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Psychology of hate


The trial of the Norwegian mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, has begun. The issues at hand are whether he is legally sane, and what could have been the possible reasons for him to have killed his own countrymen to combat a ‘multi-culturism’ that he believes will lead to an Islamic takeover of his country. On Tuesday, he began giving a statement that accepted he was the killer, but claimed his actions were carried out in self-defence. The youth members of the party that he killed, for him, were collaborating with the enemy and, thus, deserving of punishment. In effect, the ‘innocent’ were actually ‘combatants’ and his political ideology compelled him to undertake the massacre. In a country like Norway, surely this was an act of insanity.
However, there sits in an Indian jail just such a person by the name of Ajmal Kasab. He, too, killed innocent people in the belief that they were a legitimate target by nature of their being citizens of India, and his political ideology justified his actions. No one has claimed that he is insane. Maybe very stupid, but not insane!
Of course, neither of them could have committed the massacres if they did not have the sophisticated weapons to do so. Therefore, equally complicit in their acts are those who provided them the means, either deliberately and with intent, or inadvertently. The killings would not have been possible without these force-multipliers.
The test of civilised, indeed, sane behaviour is whether an individual lacks the psychological filter that sensitises him or her to the suffering of another. In Norway, it is a technical question that has to be deliberated – whether Breivik is ‘legally insane’, for which the psychologists have to declare him psychotic. However, a cultural environment that desensitises ordinary people through a lifestyle and ideological brainwashing, makes people more prone to such cold-blooded violence. Neutralising a Kasab is not enough if there remains a Saeed Hafiz who continues to preach a blind hatred based on race and religion.
The Norwegian judicial system will closely examine the Breivik case and give its considered verdict. It will be worth examining, because a clue might be obtained into how this malaise may be combated. Is Breivik actually a psychopath who only needed an excuse to live out an inner compulsion? Otherwise, what was it in his upbringing and background that could have led to his extraordinary and destructive world-view. He has identified himself with the extreme-right in the ideological sense. The parties of the right have been quick to dissociate themselves from him, but it is a fact that he was close to one or two of the leaders. In that sense, they can be described as his inspiration and must take some of the blame.
Pakistan was born of such an ideology of hate. It has descended over the decades to the point where a very significant section of its population and establishment is radicalised to the Kasab and Breivik level. It is a poison that has been deliberately brewed and exported to India and other places in various ways. The weak-minded and psychologically susceptible, like Bhindranwale and his cohorts, were converted to this mindset with ease. Today, however, it is a poison that has seeped out and contaminated Pakistan’s mainstream. The attack in Kabul on Monday might have diverted the attention of people, but consider how the Taliban could attack a jail and free four hundred dangerous prisoners after a two hour firefight, without the establishment being able to send reinforcements during that period. The radical ideologies become truly powerful when those in opposition are rendered paralysed and incapable of coherent response. It is very easy to build unity on the basis of hate and paranoia, and very difficult to come together on the basis of a positive platform.
It will be interesting to see how the two systems, those of Norway and India, cope with Breivik and Kasab, and what lessons are learnt for the future. They may come in useful in dealing with Pakistan.