Taking care of others is largely considered the only way to save the human species. It is in selfless love for others that we are inclined to see the guarantee of our humanity. Certainly, this intuition is true, but the opposite statement is no less true. Although love embodies humanity, the tragedy of mankind is that inhumanity is not the opposite of love, but rather its inalienable flip side.
Hitler’s nazi regime and fascist regime in Italy have become a common symbol of inhumanity and the embodiment of ultimate evil. It is inconvenient to recognize that it is no less reasonable to consider those regimes to be an embodiment of love and devotion to the German and Italian people and humanity in general. Benedetto Croce, the renowned Italian philosopher, was not sarcastic when in 1924 he wrote that “The heart of fascism is love of Italy”.
Michel Foucault draws attention to the fact that two seemingly opposite phenomena — the extreme form of racism embodied in the ideology of Nazi Germany, and the public health system, which is considered today an indicator of a social progress — have a common source. Both eugenics and the public health system have their roots in the biologization and medicalization of the body, which presuppose differentiation of the bodily processes into normal and pathological and were carried out under the pretext of health care.
In the framework of the Nazi ideology Jews were presented as a harmful pathology humanity has to be rescued from. In his death testament, Hitler begs “to resist mercilessly the poisoner of all nations, international Jewry”. Considering that Hitler sincerely was struggled to save humanity by curing it from a deadly pathology — wasn’t it a manifestation of his noble humanity?
Such interpretation of Hitler’s intentions by no means justifies the consequences of the Nazi regime, but these consequences do not cancel his humanity and don’t reveal the “evil truth” of his intentions. His intentions remain not evil by their nature, but, simultaneously, their consequences embody the most extreme manifestation of evil.
As applied to the current context, this means that there are no final guarantees to ensure that something we perceive today as a manifestation of the most humane and progressive (for example, caring for mental health, feminism, animal protection) at the end will not turn to be the greatest evil.
Not only on the intersocial, but also on the interpersonal level, love and care also already carry the threat of evel. Slavoj Žižek suggests that in its ultimate expression, love is rather an evil than a good. Love presupposes selectivity, which is why, in its foundation, it is “an extremely cruel act.” Love, by definition, cannot be a love for humanity. To love is to prefer the object of love to others.
Žižek’s fear found confirmation in recent scientific research. Oxytocin is known as the ‘caring’ hormone, also referred to as the ‘love’ hormone because it promotes feelings of love and social bonding and plays a key role in forming a mother-child bond. Oxytocin has long been considered a potential panacea that will save mankind — it was assumed that we only need to to increase oxytocin in humans and the world will turn into a paradise where everyone love each other.
The implementation of such an optimistic plan was interrupted by the discovery of the reverse side of the love hormone. It turned out that it fosters distinctions between in-group and out-group members, and sets in motion favoritism toward in-group members and prejudice against those in out-groups. Correspondingly, oxytocin trigger defensive aggression against outsiders who might threaten an individual’s social group.
The strengthening of the emotional connection with a certain person or a social group implies readiness to aggressively defend them from those who are seemingly a danger to them. For example, this principle is at work whenever the war is declared since it’s usually articulated as a preventive measure against threat. The other example is aggressive behaviour towards LGBT community, since its values represent a threat for collective of people who share traditional values.
It was also revealed that high levels of oxytocin may be associated with relationship violence and may be a factor in abusive behaviour. Oxytocin is linked to maintaining relationships by keeping the the loved ones close. Accordingly, if a person has an excessive need for an object of attachment, this can provoke controlling or dominating the partner with physical and emotional abuse.
The naive hope that humanity can cleanse itself from all evil and keep only goodness, is vain. Evil is not the opposite of goodness, much more often the former is an excessively radical level of the latter.
The most sincere love and desire to care for others does not guarantee humanity, but simultaneously love and care are also what makes our world fit for existence. Mankind is in a desperate situation — what can destroy it, is also a condition for its survival.
Perhaps the very awareness of this hopelessness is our only hope.