Searchlight Magazine

Hate something, change something

Does anyone remember the Honda car ad a few years ago which asked whether hate could be good? Some said it was the best car ad ever. The message was that people hated noisy, clunky diesels so Honda made quiet smooth ones.

I was reminded of it today reading about Hope Not Hate’s latest campaign to build a society free of hate and wondered what such a society would look like. Probably rather passive and anodyne. Hate can motivate the absolute worst of human nature as HNH says, but it can also produce positive change. The Love Music Hate Racism campaign, for one, would probably agree. Did people hate Hitler and the Nazis and, if so, was that a bad thing or did it help to defeat them?

HNH tagged itself onto the Hate Crime Awareness Week organised by the charity 17-24-30 No To Hate Crime Campaign – the numbers refer to the dates of the bombings by the Nazi David Copeland in London in 1999. His were the ultimate hate crimes of course. The 17-24-30 group has done well to win support from a wide range of organisations that are putting on events around the country in the period 13-19 October. There will also be a vigil in Trafalgar Square on the evening of Saturday 20 October, which people might like to join after taking part in the big trade union anti-cuts march.

For any person of reason, it is indisputable that hatred for any group of people based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, faith or any other characteristic is wrong, destructive and unacceptable. But I would question, for example, that the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old girl from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taleban for campaigning for girls’ education, was primarily motivated by hatred. The Taleban do not hate women; they believe that women do not have equal rights to men and are intolerant of anyone who disagrees.

HNH gives as an example of hate: “religious extremists who are trying to impose their worldview on believers and non-believers alike”. There are two things wrong with this statement.

First it is unclear what is meant by a religious extremist. Someone who is extremely religious, or devout, perhaps? Probably the writer means a religious fundamentalist. Using “extremist” as a generalised means of condemning certain views to which the speaker or writer objects is meaningless.

Secondly religious fundamentalists are not actually motivated by hatred in trying to follow what they believe is the will of their god or gods: they believe it is their duty. Some might say they are motivated by love – for their god. Love too can be destructive. Most religions are proselytising to some extent – Judaism is a notable exception – so it is not hatred that motivates their adherents in trying to spread their religion to non-believers, in some cases forcibly. Throughout history religions have been imposed by conquerors on vanquished nations. Christianity is no exception.

I oppose all attempts to impose religion and religious practices on people. That goes for Islam and all other beliefs. But it has little to do with hatred: equating religious fundamentalism and hatred is simplistic and unhelpful in dealing with the problem.

Hate cannot be eliminated from the world: we can only seek to eradicate certain manifestations and consequences of hate. Campaigning against intolerance would make more sense but it doesn’t lend itself to a neat slogan.

© 2013 Searchlight Magazine Ltd, PO Box 1576, Ilford IG5 0NG

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