How many Russians do you hate? Chinese? North Koreans? Iranians? Syrians? Yemenis? If, aggregated, your answer was zero, your answer is typical.
Perhaps you were rejected once by someone you loved, whom you wanted to love you. It’s surprising how quickly love can become hate. You hated, bitterly, for a long time. Then you realized your hate wasn’t just ineffectual—the hated one had moved on, oblivious to your antipathy—it was warping you, closing you off to the good that life offers. You were only hurting yourself, so you let it go, reopening the door to positive possibilities and opportunities.
If you couldn’t continue hating someone who hurt you, why would you hate any one of billions of people you’ll never know? It’s foolish, a waste of time and energy. Most people pursue their own opportunities, living and letting live…especially people they don’t know. It’s an important element of a well-adjusted personality. Wars and conflict get all the press, but the unrecognized history of the world is actually a more salutary chronicle. Through the generations, people in large measure have lived peaceably together, even people of different races, nationalities, and creeds. Peace, cooperation, and mutually beneficial exchange, not war and conflict, account for humanity’s journey from cave to skyscraper.
Who peddles, promotes, and profits from war and conflict? The people of Germany didn’t spontaneously make war against the people of Poland in 1939, nor the people of the United States against the people of Iraq in 2003. Germans and Americans may have supported those wars, but they were instigated by those in power. Almost all wars are, but are fought by people who have no use for them, who will bear most of the costs, and derive few if any of the purported benefits.
Hate is stoked to overcome the natural desires for peace and prosperity and aversion to war. As a leader, you don’t sit the citizens down one-by-one and calmly explain to them why they should hate whomever you’ve chosen to fight. Rather, you make a frenzied appeal to a crowd, and let crowd psychology work its woeful wonders, with ostracism and worse for the few rejecting the appeal.
Hate is the very foundation of war. Isn’t it also the very foundation of power? Certainly those in power would reject that formulation, but let’s come at the question from the other direction. If you hate someone, you wish the worse for them. You wish you could determine their fate, which left to you would be awful. Isn’t power the ability of one person to determine the fate of another? Has power generally been exercised to the benefit or detriment of those subjected to it?
Keep in mind that the exercise of power forcibly preempts the subjected’s own judgments about what’s best for themselves. You’d like to keep what you’ve earned; the state takes it. You’d like to live your life in the way you see fit; the state has its myriad regulations and punishments. You and another party would like to conduct a mutually beneficial exchange; the state bans, regulates, or dictates its terms. You want to live in peace: the state pursues war.
Now the state may claim that all it does is for your benefit, but aren’t you the best judge of what’s beneficial to you? Doesn’t this presumption that they know better than you do what’s good for you reek of insufferable arrogance? Think about your own experiences. Has anyone who obviously thought he or she was superior to you ever had your best interests at heart?
“I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand.”
Linus Van Pelt, from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz
Linus Van Pelt, from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz
The last one hundred years has seen a parade of leaders and their henchmen demonstrating their professed love of humanity with guns, concentration camps, torture, gas chambers, forced famines, genocide, and other evils. In the twentieth century, humanity-loving governments have killed between 100-200 million of the people they couldn’t stand, and that’s not counting the wars. How high does the body count have to go before the conclusion generally takes hold that it’s the power and the killing and the death they love, not the people they subjugate? Or is that insight only reached when the person next to you—like you kneeling, his hands bound—takes a bullet in the back of his head?
Power, a mass murderer once noted, “grows out of the barrel of gun.” You shall know him, and everyone else with a gun trained at your head, by their fruits. Their harvest is always death, fed by the poison of their murderous hate.
A bumper crop looms. The world is perfectly configured for an orgy of hate. Developed nations’ governments have debt and other promises that cannot be kept, and their creditors and populations expect to be paid. Their economies are faltering under the load of existing debt service. The optimistic wave of social mood and central bank machinations propelling US and European equity and bond markets to new highs—and keeping their economies treading water—are long in the tooth. When markets and economies crash, scapegoats will be found, blamed, perhaps afforded something resembling judicial process, and imprisoned or worse.
China and Russia are leading a consortium of nations that recognize US unipolar world dominance is a thing of the past and are challenging what remains of it. The US public sustains itself on a delusional mix of something for nothing, red versus blue, transparently fraudulent propaganda, jingoism, and state-sponsored veneration of the state and its functionaries. And they hate, against those the government and its media instruct them to hate.
Emperor Palpatine to Luke Skywalker,
Reality will wipe out the delusions, but leave vast reservoirs of hate. The Palpatines who think they can use hate for their own ends will find that it cannot be so precisely channeled. All of its irrationally random consequences cannot be predicted, but hate will surely boomerang against its promoters.
Those of us who hope to pick up the pieces and build something better cannot afford the foolish and counterproductive indulgence of hate, during the cataclysm or its aftermath. You may be disgusted by a cockroach infestation, but hating them does nothing to eliminate them. Eradicating our cockroaches—those who claim superiority and their right to rule us—will require all the tightly focused concentration, resourcefulness, cooperation, and rationality we can summon. Justice will not be denied—but bloodthirsty vengeance and mindless violence must be. Criminality has to be called to account and suitable punishment administered. Unfortunately, revolutions often replace bad with worse. Give in to hate, and we become that which we seek to eradicate. The Dark Side destroys all who embrace it.