The best way to generate hatred towards an identity (any of the myriad arbitrary ways we have to classify people) is to claim that “those people” have made the conscious decision to bring it upon themselves, that they are explicitly immoral. It is very difficult to generate hatred for people who didn’t choose their fate, and therefore it is always found necessary to place upon them some imaginary responsibility.
Personal responsibility and the ability to choose are of paramount importance in order to understand how we got into the current state of affairs. Therefore, it is vitally important that we differentiate between things we are actually responsible for and things we are not actually responsible for. It is merely part of the clever insanity of the prevalent ideology that it demands of us to feel guilty for things we are not responsible for, and to completely ignore the crimes we are responsible for.
The goal of making people feel guilty about things for which they are not, and cannot, be responsible is for us to identify them as misguided and evil, and often to absolve ourselves from the responsibility we share in the social context that created their misfortune as well. As I discussed in this entry, they are also thought-stoppers. If we can blame individuals for social conditions, we don’t have to think about the origins and perpetuation of that condition.
Here are some examples of imaginary responsibilities imposed on individuals.
* “You are responsible for the way you feel.” “Think positive and your reality will be positive.”
I already addressed this one in the entry linked above. Propositions like this are designed so that you stop thinking about whatever part of your environment triggered undesirable feelings, and to collapse into yourself. They are deadly thought-stoppers used in New Age cults and other mind-control organizations.
* “The poor are poor because they are lazy.”
I also addressed this in the entry linked above. This is an attempt to explain away poverty by stating that it is an individual flaw instead of a structural feature. The individual who is conditioned to think of poor people as lazy has no incentive to examine how his own work and the institutions he supports create more poverty. If poverty is the poor people’s fault, then they are the ones who need to fix the problem, making further thought unnecessary.
* “Gays choose to be gay.”
This is the same process, justifying the oppression of homosexuals by portraying them as people who have consciously made an immoral choice. It’s harder to hate people who can’t help who they are. In fact, it’s so hard that people villify the examination of the origins of criminal behaviour, associating it with making those criminals innocent.
* “Immigrants are depressing our economy.”
Both sides of the “immigration” issue assume that a bunch of poor people looking for a job somehow have the power to affect the economy of an entire nation. Of course, we all know who really has the power to affect the economy, and it’s not people at the bottom of the ladder.
* “You choose to go to Hell, you send yourself to Hell.”
A common rationalization used by Christians to maintain their respect for God and their hatred of the “unsaved” despite the fact that Christians are not any more moral than the rest of the population. It is obvious that no one can send himself to Heaven or Hell, as no human has access to those realms anyhow: God is doing it. But even if we accept the belief that anyone who’s heard about Jesus chooses to go to Heaven or Hell, there are still billions of people who will never have that choice anyway. Finally, who would willingly send himself to Hell?
* “Have faith in the Lord and you will be saved.”
Free will is not an on or off proposition. One may be able to choose a given option, but that option may be so contrary to one’s beliefs and personality that it would be nearly impossible for someone to choose it. I cannot conceive of any way for me to have faith in God short of major brain damage. It goes against everything I believe in. Am I therefore choosing wrongly?
* “Choose life.”
Once again, it is technically true that a woman can choose to bring a baby to term, but this pithy saying completely occludes the profound moral and ethical consequences of doing so. To many of us, it’s not much of a choice at all. But the imbecilic propaganda of the anti-abortion crowd assumes that all the responsibility for the decision comes from the woman.
* “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”
Of course, this saying has it completely backwards: it is voters who sanction the results and are responsible for them, not non-voters. It is technically true that people decide whether to vote or not. However, there are serious ethical issues connected with participating in a voting process. To some people, the fact that voting implies sanctioning the use of violence against innocent people is enough to force them not to vote.
* “We live in an egalitarian society, so any problem you have is your own fault.”
This is a more general form of social and economic rationalization. Obviously we do not live in an egalitarian society by a long shot, but by pinning the blame on the individual, we don’t have to think about the unequal conditions that created his problems.
* “You can be anything you want when you grow up, even president.”
“The future is in your hands.”
These are common sayings, even though we know very well that such outcomes are mostly out of our hands, since they depend on a wide array of factors, not to mention people being at the right place at the right time. We cannot be anything we want, and the future is not in our hands. This is not to say that we should be fatalistic, but we need to give children a realistic assessment of what awaits them. Otherwise they will labor under delusions and waste their time. One good example of that is the push to send children to college.
* “I raped her because she was asking for it.”
“It’s ok for US soldiers to murder brown mothers and children, they chose to attack us first.”
I wanted to end on these more extreme examples to show that the rationalization can directly justify crime as well (not just indirectly through demonization). The strangest part of this is that people still believe these rationalizations even though they make about as much sense as “I didn’t punch him, he just ran into my fist.” Nothing short of self-defense justifies killing people, and nothing justifies raping them. That we fail to recognize this in the current wars merely proves that people are far, far more racist than they believe.