My hate is general, I detest all men; some because they are wicked and do evil,
others because they tolerate the wicked, refusing them the active vigorous scorn which vice
should stimulate in virtuous minds. -- Moliere, The Misanthrope
Author’s note: recently fellow Misfits and notorious F-bomb droppers @annealexander70 and @danieltobin wrote in this space about the hatred, from both left and right, of Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, respectively. They’re both great and I agree with essentially every point. This piece is in no way any sort of rebuttal of them (which could be construed from the title), nor is it really even related other than that they provided a starting point for thinking on a topic: hate in our politics generally.
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In the modern mind “hatred” is typically viewed as a kind of character flaw; hating a group or individual is usually believed to be due to some shortcoming on the part of the hater, be it fear or ignorance or what have you. The exception is, of course, political hatred: the hatred of individuals and/or groups for political reasons is the rock upon which our national politics has been built for quite a while. The focus on individuals and groups (as opposed to ideas) is useful not only to politicians (most of whom struggle when forced to defend their positions with logic rather than emotion), but also to voters (most of whom, truth be told, prefer the emotion).
Most of our modern political hate was predicted to a haunting degree by Orwell in 1984 : “yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.” This is the ‘Two Minutes Hate’, which differs from our current reality only in that the people of Oceania weren’t able to choose between a half dozen news channels and they only had to do it for two minutes. It’s lazy hate for the ad hominem hater, “Fauxcahontas” and “teabaggers.” We all do it sometimes because it can be funny, but as hate goes it’s weak sauce. It’s the elevator music of hate.
Slightly more rare, but much more satisfying, is the hatred of ideas, of abstract concepts held by people as opposed to the people themselves. It is the hatred of Achilles: “hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.” This is a slightly more intellectual hate, hatred of the idea or action, although it easily devolves into hatred of an individual or group. The idea Bernie Sanders hates may be capitalism, but it doesn’t take him long to turn that into just yelling about Republicans.
The pinnacle of hate, where the true connoisseur dwells, is hatred not of men or ideas but of the very structure of things. In politics, it is hatred for the system that feeds the lower hates, not for an individual nor his beliefs but for the very fact that his influence on the body politic exists at all. It is the hate Milton gives Satan during his post-game speech following a loss on the road:
Innumerable forces of Spirits armed,
That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,
And shook his throne, What though the field be lost?
All is not lost-the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome.
Milton, being a poet, understood an important thing about hate: in its purest form, it is the mirror opposite of love. Satan’s ‘immortal hate’ has at its heart love of God, just as those of us who hate government find our hatred has roots in what we love: liberty. No government exists to secure our liberties. Governments by definition limit and restrain them. The true lover of freedom should be opposed to those limits and restrictions, even the obviously necessary ones. That they must exist in a “modern” society does not mean you have to like it.
The problem, and this should certainly not be lost on astute observers of modern politicians, is that ultimately Satan loved himself just a little bit more than he loved God. That being in the government at all is immediately corrupting regardless of the person is considered a fringe idea for kooks only illustrates the effectiveness of the (relatively recent) idea that “public service” is something noble and worthy of pursuit. The public would best be served by the government taking as little interest in it as possible.
For the true hater of government, the real connoisseur, the politician hardly matters. They all represent shackles to one extent or another. It isn’t even necessarily the big issues that keep the fires of hate lit: it’s the daily, seemingly meaningless, neverending application of restrictions on liberty designed to do nothing more than enrich the state; the red tape, the regulations, the fees and taxes tacked onto every single transaction a modern person can possibly undertake; the fact that there is nowhere left to run to avoid the king and his soldiers; and it is also, perhaps mostly, our knowledge that the battle is already lost. The fire of our hate is all we have left to keep us warm.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.