Recently, a white male with an anti-Muslim agenda took the lives of more than 90 people in Norway. His belief system dictated these horrific killings, in that he believed killing would somehow make a statement. He believed that his acts would be a cleansing of the abhorred.
But what compels an individual or a group of individuals to carry out acts of hatred, big and small?
Such fanatical individuals suffer from pathological authoritarianism. They are socially dominant, highly prejudiced and ethnocentric and tend to be highly driven to dominate others. They also gravitate toward leadership positions.
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in authoritarianism and its relationship to aggression and hostility.
Authoritarianism has been studied scientifically and measured in terms of human and individual aggressiveness. Such individuals feel the need to always dictate, bully and prove themselves right. They enjoy bringing harm to the object of their hate in order to validate themselves. This validation is short-lived, however, in that they must continually find more and more objects to dominate.
Such authoritarianism has been associated with fanaticism and hatred, such as displayed by white supremacy groups, terrorist groups, etc.
Recent research in this area has demonstrated that although in-group bias occurs easily, out-group hostility is more likely to occur under specific conditions. For example, in the workplace, people will often become allies based on a common hatred of a coworker and bond together under a common objective. Many groups bond by collectively making another an object or target for hatred.
Then, they will go on to find the next target, which can come from within that very group.
Those who hate must find objects to satisfy their desire to bring others down. Once this desire has been satiated via one target, another target must be sought to keep repeating the cycle of hate.
The underpinnings of human aggression, however, are present in all individuals. The act of striking a woman or child, or harming a colleague, or hating others based on their religion or sexual preference, are all acts of hate.
Though not to be mixed up with mass murders, we must always tune in on the daily existence of hate and aggression, and we must try to conquer, analyze and correct it.
An aggressor will often come to public notice for the extent of the notoriety of his acts. However, even in daily life we will be exposed to aggression, hostility and hatred. Unless we begin to look within to change the origin of where hate emanates from, we are unlikely to achieve higher social change.
The study of hate and change must begin with the individual soul in order to be transferred to larger cultural and moral change. We must all look within to change that which we condemn.
• Samina Masood has lived in Tracy since 2004 and is among a select group of local Town Crier columnists in the Tracy Press.