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Book Reviews   |    
Why We Hate
Reviewed by Burton C. Einspruch, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Psychiatric Services 2005; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.56.6.763-a
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by Jack Levin and Gordana Rabrenovic; Amherst, New York, Prometheus Books, 2004, 276 pages, $26

How can it be that we live in an era in which the greatest focus of hatred has possibly ever been seen? Emerging as the leading proponents of hatred are those who are anti-American, anti-Semitic, and, receiving somewhat less attention but nonetheless present, anti-Hindu, anti-Muslim, anti-homosexual, and anti-black. The thinly veiled anti-Zionist rhetoric loudly voiced on many leading campuses is simply anti-Semitism. Fortunately, homosexual hatred has, at least in much of the United States, lessened. But even as hate goes underground, much as a fire in a coal mine, somehow its power can emerge unexpectedly in a tremendously virulent fashion. Hate is the blackest of all emotions, destroying both the victim and the perpetrator, albeit not simultaneously. Antiminority slogans and bigoted "religious" cartoons grace newspapers and the Internet, published by all sorts of individuals, ranging from irreverent students and ascending to government and international political figures and scholars.

When the Roman playwright Plautus penned his famous epigram, "man is a wolf to man," he recognized fully that the basest human emotion is hatred. People have attempted to understand this human flaw in terms of political, social, psychosexual, or even biological drives. Unfortunately, multifaceted and complex by any standard, understanding remains elusive. Jack Levin and Gordana Rabrenovic, both experienced and properly disciplined scholars, have written a remarkably creative and thought-provoking work. It is probably the most interesting book of this type that I have ever read, and, although modest in length, took substantially longer to review than I would have anticipated—not because it is written in a tortuous, pedantic, or tedious style but, rather, because it made me think. In each chapter, the reader will find that the references the authors use are right on the mark and are concordant with other scholarly publications.

Divided into 15 chapters, the material is extremely broad and intriguing and ranges from current and commonly known topics to obscure ones, such as Czar Boris of Bulgaria's treatment of his Jewish subjects. During World War II, Czar Boris intuitively sensed that unimportant citizens, few in numbers and embedded in a culture and less differentiated from their counterparts, would be treated better by their neighbors. The Jews in Bulgaria were singularly unaccomplished, and the authors are familiar with the fact that, as Jews, they lived among Greeks, Muslims, Christians, and Gypsies and were ostensibly not overly distinguishable from other poor people and therefore would be less likely to be betrayed. A good book for further study might be Dr. Jan Gross's book, Neighbors (1), although it is set in Poland, a substantially different country.

The authors cannot have failed to notice other vulgar themes in our popular culture, as evidenced by the banality of talk shows featuring such individuals as Howard Stern, reflecting the pervading tastelessness and receptivity of people for hateful messages.

I suspect it is a reviewer's prerogative to discuss a bit more those subjects closer to his heart and his own interests, but I can assure any reader that this book will help you learn. Almost all the chapters add so substantially to the understanding of this to chronic human condition, I recommend this compelling book to everyone.

Dr. Einspruch is clinical professor of psychiatry at Southwestern Medical Center, University of Texas at Dallas, and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York University Medical Center in New York City.

Gross JT: Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. New York, Penguin, 2002


Gross JT: Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. New York, Penguin, 2002

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