Reflections on Hatred

“When our hatred is too keen it places us beneath those we hate.”

— François de La Rochefoucauld

“I would permit no man… to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”

–Booker T. Washington

I’m quite certain that I’ve written about on this topic before. It’s strange that despite all the things I could possibly talk about, I end up enamored with the same handful of subjects. Maybe hatred is just that ubiquitous. I can’t avoid it, and thus I can’t help dwelling on it so much, as I am now.

Maybe it’s because hatred is a part of my career path: all the conflicts I read about and study point to hatred, and the most terrible crime of genocide is predicated entirely on hatred. I feel that it is a recurring theme throughout the entire world and behind so many problems. What is this so-called War on Terror than a war on hatred? And what about the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict? And of course every war we’ve ever known to this day is either built upon or fed by hate.

Living in the increasingly globalized and cosmopolitan world that we now do, we’re confronted more and more with the issues of racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and discrimination. Anthropologists and sociologists still debate whether increasing diversity and multiculturalism will either breed greater tolerance or exacerbate tensions and lead to more conflicts based on language, ethnicity, and the like (in my humble opinion, it’s a little bit of each and it depends on where you’re talking about).

Of course you don’t have to be an international relations major to know anything about hate. It’s an everyday fact of every human life. We all hate something or someone at some point. It’s inevitable. Sometimes it is natural and passive, such as how we dislike injustice or crime. But a lot of the time it is also active and enthralling, like our hatred of someone who wronged or upset you. There so many reasons and causes for hatred: race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, class, age, disability, weight, a bad first impression, a misunderstanding, etc.

I don’t think we humans will ever truly understand what is it that drive us to hate. Why do we all experience this feeling? Why do we seem to get caught up in hating something (or someone) more than loving it? Why is it easier to hate than love, and easier to hate someone you once loved than love someone you once hated? How is that something so negative, that instills so much angst and anger and discomfort, can be so addicting?

We often come to agreement more over what we collectively hate than what we collectively love. How often does a group of friends seek to gossip about someone positively? Backbiting and disliking someone just seems more natural and engaging to all of us. Yet no one likes to be hated or talked badly about, yet we all perpetuate this hypocrisy.

The philosopher, Rene Descartes, viewed hate as an awareness of the perceived evil or negativity of something, combined with an urge to avoid or vanquish it. Thus hate can be interpreted as a combination of discomfort and a strong sense of justice (also intrinsic in many human beings). After all, we seek to justify our hatred in some way or another. We always have to validate our views as being necessary and acceptable.

Aristotle was somewhat more in-depth in my opinion, as he viewed hatred as desire to destroy something that is eternal. It makes sense because the source of one’s hatred is often something that is atemporal. A certain race, crime, religion, culture, idea, or even an individual (who lives on in memory) – none of these things every go away, even when they off. Thus we’re left hating phantoms whose very existence is the source of our angst. The only cure would be never having known these things to begin with.

I for one prescribe to David Hume’s take on it, in which hatred is something that is irreducible and without explanation or human understanding. Perhaps it is something of a cop out, but it makes sense; how many of us could truly comprehend the source of our hatred and why it enraptures us the way it does? Why should it drive us to such terrible things, from ill-treatment and gossip to violence and genocide? Why should it infect us in a manner that is easier and more engaging than love? What does this suggest about our nature?

I suppose that as long as humans are pondering these questions, as long as we are disgusted with hatred and seek to put a stop to it, it gives me hope that deep down we are not a species naturally inclined to hate and discriminate. Rather, we are a species infinitely unsure about our nature and why we are the way we are, and thus trying our best to improve. We have equal potential for good and bad, and hate and love. There is just a lot of external factors – and unknown internal ones – making that constant batter difficult.

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