Why do the haters hate?

Hatred: The EDL rally in response to the Woolwich attack. (taken from ITV.com, credit Neil Lancefield/PA Wire)

Amid the aftermath of the Woolwich attack this week, as the shock and horror of the whole thing subsided, and questions were raised, there was one in particular that stuck with me.

This attack was an act of terror, extremism, hate.

We call it senseless, unjustifiable and unforgivable.

But those responsible didn’t think so. They called for an audience, displayed their bloodied hands to the world, they had a message to convey, to them it made perfect sense, it was an act of justice, a necessary evil.

What is it that makes people, human beings, hate so much, to such extremes that they could take another human life so violently in the name of some higher purpose?

They are born, kicking and screaming into the world just like the rest of us. They must learn to crawl, talk, walk like everyone else. They must make mistakes, learn what hurt, heartache and forgiveness feel like. They are taught what is good and what is bad. Is that where their path in life diverges from ours? Is there a moment in their lives where the decision they must make will cut a fork in the road, one good, one evil? Or is it something that happens gradually over time, is it a series of decisions, like wrong turns in a maze that brings them somewhere dark and angry?

Why do the haters hate?

 

We throw the word around a lot, freely, unthinking.

We hate our jobs, our boss, our parents, siblings, best friends, our hometown, our hair, thighs, knobbly knees. We hate our exes, we hate the old guy who creeps on schoolgirls at the bus stop, we hate Michael Ball, George Osborne, the Go Compare adverts. We hate brussel sprouts, PPI cold callers, cyclists, motorists, people who don’t understand the concept of personal space. We hate people who are self-obsessed, attention seeking, fake, people who lie, cheat, bully. We hate animal cruelty, child abuse, wife beaters, husband beaters, traffic wardens.

But we don’t always mean hate. It’s not always something as extreme as hate. Mostly, we’re just annoyed or irritated by these things temporarily, sometimes irrationally, in our otherwise blissful little lives.

 

To hate, is “to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest”.

We’ve seen a lot of hate in our modern, civilised era. We’ve seen planes crashing into buildings, school children fleeing indiscriminate gunfire, bombs explode on crowded high streets, buses, tubes.

To most of us, it is all senseless. The kind of hatred that pulls the trigger of a gun or pushes the button to detonate a bomb, that kind of hatred is difficult to understand for those of us whose greatest grievance in life is discovering that a chocolate chip cookie is actually raisin.

As infuriating as that can be, to my knowledge, there has never been bloodshed over the chocolate chip – raisin hoodwink.

So where does hate come from? If not from confectionary.

Religion always seems to be at the centre of these things.

I don’t understand this, how something that teaches of the importance of love can as a consequence, be the source of such evil. I’ve never understood it.

I’ve grown up in the middle of it in Northern Ireland, hating the kids on the bus who wore a different uniform, without really understanding it.

I was dropped into hatred at the age of eight when I moved to the North and found myself on one side of a divide I didn’t understand. But in hindsight, I don’t think any of us really understood what it meant at that age.

I remember tracing the letters ‘IRA’ onto the steamed kitchen window one evening, I was so big and clever. My mum just looked at me, “Do you know what that means?”

I didn’t. And when she told me, like the good history teacher that she is, I never wrote those letters or any like them anywhere again.

Perhaps that was one of my moments, had I drawn a different conclusion from the lesson on the political history of Northern Ireland which my mother fed me that evening, perhaps I would have gone on writing those letters on windows and walls, and who knows where it would have led? Had I been taught the same lesson by my father, who as a Dubliner, is in general much more fantastical and nationalistic in his take of the North’s political divide, perhaps I would have taken a different point of view. Had I been brought up and taught the same lesson in a different house, a different townland, where the curbs and gable walls were painted and flags and bunting flew from the streetlamps, who knows where I would be, what I would believe, or who I would hate.

Pretty much every biblical lesson I can recall from my misspent Catholic youth taught that anger and hatred and violence were generally frowned upon by the big man upstairs. In all shapes and forms, hate and evil were a no-no.

That is the long and the short of it. That is the enduring sentiment that I took from the years of religious education spent doodling in my jotter and endless Sunday mornings staring into space and anticipating the fresh scone bread cooling on a rack in my Granny’s kitchen.

It is the lesson that my parents, grandparents, godparents and teachers all instilled in my pliable young mind.

Be good.

Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

Forgive those who trespass against you.

I don’t remember any footnotes by those teachings, any asterisk following the commandments.

 

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these” * [Mark 12:31]

(*except the gays, hate the gays loads.)**

 

Religion doesn’t teach you to distinguish between who you should hate and who you should love, it teaches you to love all, regardless of colour, creed or sexual orientation. Granted my knowledge of Islam is pretty sketchy, but from what I gather, the same basic principles apply as they do in Christianity and in Bill & Ted: “Be excellent to each other”.

So why do people who hate homosexuals or Muslims or Women use religion to justify their own prejudices?

Why do idiotic groups such as the EDL, BNP and UKIP tell us that Islam is to blame, Muslims are behind the death of a British soldier? How is their hate and disposition to violence any different from the hate of the two extremists who spilled blood on a London street earlier this week? These political groups have launched a campaign of hate and incited violence against a religious community who have absolutely nothing to do with the extremists responsible for the Woolwich attack. Mosques have been attacked up and down the country, innocent Muslims have been threatened, spat at in the street, attacked.

Yet the EDL, BNP, UKIP do not distinguish between the murderers with blood on their hands, and innocent people going about their day to day lives. And all the while Islamic religious groups have cried out the same words that the people of Northern Ireland have cried out in the face of political violence: Not in our name.

Senseless, unjustifiable, unforgivable.

But those responsible don’t think so. They call for an audience, don balaclavas in the face of the police and the world’s media, they have a message to convey, to them it makes perfect sense, it is an act of justice, a necessary evil.

Funny how two beliefs at opposite ends of a spectrum can meet in the middle.

 
(** Incidentally, I believe gays should absolutely have the right to marry. However, in an entirely selfish sense, I hope that they choose not to, because in the ever more likely inevitability that I will end up rocking spinsterhood I’d like someone fabulous to go dancing with on a Saturday night).

Bad Catholic

Yesterday afternoon, while lounging in front of the telly enjoying a double bill of religiously satirical films, and digesting a late breakfast, my mother interrupted the blissful first day of my little sister’s school break by asking whether we would prefer to have dinner before or after mass that evening.

“We have to go to mass today?” my little sister asked, frowning as all plans of a day in her pyjamas disappeared before her eyes.

“I love being a heathen” I said, smiling.

I am a self-professed bad catholic.

After being dragged through the rigmarole of the catholic school system, learning by heart their prayers and responses, singing at their masses and playing a shepherd in their nativities, I had confessed my sins, taken communion and been confirmed, but I never considered myself particularly religious. I received a very good education, felt part of a very loving community, and became romantically fond of all their storytelling and hymn singing, but in truth, I found more divine inspiration watching Father Ted than I ever did at any mass. I am a catholic in that typically Irish way – I don’t practise my religion – I stopped going to mass around the same time that I started being hungover on Sunday mornings, but it forms a very great part of my emotional education, it is stitched through all my childhood memories, I treasure the rosary beads and mass cards I’ve been given over the years because the people I love believe in them, whether I do or not.

By the time I entered secondary school, another institute drenched in catholic rhetoric, the dark secrets of the catholic church and the sectarian hatred which had divided my homeland had tainted any romantic attachment I felt for the church as an institution. Having to study the Gospel for six months of GCSE Religion also had something to do with it.

But I still thought the buildings and the hymns they sang in them were very beautiful, and the stories they told were pleasant little fables not to be taken too seriously, I had the utmost respect for the devout good Catholics who surrounded me, but I wasn’t one of them.

I was a catholic in the sense that I had been raised by Catholics  my grandparents and at least half of my parents are good Catholics  they taught me to be good, honest, kind, not to lie or cheat or speak with your mouth full. Isn’t that enough?

Because, honestly, I do believe that everyone should have some kind of faith, its good for the soul. But I don’t understand why that faith ever needs to interfere with what I eat and when.

I made a good effort at Lent, fasting from takeaways and chips almost entirely throughout the six weeks, only caving in circumstances of extreme hangover, however I only managed to go off crisps for approximately 36 hours.

My faith is built on the foundations of Christianity  I believe there is a higher power, I believe that force has some divine purpose for us all, but it is much more Mother Nature than Father Almighty.

I won’t try and compete with two million years of Christian faith, and I don’t expect them to argue with my beliefs, faith is far too personal a thing to be questioned by anyone else. Except Creationalists – those guys are nuts.

So while my mother and sister and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and the rest of the community in which I have grown up are attending the Good Friday service, I’m going to walk the dog and take in some of Mother Nature’s beauty. I might not be in a designated church building, listening to a designated leader of church, praying designated words of the church, but I’m going to go enjoy my own personal kind of divine inspiration.

One Billion Rising.

I’m Rising Because…

I was brought up by a father who taught me never to take shit from any man, not even from him. My mother, and all the women in my family, have been the greatest examples of strength and courage even just in their day to day lives. They never fail to amaze me. I’m rising because these women, and millions like them around the world, just get on with things. They work hard, they shoulder every heartache, every trouble but they don’t stop, life goes on, they must go on with it.

I was brought up believing that women have an equal right to life and happiness, and that if anything, they work harder, strive further, and deserve more than men. But I know that not every young girl is taught this growing up, not every young girl is lucky enough.

I’m rising because all across the world today, young girls will see their mothers, aunts, sisters, rise up and dance for One Billion Rising, and it might be the first time they’ve ever seen them dance, ever seen them rise up against the violence or suffering of women, ever seen them make a stand against anything.

I’m rising because, for the last few months I’ve been trying to write a piece about feminism and its continuing importance in the world today, but every day, the piece gets longer and longer, because every day a new story breaks. Whether it is the gang rape of a female student in India or the death of a woman in Ireland who was refused an abortion, or a Christmas advert from Virgin Mobile in America that normalises, even makes a mockery of sexual assault against women.

A disturbing culture has grown out of this kind of advertising, or perhaps the advert is a result of a wider normalisation of these attitudes. Young men, and women, make jokes about sexual assault, abuse, rape every day that suggest that this kind of violence against women is not only normal, but funny.

Recently I read a study which compared the comments of convicted rapists with those made in lads mags (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2011/dec/09/lad-mags-rapists-study). Half the people surveyed couldn’t tell the difference between the two, and can we pretend to be shocked? How often have we heard the ludicrous words “She was asking for it”?

I’ve confronted people who’ve made these kind of lads jokes in the past, and the most common response? “Lighten up”.

I don’t know any of those kind of jokes, but I have got a pretty good punchline…

One in three women will be raped and beaten in her lifetime.

Anyone laughing?

I’m rising because no women anywhere, ever “asked for it”.

I’m rising because the only time a man ever tried to hit me I hit him back twice as hard. But I know that not every woman will be able to fight back, we all have to fight for her.