KosherTorah School for Biblical, Judaic & Spiritual Studies
Violence & Hate
by Ariel B Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
Human violence is an unfortunate fact of life. Human violence has haunted humanity since prehistorical times. The spectre of violence shows no sign of dissipating, and it looks like it will remain with us for yet some time to come. What can we realistically do about this?
Violence and peace seem to be perennially
revolving human experiences. We always seem to be going from the one state to
the next. Should this surprise us? Not only is this an unfortunate fact of human
history, the reality of this cycle has been enshrined in the language of ancient
literature. The biblical book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet 3:1, 8) clearly states
that “there is a time for all things under Heaven... a time for war, and a time
for peace.” War and violence go hand-in-hand. Peace follows them, and lasts
until they both come again.
Attempting to explain all the social,
political, economic, and/or religious causes for violence is irrelevant. Yes,
irrelevant! And why would such an important thing be irrelevant? The causes of
violence are irrelevant simply because by addressing the causes, in most cases,
one does not necessarily contribute to the cessation of violence. Violence uses
causes as a vindication for its existence, yet violence can often exist even
without what most normal people would call legitimate cause.
Violence is not limited to acts of physical harm. Prejudice, racism, and all other types of hate are equally violent. Hate is violence, and it often has no legitimate cause. Hate seeks cause to justify its existence, and to validate its expression of inflicting harm in any, and all arenas. Granted, while some areas of inflicting harm on another (or others) may be both legally and morally justified, this does not justify hate. Nor does the valid case against an individual legitimize projecting collective punishment on to a group, because of the behaviors of an individual(s) of that group.
It is very rare, although it does happen, when
a group(s), as a whole, is collectively guilty of behaviors that justify hatred,
and violence. Then again, when this does happen, and collective punishment is
meted out, it is often punishes the few who may not be guilty alongside the many
who are. This only radicalizes the few to join the guilty majority. In this way,
violence and hate spawn more violence and hate. More and more the innocent
bystander gets caught up in the sweep, and is he/she transformed.
Cycles create cycles. Like the verse above says, “there is a time for all things under Heaven.” Yet, is this understanding fatalistic? Are we doomed to continual cycles of violence and hate? Is this really an inescapable human condition? Are we really trapped, with no way out?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then we might as well surrender to fate, and at the same time, surrender our humanity! But, if the answer is “no,” then we human beings do have a choice in our behaviors, and in our actions.
The first step to breaking the terrible cycles
of violence is to sever the connection between violence, and hate. While some
times violence may be condoned, and even justified, the same can never be said
about hate! Even when the Bible says that “there is a time for peace and a time
for hate,” this is not a mandate, requiring that there be a time for hate.
Rather, the Bible is only noting the human cycle, and acknowledging its
existence. In so many other places the Bible condemns hate, and teaches how to
remedy it. The Bible acknowledges the existence of hate, but the Bible does not
justify, or validate its existence.
Individuals can (and do) quote from whatever holy books that they chose to validate the continuation of hate. Yet, all of these quotes, regardless of their source, need to be examined and understood, each within their historical context. When examined, and understood correctly, most “holy” references to hate end up teaching something radically different, and sometimes the very opposite of those who embrace such words to validate their violence.
Again, the first step in putting an end to violence, is to first sever its connection to the hate that underlies it. Severing the hate is an uphill struggle because hate is emotionally based, and it almost always flies in the face of all rational considerations. Nevertheless, in order to expose hate for what it truly is, the intellectual justifications must be subjected to ruthless scrutiny, and exposed for the misunderstandings that they truly are.
Strip away the intellectual justifications for hate. Expose hate as the raw violent emotion that it is, and some might actually be ashamed of the truth, and start to seek a different course. Stripped of intelligent validation, hate sometimes, but certainly not always, goes away. Then again, the reason why it is so difficult to strip away the intellectual justifications for hate is because it is so irrational.
For the one who is possessed by the spirit of hate, the most illogical and irrational ideas sound totally rational, normal, and logical. How can one rationally argue against the irrational? The answer usually is that it cannot be done. Granted, there are a very few exceptions to this rule, but their number is mostly insignificant. Hate is a degrading force. It can turn any normal human being into a mindless, and heartless monster. Monsters cannot be reasoned with; monsters live to devour. Hate is the monstrous force that words and ideas can never stop.
Think about it, has hate ever been a constructive force that seeks to build? No! Hate is always an “anti” force. Hate is always “against” some one or thing. Hate is the force of destruction. It constantly seeks to perpetrate harm against its victims, even if that harm were limited to mere words, and story telling. Hate is a deep-rooted cancer. Cancer kills, some quick, some slow, but in the end, the cancer victim dies. Some cancers can, and are cured. Indeed, also, some who embrace hate can, and do change.
The change away from hate must begin in one's heart, the same place from where hate originates. Addressing matters of heart has been humanity's historical challenge since the beginning of time. This perennial challenge, again, explains, why the Bible says that there is a “time for hate.” The Bible, again, is simply acknowledging the fact, not endorsing it.
The Bible (ref. Malakhi 1:3) goes further, and includes a prophetic statement which states that even God has an object of hate, that He “hated Esau.” Yet, one must understand the Bible's historical, literary use of poetic metaphor to understand how this Biblical phrase is to be properly understood within its rightful context. A Scripture verse such as this should never be twisted to justify that which the entire scope of the Bible rejects. God does not hate. God is not human, and does not embrace human attributes. This is what makes God Divine, and we humans, to be mortal.
All of us are stuck being human beings in a mortal world. Hate, for us, is an unfortunate, but ever-existent reality. We cannot wish hate away, nor can we turn a blind eye to it, ignoring it, thinking that it will not cause harm if we pay no attention to it. Hate has to be addressed. Hate left unchallenged will eventually transform into violence. Once this occurs, violence takes on a life of its own, and no innocents are out of bounds.
Like a fire, violence burns indiscriminately. Violence destroys all in its path. Therefore, if there must be violence, as the only way to irradiate hate, then it must be sharply focused, and controlled on the points of origin of hate. If the root cause is rooted out, then there can be a respite, and a break from violence and hate, at least until the next round rises to the forefront.
Unfortunately, each one of us is drafted into the fight against hate. Almost everyone, at one time or another, is either a perpetrator of hate, or a victim of it. One way or another, this fight is everyone's fight. While no one individual may be able to save the world, nevertheless, no one individual is free to avoid his/her share in contributing to overcoming this chronic human illness.
“We” will never be free from hate and violence until each individual fights the battle against it, first and foremost within one's own soul. As long as prejudice continues, as long as justifications continue to rationalize the irrational, as long as individuals point the finger of blame at the other, and not at themselves, then the cycle of hate, and violence will continue.
Each generation will take its victims. The perpetrators will become the victims, and the victims the perpetrators; this is the never-ending cycle of things. This is a round-and-around merry-go-round. Only the one who gets off the ride, can stop his/her head from turning. Only one who stops playing the games of children will be able to face the real problems of adults. Until such a time dawns on us all, there will continue to be “a time for war” under Heaven. May God helps us all, especially since it seems that we do not make sufficient efforts to help ourselves.
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The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright (C) 1997 - 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.