Friday 3 February 2012
I enjoy hating. I don't like this idea at all, but I really can't pretend that it's not true. To be more precise, I enjoy hating at times. There have been periods in my life when I have had reasons to hate - when I have felt damaged by situations, when I felt that what was being done to me was unjust, and that those who created the situation were treating me badly. What those situations were is not the point here: what is worth noting is that, while hating is ugly, exhausting and usually frustrating, I know that I have spent significant periods returning continually to the same set of ideas and emotions - and that's why I have to reckon that there must be something attractive about the process of hating.
It would seem that I'm not alone. Skim through the history of any country in any period, and you will see that whole societies seem to have spent years, decades, centuries hating somebody else. Skim through the internet, and see how many hits you get if you google any phrase containing the word 'hate'. But officially nobody thinks this is a good idea. There are no Ministries of Hatred, no Hatred Appreciation Societies, no university Hatred Studies departments. But there are campaigns against hateable groups (drug-dealers, violent males ... smokers?), and that's just the 'acceptable' campaigns, before we think of the various repellent slander campaigns against immigrants or Blacks or Jews or Muslims or ...
The point is, of course, that the fact of hating is always the fault of the hated - "I hate because 'they' are so hateable - so it's not my fault that I feel like this". But are we so helpless in the face of the situation that we have no control of, or responsibility for, what we are actually doing? How do we live with the idea that 'they' control the way we think in this respect? Perhaps it's because hating is in some way enjoyable in itself ... and let's consider why this might be.
Hating is exciting (and possibly addictive) I don't know what sort of body-chemistry is involved in the process of hating, but it does get your attention … lots and LOTS of adrenalin, I suppose. Have any scientists studied this in depth?
Hating is comforting Like any habit, it gives you a familiar pattern within which to live – not just the same familiar feelings (even if they're unpleasant), but also the same familiar attitudes and ideas.
Hating defines you This is surely one of the reasons why nationalisms always appreciate a good hate-figure or two – one very effective way of deciding who you are is by deciding who you're definitely not.
Hating motivates If you're feeling lazy and bored and boring, there's nothing like a good hate session to up your adrenalin levels, and have you full of constructive plans (even if they're unreal fantasies).
Now, excitement, comfort, definition and motivation are all pretty good things in themselves - but surely they can be achieved by other means than through hatred, means that don't have the utterly damaging side-effects of hatred? If we have elaborate campaigns explaining the dangers of smoking for personal health, surely we could have serious campaigns about the dangers of hating for social health … couldn't we?
[ ** This text is available as a student handout, with guiding questions - see the page The pleasures of hating , which also contains further related links. ]