I have been thinking about what distinguishes misanthropy from various forms of X-ism, whether racism, sexism, classism, or some other thing. Various X-isms seem like special cases of misanthropy. Sexism is a kind of hatred of women. Racism is a kind of hatred of one or other races.
When framed in that way, it occurs to me that misanthropy might also be a special case. It stands to reason that you could use the same construction of misanthropy, from the Greek μῖσος mīsos ‘hatred’ and ἄνθρωπος ānthropos ‘man, human’, and replace anthropos with βιο, the root of biology, or Ζωή ‘life’. If we were to construct these words, using the form of other English words, it might be misbiopic for hatred of all life. Or, you might use the way Ζωή appears as zoology to mean animals, and formulate as miszoopic.
When going through an exercise like this one, it’s interesting what shakes out. We don’t have words to describe hatred of all life. But, we do have words for hatred of human beings. We have words for hatred of women. But, we don’t talk about hatred as abstracted. It’s singular.
It reminds me of an old trope. It was said that people in the Northern United States loved blacks as a group and hated individuals. In the Southm it was the opposite. Blacks were hated as a group and loved individual people. I think there’s a step change that happens, when moving from hatred of an individual to a group.
Someone that hates a particular woman may also hate most women. But, do they hate them all? Are there environmental factors that come into play? Other considerations beyond merely being “female” that give rise to hatred?
And if we abstract out further, to the level of humanity, animals, or all living beings, doesn’t the universe of other considerations expand as well? With this expansion of confoundable variables, does it make sense to talk about hate in the context of a specific label, whether of humans, woman, or some other subgroup?
I guess where this line of thinking is taking me is that – while we can acknowledge that the prejudgments can be encoded into a social environment, reenforce it in individuals, over time, as culture is designed to do – it misses the confounding factors and gives less visibility into the problem. Your definitions shape your understanding as surely as your life experience (or lack thereof) shape it.
This is the difficult part. What is the source of the hatred? It’s because I’m a woman. It is a simple answer. But, it is also incomplete and wrong, on some level. Intersectionality is one thing. But one section being left off is in-group/out-group dynamics, which may sit above these aspects of identity informed by demographics.
For example, nationalism may drive a country to war. In war, women are raped. On what level is war a hatred of all living things? On what level is rape, in war, an issue of sexism rather than some other thing, such as projection of power?
It’s quite common for people to have hatred for others that are better off materially than themselves. Consider what happens to lottery winners. Is it hatred of those that win the lottery, or is it more abstracted, to anyone that is successful or had a windfall, such as an inheritance?
The reason I’m exploring this issue is I think that many of words, explanations and mental models are deficient to really capture what is going on. It may be that we cannot ever get to a model of reality where the map matches the territory. Maybe we don’t want such a map. But, it would be good to think through the maps we have and maybe make a conscious choice to pick ones that are more suited to our purposes.