hate

ANGER IS AN ENERGY

When I was a kid growing up in 70s Birmingham, my dad had a friend called Bill. There'd be a card game Friday night when Bill and other cronies came round, to gamble, drink, and discuss plans to renovate houses in the hope of selling them on for a fat profit. Bill was a builder who knew dad through their love of chess, Sean a plasterer who could knock back five pints of Guinness over lunch before getting seriously stuck in at night, and the gang also included a side-burned electrician, and a one-eyed upholsterer.

Bill had no sense of taste or smell. Some accident of army dentistry had robbed him of the requisite wiring. Another man might have taken that accident and turned it to his advantage, becoming a circus freak able to eat or drink anything put in front of him. Not Bill. He ate only those things he was familiar with, meaning gammon and egg, steak and chips, pork pie, and the like. Solid British food basically, though he made an exception for a few dishes that reminded him of time he spent with the army in Cyprus. 

We were pretty adventurous eaters as a family. My parents had some involvement with a wholefood cooperative called Red Beans, and many of our visitors were dad's students. They came from places like Malaysia, Nigeria, and Hong Kong where a fried breakfast was not on the menu. And sometimes they'd cook for us. If Bill was around, he'd be offered some of the food. He'd dutifully pick some up with a fork, raise it to his mouth - and put it down, shaking his head. The man who could eat raw shark lungs if he chose to could not cope with rice or beansprouts, because they didn't look right. Something in Bill feared what the foreign food might taste like, if he could taste it.

Fear is only a goose step away from hate, which I'm seeing a lot of lately. Wind back a few weeks to Nigel Farage, whose amiable incredulity about foreigners seems like blokey banter down the pub but soon became a thick vein of pus in the bloodstream of British public life. The National Police Chiefs' Council says the increase in attacks on migrants after the Brexit vote is the worst spike in hate crime they've ever known. Imagine killing someone because they don't talk like you. The words they speak won't fit in your own mouth, any more than Bill's would accept aubergine - and for that they have to die.

Donald Trump is peddling the same slurry of hate in the American election, against a backdrop of racial tensions rising in a way that hasn't been seen since the sixties. It seems we're wired to hate. At any rate it's easily manipulated by those who would rather we focused on some group declared Other than consider what alternatives there may be to virulence and contempt as ways to go about the day.

If we must hate, couldn't we at least be more imaginative about it?

Instead of homophobia, how about attacking poverty with the glee that some attack Poles?

Why do the same old same old hatred based on skin colour when we could turn our hate on company boards who plunder the pensions of the workers who've created that wealth?

The love thing is all very well, but there's too often a disconnect between people talking about love and actually doing something concrete to realise that vision. We need people who will do something constructive to create change.

Given that more of us seem to excel at hate, and the passive aggressive woolliness of many of the love advocates, I want to see more hate in the world - just please be creative about it, and make your hatred pro-social. Rather than base beliefs on illusion, as Bill did when he turned down food he couldn't even taste, be the Spielberg of spite, the Miles Davis of malevolence, the Bjork of bigotry, and pick on something truly worthy of your anger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HATE MEANS TAKING THINGS ENTIRELY TOO SERIOUSLY

I'd like to think that hate is something I'm not very good at.

Truth is, it's more likely something I'm just not very persistent with.

Give it time, and the right circumstances, and maybe I could hate as well as Omar Mateen, or Thomas Mair, who in recent days killed 49 LGBT revellers at an Orlando club, and a progressive MP in Yorkshire.

I hate. But not for very long, or in a sustained way. There are people I will drop from my life, an almost but not entirely practical response to behaviours I find intolerable. The idea of sustaining an unpleasant feeling to someone on a long term basis seems like a form of self harm. I've always found better things to get on with regarding people I dislike - given the choice between an hour of concentrated hate and a meal with a friend, I know which wins.

It's possible that I don't take things seriously enough. (Other than myself, of course.) You pretty much have to take things with deadly seriousness if you're going to hate at all convincingly. And frankly, I can't be bothered. I can dislike someone enough to make a passing bitchy comment or two, but there's a long road between there and killing them that I just can't be arsed with. Really. Saying you could kill someone for whatever wrong they've apparently done is one thing, actually going through with the planning and execution of such a feat, something else altogether.

And I suspect some of you are thinking I'm not taking hate seriously enough. Possibly even thinking less of me for doing so - but again, falling short of the passion required to eliminate me. Frankly, you're not much of a hater.

Actually though, in my flippant way I'm being deadly serious. It's taking things seriously that makes things serious. And really, I'd recommend just...not bothering. 

Somewhere in all this, there's something interesting about how we hold our feelings and thoughts in our bodies. A deeply wise friend of mine, working with some people she felt usurped her within the organisation where she and they were independently consulting, was using phrases like 'take it to heart' about the situation. And sure enough, it seemed to weigh heavy on her in an uncharacteristic way as she talked about it. I invited her to consider the situation again, and to 'hold it lightly'. Within seconds, the sparkle returned to her eyes and voice, and her comprehension of the people she'd decided to be wary of changed. 

Now, I don't suppose that such an approach could change things all magically with Mateen or Mair had I happened to encounter them before they became known for the lives they took. Some people hone their hate for years, and take it very seriously indeed. The friend I invited to 'hold it lightly' is someone I've known for a long time, and self aware enough that I was confident her investigation of the distinction I suggested would take her somewhere. 

But...

Still...

Who we are is not fixed. We are fluid and multiple and both causal and nonlinear and all of these things and more in and between every moment. Whatever statement we can make about ourselves, somewhere in there we're likely to represent the opposite just as adequately. Some people cope with this better than others. Homophobic Omar Mateen was also homosexual, it seems, and took out his inability to accept those contradictions on people who wanted nothing more than a good night. We don't know yet what drove Thomas Mair, but he apparently identified with fascist politics to the extent that he couldn't accept the existence of Jo Cox, a socialist devoted to global reform. 

If we can't accept paradoxes internally, then we're probably more likely to express our apparent contradictions externally. And there really is no need for that. Whitman expressed it back in the day in his famous realisation 'Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.' Personally, I prefer the way that artists such as Eminem, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar toy with that schism in their music, exploring different aspects of themselves through different personas - Whitman identified the core of it, but never really got down with his bad self.

No easy conclusion here. Why would there be? There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for anything. Better to embrace the multiplicity of reality, maybe play with it using whatever form of self expression appeals to you, than try and make sense of something as various as human experience. The only thing that does seem to make sense is not to take anything too seriously, since whatever belief you might have about something right now, odds are you'll be thinking otherwise soon enough.