Are we plagued with political hatred?
This question always arises when I see some politicians criticise their opponents exaggeratedly and defame them enthusiastically, in a manner that only suits those who are oppressed and have a just cause, or those who have a deep hatred, akin to a mental illness.
I read a book entitled Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred that discusses political psychology, and specifically political hatred, or hatred causing political paranoia.
The authors of this book speak about many cases of political paranoia and hatred that destroy social cohesion, rather than the political system. The forms of political paranoia range between verbal, material, and physical violence. This is rampant in communities that have experienced civil wars or completely lost their “interpersonal, societal, and political trust”.
These elements represent the bases and conditions for the development of societies. For example, interpersonal, societal, and political trust is what prompted people in Japan to work for long hours to help their country and community after they experienced a huge Tsunami which destroyed a quarter of the state’s resources.
In the aforementioned book, there are dozens of examples of “rebels searching for a cause”. Generally, after leading their communities to violence and civil war, it is these figures themselves who sign settlement agreements with those who did the killing and destroying.
Some of them may apologise for their mistakes that led to the killing of innocent people who fall victim to their fanaticism, such as the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. However, these apologies came after decades of supposed struggle that led to the destruction of the country and its people, without a real return for any party.
History has placed some of these “leaders” on trial for choosing the difficult and the worst alternative, which did not benefit public interest. They are turned into heroes for some time, but when the people pay for their adventures, their reality is exposed.
The expression “political hatred” arises as the major explanation for turning these supposed fighters into public leaders in the eyes of their disciples. These hypothetical fighters invent hypothetical opponents. This in turn becomes the fuel for civil conflict, the victims of which are usually those who have chosen to remain silent in the midst of the futile chaos that has erupted.
This political hatred is usually part of a larger dilemma, including an inferiority complex, or the desire for leadership. It may be a reaction to real grievances conducted by the other party that left violent effects on them, and sometimes a plot driven by outside parties.
But what distinguishes the real fighters from the “pretend” ones?
I think the difference lies in the struggle itself: is it a goal or means? In other words, as the Quran says: “Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you.” Prophet Muhammed and his companions sought to ensure freedom of worship for people without violence, but it was enjoined upon them, although they despised it. If leaders such as Saad Zaghloul, Gamal Abdel Naser, or Anwar Sadat were able to achieve independence without blood, they would have done it because they are real leaders and do not need to create struggle.
Conversely, if these “fighters” had a chance for peaceful solution to any problem, they would have rejected it because they would lose the set of circumstances that make them leaders.
Moataz Bellah Abdel-Fattah is an Egyptian professor of political science. He previously served as an adviser to the prime minister of Egypt, and professor of political science at both Cairo University and Central Michigan University.