Everybody was once a child.
This is, it seems to me, a significant factor when deciding who to hate. Every single person, from Josef Fritzl to Josef Mengele, every murderer, torturer, and tyrant, petty or grand, used to be a small child, desperately dependent on adults beyond their control.
Moreover in many respects everyone is still a child. There’s no moment when we suddenly switch from childhood to adulthood. And many of the features of children – vulnerability, ignorance – are also general features of human beings.
And this makes it hard to hate them. How can you hate a child? How can you hate someone else just like you, dependent and feeble, struggling to make sense of the world. How can you hate someone who, in most cases, was also a victim, as a child or as an adult, brutalised themselves?
As we look backwards over the chain of causes, whatever hatred we feel for the injustice and the misery of life gets passed ever backwards. Don’t hate the abuser, hate the abuse that they suffered themselves. But who was responsible for their abuse? Another abuser. But they too were abused…
And we also can’t really hate social systems or particular facts – they couldn’t have been otherwise, they were a result of historical processes. At some point they were probably even an improvement on what came before, who knows? All of which leads to one irrefutable conclusion:
The only thing truly worthy of hatred is God.
We might then express this as a rejection of ‘inverse-idolatry’: do not be idolatrous, by setting up something less than God as an appropriate object of hatred.
We might also identify those 4 or 5 billion people who believe that not only should things less than God be hated, but that only such things should be hated – as ‘blasphemers’ and ‘heretics’.
And we might formulate the “supreme commandment” which Jesus almost got but messed up slightly:
“Hate God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.”
What about the next line: “Hate your neighbour as yourself?” I think that could make sense too. The ‘love’ commandment was a rebuke to excessive and disproportionate self-love: this one is then a rebuke to excessive and disproportionate self-hatred, which is, contrary to any naïve egoistic theory, just as common as excessive self-love.
It says – don’t let yourself blame everything that goes wrong on yourself – don’t believe those who tell you that you deserve it or that you brought it on yourself. Don’t believe those who tell you that it’s because there’s something wrong with you. Don’t protect the image you have of others, from individuals up to the creator of the universe, by deflecting your rage internally. Hate yourself no more than you can manage to hate everybody else.
Because just as people are prone to disortions and inconsistencies in the way they love, so they are in the way they hate. Hating one individual is easy, if they’re the right individual. But we all have many people who could do almost anything, without making us hate them. People who are “too big to fail” – who cannot be allowed to be bad because their goodness is so important to our mental economy. If you couldn’t hate them, why can you hate others? And for many people, certainly, it’s harder to hate these people than it is to hate yourself. Self-hatred is easy. Resist it.
(For those who need to be told, my tongue is very much in my cheek)