What matters is what we hate

I hate lots of things and sadly, an ever-growing list of people. Most recently, a man I’ve never met whose car ours followed down through the Western Ghats.

Published: 28th March 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th March 2021 05:52 PM   |  A+A-

hate speech

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Hatred gets a bad press. Ogden Nash observed:
Love is a word
That is constantly heard.
Hate is a word
That is not.

But these days, loath as I am to disagree with the infinitely wise Mr Nash, we hear it quite a lot. Hatred, to misquote Hugh Grant in Love Actually, actually is, all around. And it's pretty much universally regarded as a bad thing. We rail against Hate Speech. We punish Hate Crimes more severely than those motivated by mere anger, lust or avarice. But is hatred itself always, inevitably evil? 

I hate lots of things and sadly, an ever-growing list of people. Most recently, a man I've never met whose car ours followed down through the Western Ghats. As we marvelled at the glorious view and the lush vegetation, he tossed a plastic water bottle out of his window.

I know I should say 'I disapprove of littering', but actually I hate it and I hate people who do it even more. Fortunately for both him and me, I am far too much of a coward actually to do anything about it other than seethe, moan and fume. 

Would anyone really think less of you if you proclaimed that you hate injustice? Poverty? Cruelty to children? Of course not. It isn't hatred itself that should be the focus of our ire, but where it is targeted and how it is demonstrated.

I have no idea where my much-despised bottle-lobber came from, but even if I did it would be pretty ridiculous of me to say I hate everyone from there based solely on his behaviour. That way leads to bigotry and genocide. But again, that's not the fault of hatred itself, that's about profoundly dodgy logic.

On the statue in Central London of Nurse Edith Cavell, executed in 1915 for helping allied troops escape, are carved what are supposed to be her last words: 'Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone'. An admirable sentiment and one with which I wholly agree if 'anyone’ means groups of people or even individuals who have done absolutely nothing to offend me.

But every single person? Even that spotty thug who pushed my head down the toilet then flushed it on my first day at secondary school? I'm not so sure. Actually, I am sure. He's probably some ancient worthy now. A pillar of the community, a much-loved family elder and supporter of many a worthy cause, no doubt. I still hate him. 

Surely what really matters is not whether or not we hate but what we hate, and even more importantly, what we do about it. 

(The writers is author of five novels and writes as Dawood Ali McCallum. He can be reached on Twitter: @dawoodmccallum)


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