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Sat Nov 01 15:45:21 SAST 2014

Can we learn from hate?

Bruce Gorton | 07 February, 2013 08:28
Protesters against racism. File picture.

What people forget about the bad things people do is that people are ultimately people – and that goes for the bad ones too.

The thing that brought this home to me most strongly was reading the Facebook and website comments on a story about a Facebook racist celebrating the deaths of children.

The kind of people who think the deaths of children should be celebrated because those kids were white, are exactly the same as the kinds of people who think the deaths of children should be celebrated if the kids are black.

There are people out there who would argue that HIV AIDS isn’t a problem, but a solution to our ‘problems’ – and they are the exact same kinds of people.

This is not simply a matter of racism, but of genuinely terrible people, and how we all have to remember that we aren’t all that different to them.

An Islamic cleric recently declared a fatwa on a girl band, stating that they were ‘un-Islamic.” My gut response to that cleric was to figure that if that is the case, then frankly reality is un-Islamic.

But that kind of leaves aside the serious issue at the heart of what he was saying, the fact that we are all human and there are genuinely terrible people in our societies that would argue the same thing.

Consider how many songs have been declared ‘Satanic’ or how many communist countries censor what they consider ‘capitalist.’

Joseph McCarthy managed to get Hollywood to institute a black list for ‘Un-American’ entertainment in the 1950s. America, the country which proclaims free speech an almost holy right, did exactly the same sort of thing.

And those same people rear their heads here every now and then, using the term "Un-African."

There are two approaches we can take to the genuinely terrible, we can use the evil of other people to bludgeon or we can learn from it, recognising the same things in ourselves that we confront in others.

Hate can be a good thing when we use it to tell us what we don’t want to be, it can be the worst thing in the world if we take what we hate and simply become its echo.

That is what happens when we don’t learn from our hate, when we don’t recognise what made the people who do the things we hate do them. When we don’t learn from our hate, we become consumed by it.

Hate is valuable only when examined, when you have the courage to not say “I hate you,” and instead say, “I hate what you are doing.”

When we do that we take the first step towards making our hate productive instead of destructive, when we recognise what we hate in ourselves we get the ability to improve ourselves.

But all too much of the hate that festers in ourselves is unexamined, all too often we use the evils of others as weapons instead of tools. We need to start learning otherwise we are doomed to repeat the very horrors we most oppose.

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