Increasingly we hear about how much of the world "hates" America. We do not understand. Our self concept is that we are the great liberators of oppressed people.
We cannot imagine why other countries reject the purity of our motives and our sacrificial actions to save the world from abuse and evil. Although we know that we are the most powerful nation on earth, we search our souls for answers. We chastise ourselves even though we know that power alone attracts enemies and that power alone, even without a real threat, is sufficient to engender hate.
Add to this the protection of our "national interests" in other lands not our own, and watch the seeds of hatred grow and mature into a psychotic obsession. Power engenders fear of hurt in those who have less power, whether given just cause to fear or not.
Hurt and the fear of hurt is the most fundamental negative human emotion, strongly tied to survival and security needs. Without it, we would have no alerting mechanism to prepare for the many assaults with which we often contend. When we experience or expect to experience hurt, we respond with anger, either at ourselves for allowing ourselves to be hurt or at someone else for hurting us, or both.
Anxiety (fear) always follows anger. While anger prepares us to fight, anxiety prepares us to move away or run from whatever is hurting or expected to hurt us. It is a natural response to fear those with more power because of their potential and capability to hurt us, and to withhold rewards from us.
As an example of why one part of the world hates us, let us create a fictional culture that believes that they have not done well in life. This dysfunctional cultural self concept and lack of achievement have significantly reduced their power when compared with other more advanced cultures.
They feel bad and suppressed by the dominant culture and want to rid themselves of this bad and oppressed feeling. So, their culture teaches them that they are not at fault. A much more powerful force is invading their lands and causing them to feel hurt, anger, anxiety and guilt. So, they feel persecuted and build institutions around them (churches, schools) designed to rid themselves of these bad feelings.
These institutions divert their attention from their failings and project the cause onto the more powerful force. Lacking power for a direct assault, they teach their children to hate. Using this hate, they teach that it is honorable to prepare for and justify an early suicidal death to avenge and frighten the more powerful enemy.
To explain and justify their actions to themselves, their children and the rest of the world, they have developed an extreme fundamental theocracy. This allows them to evade responsibility for their actions and to excuse their feelings of persecution and hate. They cry, "God is Great," while hacking off the heads of innocent victims or annihilating buildings and innocent people. They use innocence to carry out their hate.
Even when applied to ourselves as individuals, politicians, entertainers, large organizations, and to nations and theists, the rules of power are the same. Because of fundamental survival and security issues, few people, including groups, organizations and countries want to be less powerful as compared with others.
The more powerful have the potential, capability and the capacity to abuse the less powerful and often do. As in the fictional culture, the seeds of hurt, anger, and hate are found in the fear of perceived or real abuse by the more powerful.
Some believe that America has abused the terrorists who hate us and that this is crucial to understanding why they assault us. I don't agree. What is crucial is the fact that we are more powerful. When we couple this with their cultural self concept of failure, believing that they are being hurt and abused is easy for them. Furthermore, our physical presence in their area of the world is vital to this perception and, therefore, how they perceive a threat to their economic, cultural, political and theistic values.
The intensity of their hate is also about how much credibility they give to our potential to abuse them now and the extent to which they believe that we have abused them in the past.
While inadvertent abuse has flowed from protecting our national interests in their lands, America is innocent. We are a powerful, democratic, freedom loving juggernaut with blinders on. We are so busy rescuing the innocent from abuse, deterring evil by world perpetrators and protecting our interests that we seldom realize that even benign juggernauts, however innocent in doing good deeds, must, in so doing, invade the land and the values of those who hate us.
Dan Mooney, a long time resident of Carson City, has degrees in both psychology and sociology and has conducted many workshops on power in the western United States.