The Pleasure Of Hating
There is no end of commentary on the venom and vitriol that is so characteristic of contemporary politics. Though history shows that current American politics remain tame compared to the unhinged fury of 19th century brand, the civility industry is always primed to express umbrage at what it perceives as the latest “new low” or injury to common decency.
I for one am unwilling to join this chronic choiring of voices calling for the better angels of our nature to prevail. I wholly embrace my hate; for my capacity to hate is inextricably tied to my capacity to love. As long as there are things in life that I love with passion and fire; there are things that I will hate with the same intensity.
The English journalist, essayist, and critic William Hazlitt best explained this condition in his marvelous little essay “On The Pleasure Of Hating”:
“Nature seems (the more we look into it) made up of antipathies: without something to hate, we should lose the very spring of thought and action. Life would turn into a stagnant pool, were it not ruffled by the jarring interests, the unruly passions, of men.”
Those who go around saying—as though pathologically driven to do so—that we should always respect our opponent’s point of view ask the impossible. The people who agree with them either love nothing or love only the personal and private, which is irrelevant in politics.
Another great observation by Hazlitt: “Love turns, with a little indulgence, to indifference or disgust: hatred alone is immortal.”
There is a great deal of truth in this sentiment. A genuine hatred rarely if ever burns out. And the feeling should not be as denigrated as it is at the moment.
The obvious rejoinder to this claim, and the entire premise of my argument, is the catastrophic results of the mass racial and religious hatreds of the past. But there are two things to say about these in relation to the kind of, shall we say, legitimate hating I’m talking about.
Hating is violent feeling, not violent action. You can hate ideas, objects, and even people without doing violence against them; and no, the one does not necessarily lead to the other. The second thing to note is that hatred directed indifferently toward people and ideals of all kinds is a mental sickness; it is not the hate which constitutes a perfectly healthy response to what is stupid, oppressive, tyrannical, ugly, tiresome, and degenerate—in short, to whatever is anathema to the art of good living and thinking.
My pleasure in hating consists of an exhilaration that comes from thinking of all my objections to bad ideas and contemptible people; it is a feeling of exuberance that washes over me whenever I take verbal fire and sword into the midst of the ignorant and dishonest, the greedy and selfish, the cowardly and disingenuous, the superstitious and self-righteous. My pleasure in hating is a thrill, a joy, a burgeoning excitement at the rightness of my own indignation.
My friends, there is pleasure in hating. It is natural; it is both human and humane. You should embrace it, express it, and never deny it.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.