Nazis. The alt-right. Jingo-nationalists. Ethnic or racial supremacists. Xenophobes.
They’re all a muchness, but if anything, what they put me in mind of is Daleks: obsessed with some arbitrary measure of purity or conformity because they’re terrified of anything different.
It’s not accidental, of course. The Daleks were originally designed to reflect the Nazis: the greatest evil modern Europe had faced. At the time, the nations of Europe recognised the Nazis in the Daleks, and clearly understood the threat they represented.
The Doctor once confronted a Dalek and told it that, despite its emotions having been purged, he knew it still held a spark of fear. He was wrong. It wasn’t a spark. A spark of fear doesn’t make you a Dalek. Absolute, complete indulgence of one’s fear is what’s needed for that.
The crux of it all is this: you don’t hate unless you fear. You can criticise, reproach, condemn, denounce and deplore without being afraid. That’s what law and fairness are based on. And you can be afraid without hating.
But to hate, to really hate like these people do, you have to be scared.
It probably goes without saying that the fact that they’re very scared doesn’t mean they can’t also be very dangerous: both people and animals are renowned for being at their most aggressive when they’re frightened, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you that their fear makes them non-threatening. Far from it. Their fear makes them potentially lethal.
Perhaps, seeing the fear in those who hate, I should be more inclined to feel compassion for them. I’ve been afraid, after all. I know how it feels. I mean, I’ve never feared someone because their skin’s a different colour from mine, or because they worship different gods. Actually I love talking to people who have different religious beliefs from mine, or have no truck with the whole religion thing at all.
Oh, and I’ve never been frightened of terrorism, particularly, because if the enemy’s goal is to make you live in fear, and your want to stop the enemy achieving his goal… /shrug
So these particular things have never frightened me, but some things certainly have. I can understand the emotion, if not the reason behind it. I suppose it’s a little — a little, mind — like my fear of spiders. It’s a phobia I picked up somewhere along the line that makes me afraid of something that, in the UK at least, is vanishingly unlikely to hurt me. So I guess in that respect the fear they feel is similarly irrational: there is, quite literally, a phobia behind homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, in that they have a completely irrational fear of something that’s vanishingly unlikely to hurt them.
Like I said, then, perhaps, knowing this is how fear can work sometimes, I should be more supportive. More sympathetic.
I can’t, though. I’m not that good. I wish I was, but I just can’t meet that standard. Because I have feared spiders to the point of being unable to breathe if one’s too close – but I would not hurt one, because it is innocent and has done nothing to me. So I choose not to react by trying to destroy the thing that frightens me.
This probably seems like a flippant comparison to anyone who’s never been troubled with arachnophobia, or some similar affliction. After all, I’m talking about the sort of fear that can lead to genocide, and all I’ve got to relate to it is spiders? I admit it’s not a great comparison, but I’m looking for a way to relate and this is the nearest I could get.
Fear or not, though, you have a choice in how to behave towards the things or people you’re afraid of. I’m not saying you must never show fear, never act on fear — but if your fear is driving you to want to hurt someone, to demean someone, to dehumanise, or destroy, an entire community of people, then you have a responsibility, a duty, to control yourself.
And if you’re so much as making the effort to do that, if you’ve acknowledged you have a problem and want to remedy it, I’ll gladly support you if I can. I can relate to you, in that case. Not for the same reasons, as I’ve mentioned, but in principle: you’re fighting to suppress an instinctive, animalistic fear reaction and replace it with a civilised, logical one. And that can be hard. It takes determination. Resilience. Courage. It takes strength of character. And sometimes even the strong even the determined and resilient, will fall. But a fall is not a failure if you get up, even if you need a bit of help. Get up. Dust off. Keep going.
Or you could be a Dalek. You could give yourself over to your fear and the hate it breeds — because it’s easier that way. You can surrender to the worst of humanity, because surrender is less difficult. It’s comfortable, in its way. It means you don’t have to challenge yourself; you don’t have to face hardship or pick yourself up after falling down. Self-indulgence is easy.
But you’re not doomed to be a Dalek. You’re a Human. And you can cope with a bit of scary here and there. You can face the unfamiliar and choose to learn, to find common ground, and to see the value and the humanity even in what seems different to you.
You can choose to do that. The question is, will you? Will you show the strength it takes to try?