Love in the Age of Hate

The real extreme sport of an age of broken dreams isn’t cage fighting. It’s hate. Here’s how not to let it ruin you.

I recently discovered an internet forum where people obsessively mock, taunt, and hurl vicious personal attacks at…whom? Child molesters? Convicted murderers? White collar fraudsters? Genocidal dictators? War criminals?

Nope. Mommy bloggers.

So I went to check out said mommy blogs. Were they smug? Smarmy? Irritating? Sure. But just a little bit. Let’s admit it: who among us doesn’t love to take and share pictures of the people they love most in all the world, their kids? So what level of sheer terribleness does it take to obsessively and totally disproportionately attack people who do? For in that attack is a denial of all that is great within us. And yet, I’d wager that more of us have at this point engaged in exactly that kind of behavior than haven’t — if indeed it’s not by now an everyday part of our lives. But. Should it be?

So here are a few points about why and how not to fall prey what I’ll call in this short essay “hatertainment” — the greatest sport of the age of decline, which is hate. And so we can consider ‘the data’ with wisdom and subtlety, I’ll build a tiny theory of what hate is and why it matters.

Every second you spend on stuff you hate, instead of stuff you love, is a waste of your life. Imagine for a moment that the mommy blog haters (or the internet gladiators, or all of us) replaced every moment we spent leaving vicious, hateful comments on stuff we loved instead. What would the effects be? We might read great books, watch great films, enjoy great art. We might do it with people we love. Or we’d closer to finding them. We would be each moment a step closer to what we truly seek: happiness, fulfillment, a sense that our lives have mattered.

Those are doorways that only love can open. Why? Because hate may be an outlet for our rage, envy, fear, shame. But it does not heal it. It only lets it fester, grow, and, in the end, consume us with bitterness, futility, despair. Only love — only love — can heal the wounds in our hearts, the scars in our spirits, the aches in our souls.

Every second you waste on hate instead of love is a giant leap further away from your potential. Let’s take all that further now. Let’s imagine that you stopped wasting your time on hate, and spent it on stuff you loved instead. That great book, film, artwork, idea, equation, at the very least, will educate, enlighten, and elevate you. It will teach you about what happiness, meaning, and purpose are. And by doing so, at the very most, it might inspire, challenge, provoke, lead you to create your own.

When you grapple with that challenge — what you can create that only you can create which changes lives, transforms destinies, alters history just a little tiny bit — then you are beginning to take the first step on the journey of reaching your potential. But only love — only love — can shine a light on that path. Hate? Hate will forever stunt you from your potential. No one — no one — in human history ever wrote a great book, created a great artwork, shot a great film, discovered a great equation, or created a world-changing invention out of hate. Go ahead and think about it. Consider it carefully, and you will see that it is true. Only love can lead you to your potential? Why? Because love is potential — all life’s potential. And when you embrace that, so, too, you are embracing your own.

Hate as sport is the most self-destructive kind of hate: cruelty. Cruelty is the greatest poison of the human heart. Let’s admit it. We all hate-watch shows. We all hate-read articles. No big deal, right? Right. There is a world of difference between hate-watching, reading, etc — and hate as a sport, hatertainment, leaving vicious comments, slurs, being abusive. Why? Think about it. The former are passive. They do not change your actions, behaviors, habits, persona. But the latter is active. It does. It changes the very core of you. Hate watching isn’t a way of being in the world. But hatertainment is. Hate as sport is very different from hate as comic relief, ironic detachment, guilty pleasure, playful self-contradiction.

Hate as a sport crosses a very great line — not just a cultural one, but a psychological, social, and economic one. It turns you from a consumer of hate, into a producer of hate. Now you are not just a spectator in the arena — you are a little gladiator, with a tiny sword, fighting amongst the numerous masses, each against every other, to the death. Does that sound like a life to you?

Here is the great difference between the bread and circuses of yesterday and today. We’re not passively staring at the gladiators in the arena — we are the gladiators in the arena. Hatertainment is indeed the great dramatic arena of the age of liberal democracy’s decline — but it’s most and subtle and pernicious violence is that it turns us from spectators into participants.

Consider the inevitable question. “But — (splutter, outrage) — but…where’s the ‘data’, dude!!?”. Right in front of your nose. The average adult now spends more time online than offline. If even a fraction of that time (whatever fraction, it doesn’t really matter) is spent producing hate, that’s vastly more than before…for the simple reason that never before in human history has the average person had the opportunity, means, and motive to produce hate so easily, effortlessly, costlessly. You couldn’t hate on a dozen random strangers over a quick coffee before (unless you wanted to get punched in the face half a dozen times). But now you can.

Hate watching and reading aren’t great for you. They are still very much a waste of your time, effort, potential. But they are vastly less damaging to you than true hatertainment, hate as sport. When we become hatertainers, performing hate for the adulation of our micro-audiences, we have crossed a line. Hate is no longer a thing that we feel — but a thing that we are. We have become hate.

What does it mean to “become hate”? That we are its performers, agents, and puppets. But that is all that we are. Who are we not? Ourselves. Puppets are prisoners. They are controlled by the very thing that they hate…by anger, fear, shame, resentment…they aren’t free to become who they were meant to be. And so hate is a prison of of human potential. A place where the life you should be living slowly withers and dies. But you are not its victim, condemned and sentenced — you yourself, one act of hate a time, are its jailer, are you not?

There is a great difference between anger and cruelty. Cruelty is the production of suffering, the active creation of it. It is the greatest poison of the human heart. For it leads us to believe that by inflicting suffering on others so we may heal the wounds in our hearts. And so we become part of a vicious cycle of abuse, anger, rage. But the human heart is not healed by cruelty. It is healed only by compassion, gentle grace, acceptance. And so the more cruel that we become, somehow, the more that we suffer, and we do not understand why. But the reason is simple. Instead of seeking compassion, grace, accceptance even from ourselves, we are merely denying it to others. How can we ever free ourselves thus? How can we ever take even the smallest steps closer to the happiness, fulfillment, and belonging that we so desperately seek?

Every age of decline has its consolations and its entertainments. Bread and circuses, cake and spectacle. Its great and true sports, that grow more extreme the angrier and more frustrated the people get. The great and true sport of this age — and every age — of decline is hate. Hate turns us into animals. Vicious, savage, thirsty. And cruelty turns us into something less than animals. For animals don’t toy with their victims, and so reduce themselves to puppets, pawns, prisoners. They, at least, are free.

This is an age of of resentment, grief, anger, broken dreams. And so it is also an age of hate as entertainment, sport, amusement, pleasure. And so it is also an age where we are failing to become our best and truest selves.

Your freedom is the most valuable gift you have been given. Your potential is the most valuable reward you can find.

Seek it.

January 2016