Precursors to war

I’ve been writing about the causes of war on this blog, but whatever the specifics of a particular war, there’s always one common factor – hate.

When one group of people hates another group so much that they leave their common humanity behind and embrace barbarism, then there is war.

Hate leads to war. But what leads to hate?

Maybe there are one or two people in your own life that you hate. If so, I am sorry for you. But hatred of individuals doesn’t lead to war.

War starts when one group of people hates another group. And therein lies the problem. Identifying people as a group is the precursor to hate. Once we stop seeing people as individuals with hopes, fears and dreams just like us, and turn them into stereotypes, then we begin to dehumanize them in our minds.

The trouble is, we are experts at ignoring everything we have in common and seeing only differences. Supporters of political parties or football teams do this all the time. They latch on to minor differences and magnify the importance of those differences. Ironically, to outsiders, these groups look the same. They are just people who like to argue about politics, or people who like to watch football. They are more similar than different.

This is another common factor of wars – to the outsider they are often incomprehensible, and seem to be between people with very much in common. North Korea vs South Korea. Northern Irish Protestants vs Northern Irish Catholics. One bunch of European countries vs another bunch of European countries. One group of Iraqi Muslims vs another group of Iraqi Muslims.

To its victims, war is hell on earth. As a spectator sport, it’s repetitive and tedious.

War is fuelled by hate. And we can only truly hate others if we first convince ourselves they are not like us.


11 responses to “Precursors to war

  1. You make some good points. It sure is causing a lot of grief lately.

    There’s hope. I plan to outlaw hate once I get my Supreme Commander and Leader title registered. This guy did pretty well with titles and control.'s_titles

  2. I agree with every word, Steve … and look at the example here of Ferguson, Missouri. Hate bred by hate, or as my teachers used to drum in to us in our Values and Ethics class, “Confrontation produces confrontation.” It does … it always has. And, yes, to those involved war is a living hell.

    My partner works with a young woman from Syria, whose family is in Aleppo. To her, stopping ISIS and stopping the hate is nothing short of imperative. And we’re in trouble when a young woman describes Aleppo as, “I remember when we could …”

    Again, great post.

  3. Our differences divide us more than our commonality unites us. Which is a shame because or commonalities far outnumber and outweigh our differences. Excellent post.

  4. When one looks at what is happening in Iraq, what ISIS is doing to their fellow countrymen, it’s hard not to hate a group. But I try my best not to lump all Muslims together, though most do us. To them, we are the scum of the earth, the Great Satan. I don’t know why they feel like they do, but I’m sure there is a reason.

    • I try to imagine that they didn’t start out as bad people, but that they were exposed to evil ideas that took root in their hearts and minds.

      I hate the evil ideas that spread from person to person like a disease. To protect people from those ideas we need to help them develop their intellectual immune systems. Free thinking, free speech and education are the long-term cure.

  5. Well said Steve, couldn’t agree more with you.

  6. I definitely agree that hate is one of the causes of war, and it certainly seems to be a factor with ISIS and the most vicious types of war. But I’m not sure it’s the only cause. Historically, wars seem to also start from greed, desperation, desired glory, or just plain stupidity. Although I suppose you could say that hate often causes, abets, or exacerbates these other causes.

  7. This is a thoughtful post, Steve. Hate is certainly a potent fuel for the fires of war. I also agree with the comment above, that we have other weaknesses that lead to conflict (greed, stupidity, etc). But in 5000+ years of recorded human history, our species seems to be hardwired to divide into groups, and to hate each other. and to kill each other. Our most notable advancements have been in the efficiency, range and yield of our weapons. I’m not optimistic about the future, as our population increases past the carrying capacity of the biosphere, climate change threatens our agriculture, and competition for ever scarcer resources becomes fiercer, and then desperate. But, you know, have a nice day.

    • My understanding is that all primates divide into groups and attack other groups on sight. Humans are relatively civilized in this regard. Sometimes we can talk to strangers without trying to kill them. Not always, but sometimes. Here lies hope.

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