The Point of Hate

In How We Behave, Uncategorized, Violence and Hate On

But there is a more subtle aspect to the impulse for revenge. Researchers have found that it often arises to curb perceived infractions of cultural norms: It may help hold societies together by punishing those seen as breaking the social contract.

Altruistic punishment flares when there is an inequitable allocation of resources or a transgression of cultural traditions — all threats to social coherence. Such acts of retribution appear to activate the brain’s reward center, presumably generating a sense of satisfaction and even pleasure.

This, of course, doesn’t mean the punishment is just or directed at any justified target. Dylann Roof, after opening fire on a group of African-Americans during Bible study, said, “I have to do this, because you’re raping our women and y’all taking over the world.” In his mind, his community was the one being victimized.

. . .

All this may help to explain why hate and its retributive punishments are on the rise. In a way, hate functions like a Geiger counter, signaling where there are serious disruptions of the social fabric or where cultural beliefs are under the most stress — whether it be from a new awareness of inequality, diversity or the radical redefining of gender.

Those who fail to hear these warnings and address the cultural dislocations they represent will end up paying a steep price. They may even be hated.

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