I begin this post with an apology. I dismissed the lived experience of someone because sticking with my default opinions was easier (and ironically I had ended that post by claiming that I wouldn’t be doing the wrong thing just because it is easier…sigh). So I apologise to Virtual Brush Box for brushing off your comment about how not everybody is living in fear. I am sorry I did that.
I have written before about my belief that people behave badly, or treat others badly, as a reaction to their own fears. They act to protect their own privilege and status from changes, or even new ideas, that might challenge them. They fear the levelling of the playing field in case it exposes them as average, or less than, the people they disparage and abuse.
But that is not the whole story.
Children are raised to make others ‘Other’…they are taught to hate. Changing that thinking and escaping that conditioning is analogous to leaving a cult, only this cult is far more socially acceptable and thusly a lot harder to leave. How do you convince someone that their parents, grandparents and extended social circles were all wrong in telling them, not necessarily explicitly, that certain groups of people are worthy of scorn and abuse? These people don’t feel fear that they are wrong, they are certain they are right because it is what they were taught from the beginning. The sky is blue, grass is green and those people are worth less than us for some awful reason.
There are many reasons for people to hate, I still believe that a lot of it is unacknowledged fear of loss, but there are terrifying others like plain and simple sadism. True sadism is a personality disorder, but sadism can be a trait only used on certain groups at certain times. Via a comment by Marcus Ranum on Mano Singham’s blog (on Freethought Blogs) is an article describing how and why some sadistic people do what they do. The line that caused me to pause was ‘I have come to believe attributing fear to sadism gives the sadists far too much credit’…I paused because I agree, but I had not yet faced that reality.
The only way to stop a sadist is to find a benefit to them from NOT torturing and abusing their chosen victims and I’m not sure how to do that. I am also not sure how to recognise sadistic behaviour vs thoughtlessness and ignorance, but I am going to try to find answers to those questions. I aim to be a sceptic, I want to question my own assumptions as well as those of others, so as well as apologising for defaulting to my normal opinion I want to thank Virtual Brush Box for prodding me back into scepticism…thank you.
(What I don’t get about a lot of modern sceptics is the lack of real apologies. If you really are questioning everything then you WILL be wrong a LOT of the time and unless you have an unlimited, unearned income then you cannot spend all day questioning yourself and others, so it is a life-long pursuit, learning and modifying opinions as you go. Surely that would lead to MORE and better apologies?)