we just punish the "bad guys" hard enough, they'll cower in fear and no longer be able or willing to try and hurt us anymore.  But even if by chance it works, there will always be some other group of people who will fill the role of the enemy who must be fought, guaranteeing the Hate Monster with an endless supply of food. 

I don't claim to have the solution to all of this.  All I can do is diagnose the sickness.

4 comments:

v1car said...

Do you follow the news?

As a citizen of the U.S., your chances of being blown up while in your home by a bomb launched by a Muslim in another country are effectively zip, zilch, zero, nada, none.

If you were, at this time, a Muslim living in another country, your chances of being blown up while in your home by a bomb launched by an American are actually fairly high. Even if you're totally innocent, never took part in any sort of terrorist or subversive activity.

I am amazed by the way most of my fellow Americans want to take these riots out of context, as though America wasn't already bombing half the Muslim world, propping up repressive dictatorships in half the rest, and saber-rattling at the remainder. It's bad enough that we are behaving outrageously; now people like you are amazed when there is outrage?

Here's a fun question for you to research: if this incident were repeated in every Muslim-majority country around the world, would there be more dead ambassadors, or dead innocent victims of American drone bombings? Hint: it's the drone bombing victims one. Why are you upset only now?

Infidel753 said...

I don't think there is a "solution to all of this", as such. Inter-group violence is a deep-rooted part of human nature (even chimpanzee groups fight murderous "wars" with each other), and religious fanaticism has always been a powerful intensifier of those urges. During the Dark Ages, when Westerners took religion seriously, Europe was constantly engulfed in hideous violence, from the witch-burnings to the Thirty Years War.

We can't compromise the First Amendment, and trying to suppress blasphemy probably wouldn't do much good, anyway (Islamist fanatics will always find something to get outraged about). Western governments should make it clear that they don't endorse the film -- as they've been doing -- and accept that, as long as there are people who truly believe in Islam, a certain level of violence is unavoidable.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Billy Crystal was once asked if he had been the "class clown" in school. "No, I was the class Comedian", he replied. When asked what the difference was he explained: "The class clown is the guy who runs naked across the school yard - The class comedian is the guy who talks him into it."

Someone is the focal point, the instigator; these people don't just sit at home and independently go out and randomly turn into a mob - someone puts them up to it. The question is, who benefits?

In the news people in China were rioting/protesting against Japanese businesses in China. The reason; a tiny disputed uninhabited island claimed by both countries.

Now why would some everyday schmo in China give a shit about some issue that doesn't effect their everyday lives? It's in someone's interest to rile these people up, they are being manipulated. The question is by who and for what purpose? There is some hidden agenda being advanced here and I think most of these protesters are merely stooges.

Tommykey said...

If you were, at this time, a Muslim living in another country, your chances of being blown up while in your home by a bomb launched by an American are actually fairly high. Even if you're totally innocent, never took part in any sort of terrorist or subversive activity.

V1car, if you are a Muslim living in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Jordan, Turkey, Senegal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, or Djibouti, the chances of being blown up by an American bomb are virtually zero.

I am amazed by the way most of my fellow Americans want to take these riots out of context, as though America wasn't already bombing half the Muslim world, propping up repressive dictatorships in half the rest, and saber-rattling at the remainder. It's bad enough that we are behaving outrageously; now people like you are amazed when there is outrage?

I understand there is outrage, just as I understand that there are groups in Muslim countries that have a vested interest in further stoking anger against us over a stupid Youtube video, just as I understand that there are forces at work here in America trying to stoke our outrage. That was the whole point of my post.

@ Infidel753. Funny how the Muslim extremists use a shitty Youtube video to stir up all this outrage when radio and television programs in their own country broadcast vile anti-semitic propaganda.

@ Robert. I agree. And the extremists on both sides always empower one another. It wouldn't surprise me if some right wing nut cases vandalize mosques here in the United States as a form of payback.