Why we should all aspire to love one another

Juliette Bretan 3 May 2017

I hate hatred.

I cannot understand why it exists among humanity. Yes, I’ve read the history books: people have yearned for power or influence or authority and sparked division because of it – but hatred is so utterly unnecessary. It adds nothing to life. As far as we know, it’s only us out here in the big, wide cosmic void of infinity. Life exists only on one single, simple blue planet – and yet there is enough bitterness here to fill a universe.

Every time I see flickers of cruelty peep past social media’s shutters of regulated opinions I want to do something. I advocate free speech, but not when it is used to subjugate others, even verbally. I cannot bear it when such views are not challenged, but silence about such issues is, alas, pervasive.

And I remember what others have said. People have told me not to get involved and that it’s not worth it to correct individuals who sometimes take the opposing stance, just for fun. “Not worth what?” I ask. My time, my effort, or my focus? Is it not worth the knowledge of the world I gain as I try to find more examples of love to combat animosity? Is it not worth the message of hope I try to spread? Is it not worth actually changing people’s minds? And even if it is not worth all that, what should I instead spend my time, effort, and focus on, then? Watching television?

But I don’t know what the answer to it all is. Twenty years ago, the internet seemed infinite in its modernity and vibrancy and possibility – and now it is a cesspool of projectile hostility. But hatred is, of course, not only confined to pixelled anonymity: it is everywhere. It crawls into all forms of communication, oozes darkness out of ink, and coats anyone in a sickening armour of vehemence.

Take Katie Hopkins, for example. I went to the Union on Tuesday and heard her speak, though I could not fathom how she managed to expel such poison. Surely, I thought, she doesn’t really mean what she is saying? I know I heard what I heard, but it seemed so ridiculously obscene. Her animosity was palpable: when she spoke in her silly little school-girl voice to exclaim that she loved Trump; or when she belittled one of the first people brave enough to take her on; or when she pursed her lips at a question as if the complexity of the statement to her was as acidic as a lemon.

And yet, I didn't want to hate her. I don't want to hate her. 

I wish I could have asked her where her loathing began. When did it start? Did something happen to her to trigger this, or did she wake up one day with an epiphany of hostility? And, in the latter case, does that mean hatred could infect us all? Will we all become like her, to an extent?

It is so important to try to ask these questions – to get the real picture about how hatred can spawn and then how we can put a stop to it. But even so, the damage is done, and we are no closer to working out how to end the regurgitations of bile that spit from the mouths of people like Katie. Shutting her down wasn’t the answer. Talking to her, apparently, wasn’t either. So what is? What do you do when you are faced with such vitriol, such venom, and such sickening rhetoric? 

Maybe I am just being naïve. It has been said to me before that once I have seen more of the world I will take a different stance. But the truth is, I don’t think I want to live in a world where that’s the case. I am reminded here of a phrase Anne Frank recorded in her diary in 1944: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” The amount of appalling hatred she had faced, even at her young age, before she made this comment is testament to the existence of hope that there is goodness in the human race. 

The truth is that we will always have different views in life, and there will never be full unity between anyone – but there will always be things you have in common as well as the things you don't. Just because someone is unlike you does not mean you have to dislike them. The only thing we can do about this then, I think, is to embrace the diversity of life. And that doesn't just mean celebrating the differences between us. It also encompasses celebrating the differences in your own opinions and the differences in ourselves. We are not superheroes. We can’t, unfortunately, wave a magic wand and watch all of this abhorrence suddenly be eradicated from the Earth. But there are little things, and big things, we can do. We can try to make people smile every day; we can share messages of love; we can join organisations set up to erase hatred from our world.

Or, at least, we can all try to live our lives with comments like Anne Frank’s in mind.