I Really Wish “Love Conquers Hate” Was True

Saying things that make us feel better is an understandable coping mechanism

What’s the Context?

Without going into detail, the basic setting is that there are so many recent massacres in the United States that Grief doesn’t seem to be abating soon. Seemingly on a bi-monthly basis, these outbursts of violence affect many different groups in society —targeted for Race, Occupation, or Sexual Preference to name some of the most recognizable. In response, the national dialogue has tried to tilt the tone toward the positive where possible.

When Life Gives You Lemons and Not Enough Sugar

Most people who know me in real life would agree that I embrace “the Power of Positive Thinking” as a general principle. Having a lot of physical handicap issues growing up allows for a kind of Graveyard Humor type perspective. As bad as the pain could be, eventually it would subside, and life can go on…at least until the next episode…

I’m very much in the camp that feels positive attitudes, thoughts, and actions are ideal everyday, achievable goals.

In looking back over the years, it would be very easy to be bitter about how the world is set up. The compromises I’ve made for my health and well being, the misguided medical treatment I went through for years, and even a society that feels totally fine asking “Hey what’s wrong with you?” if I’m showing signs of being in pain. There’s plenty to get kinda-sorta mad about, but I see the futility — rather, these negative experiences are carried as a counter-balance to getting too optimistic about life. Murphy’s Laws are my gospel.

Observations on Human Tendencies in the US

My education and training are not in direct studies of the Human Condition. Sure I’ve dabbled in Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology as part of higher education, but I do not claim to be proficient in their disciplines. What I do feel comfortable doing is observing and writing from the perspective of, well, just some writer guy. Writing competent fiction, to me, has been dependent on getting inside the head of my characters, no matter how lovely or abhorrent they might be, so their actions and dialogue makes sense to the reader, to the story, the whole dynamic.

What I’ve observed is a growing trend — almost a movement — to proclaim that “Love Conquers Hate!” following a massacre. Again and again I hear it, becoming like a chorus, as though believing hard enough will simply make it come true. It really feels like this sometimes, and, as a coping mechanism, it makes a great deal of sense.

After a lot of thought, I wanted to create a hypothesis that could explain, at least in primitive terms, why I don’t think Love is more powerful than Hate, and I finally hit on something:

The path to action for each emotion

As the above graphic indicates, I believe Hate has essentially an unhindered path to taking action. In the very nature of Hate is a desire — no matter how misguided — to change things. Thus it makes sense that when a person’s mind latches onto something through Hate, there’s a probability that approaches 1 Action will result the more the person sees themselves through the lens of Hate. Granted, not every person “consumed” by Hate goes down the path to Action, but I’d guess they certainly could talk at length about what “somebody” should do about the “problem” they have in mind.

Love by contrast is a peace-oriented, satiating feeling that seems to be disconnected from taking direct Action. It’s as though a “Emotional Catalyst” is needed to activate Love’s path to Action — such as Fear, or Joy, or Faith. This can clearly be seen in US charities that care for the poor, homeless, or infirm: At the root is Love, but until paired with Empathy, there would be no Action.

Seeing Love as “less powerful” than Hate in terms of Action actually gave me a bit of relief. It’s not that Love isn’t worthwhile, or that Hate can not be beat…it’s that if US society really wants to change the cycle of violence, then it’s important to acknowledge just how powerful Hate is able to motivate.

It’s through a redefined, necessary respect for the danger of Hate that we, collectively, can agree to work on the origins that allow Hate to become Action.