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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sometimes We Underestimate the Power of Hate.

Yes, following my little thought-train from yesterday (see previous post), I woke up with this burning question: "Can extreme ideas destroy the reasoning functions of our minds?" I was reminded, (by my brother), that someone already covered this territory...

Eric Hoffer wrote a book in 1951 (another time and place in a galaxy far away) called "True Believer,"  - social psychology about mass movements. 

Wikipedia summarizes: "Hoffer analyzes and attempts to explain the motives of the various types of personalities that give rise to mass movements; why and how mass movements start, progress and end; and the similarities between them, whether religious, political, radical or reactionary. He argues that even when their stated goals or values differ, mass movements are interchangeable, that adherents will often flip from one movement to another, and that the motivations for mass movements are interchangeable. Thus, religious, nationalist and social movements, whether radical or reactionary, tend to attract the same type of followers, behave in the same way and use the same tactics and rhetorical tools. As examples, he often refers to Communism, Fascism, National Socialism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Islam."

As for me, I am kind of hung up on the idea that any (and all?) extreme religious or political ideas destroy the reasoning parts of our brains: toxic, pernicious, brain-killing, soul-destroying, empathy & compassion-erasing ideas.

What are extremist ideas? I would think it relates to when, or if, or how, someone puts their ideas into action. The extremist embraces an idea and hates to consider any alternatives. The extremist is defined and unified by not only what they embrace but by what they reject, what they hate.

Sometimes we underestimate the power of hate. It is a unifier, a driver, and endless source of energy.

I am beginning to think any extreme ideology is a sickness. An illness. It actually short-circuits a healthy brain. There is no reasoning with someone filled with extreme ideas. There is no room for others, for alternative views, alternative ideas. That kind of extremism leads to hate. A hate-filled mind is a terrible thing to behold.

So examples of mind-sickness: misogyny, racism, white supremacy, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia, religious fundamentalism of all stripes, political extremism of all varieties.

Try reasoning with a committed Trump follower. Not possible. Or how about a Fundamentalist Christian? May as well put a fork in your forehead. Do not get in the way of a suicide bomber. They are gone, baby gone.

It is an "invasion of the body snatchers" thing. As  Karl Popper reminds us: “Knowledge consists in the search for truth… It is not the search for certainty.”

Anyone who is absolutely certain is dangerous. And in a way, ignorant. Their intelligence is stunted. And they are on the brink, on the verge of being unreachable. Unreasonable. And ridiculous. When someone says, "I alone can fix it." Head for the hills. Or prepare for an intervention. I recommend heavy sedatives, a jacket with no sleeves, and a rubber room.

So how to maintain a healthy mind? Psychology Today has a few suggestions. I would say be humble. Lean to the light. Look to fill your head with thoughts of love, grace, compassion, empathy. Avoid extremes, risky behaviors, risky ideas. De-toxify!

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