Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Haters Be Hating

There are many reasons why I decided to write on this topic next. Partly because a week or so about, I was listening to the Minneapolis radio station The Current and they were discussing an app called Hater on their Tuesday morning segment about social media. It's a sort of corollary to Facebook as Facebook only allows you to "like" a post and this allows you to hate things. The wonderful morning show DJs had differing opinions about this, one of them loving the idea of an app that allowed them to express their more negative views rather than Facebook which might create false positivity. But another DJ or the guest talking about the app suggested that it wasn't all that good, that it epitomized everything bad about the internet and created an unhealthy way to focus all on the negative.

In a graphic novel I recenly read, One Hundred Demons! by Lynda Barry, there was also a section about hate and the "hate lecture" children are frequently given, being told not to hate things or to use the word hate, even though Berry argues that there are different kinds  of hate, "the difference between the kind of hate that has destructive intent and the kind that's a response to something destructive" (Barry 84).
(Aw man, you have no idea how happy I am that this section is online.) I really love this part of the book. We'll come back to this.

It also helps that I've just begun reading Othello and the introduction to my copy discusses how Othello, unlike some other tragedies, is not about the control or a state or a royal biography or a study of heroism, but of love and its "vulnerability to hate" (McDonald, xxxi). There is a good deal of hate in Othello and love that turns to hate and so on. But I'll stop there, otherwise this will become an ode to the brilliance of Shakespeare and we can't have that right now (no, not now. But soon... soon).

And finally, the cherry on top, the reason I selected this post over some of the other drafts I have saved was because of the all-too timely appearance of these tweet series from Tom Hiddleston's twitter (and this is your lack of surprise, I am sure. Someone should make me start paying royalties or something every time I reference Mr. Hiddleston's Twitter; seriously, I feel like I'm getting ridiculous): 

I found this comment to the above tweet by accident when I was scrolling through Twitter and hit the "expand" option. Now, I wouldn't call this hate, but it's quite critical and considering the preceding tweets, which are:

(Sorry, technically the first tweet is on the bottom and the succeeding one is on the top. Backwards chronological order for clarification purposes.)

This got me thinking. If you've been following the ramblings about humanitarianism on here, you know (if you didn't already know) that no humanitarian cause is perfect. All have their downfalls. I am sure that Below the Line could be criticized as privilege-y and misconstruing things and what have you. What it comes down to is this - you can't know what it's like to be poor unless your poor. Which is an obvious and sound claim. But I'd argue that people participating in Below the Line, as shown by Mr. Hiddleston, already know that. They know that this is not going to show them exactly what it's like to be poor. It's only a simple measure of performing one aspect of what is involved in poverty in order to bring awareness to the fact that poverty is about a lot more than just money (it's about having money for food, the time and ability to cook food, having a home, having access to a grocery store or a garden, having a job so you have money to get food - okay, I'm going to shut up, you get it). Point is, it's not about completely understanding another way of living - that's kind of sort of impossible. But it's about trying to step into someone's shoes, as imperfect as it may be. It's the effort, the act of trying to understand that's being made, for social benefit and personal understanding. It's like making a film about poverty or writing a song about it in a way, to bring attention to the issue. Why then is it being criticized? If the person taking part in this campaign knows about the privilege-y connotations and the drawbacks, why say "you'll never understand?" Why the criticism of an attempt to at least try to understand? Have we begun to decide that it's just impossible to understand another person and trying isn't worth the effort and so those who try are just criticized?
This really concerns me. Maybe because I'm a writer, maybe because I'm a psych major, maybe it's because I'm one of the so-called "bleeding hearts" that likes to empathize with people, but I have a hard time dealing with this culture of constant criticism and often hatred that's strengthened in the past decade or so. We all like to complain - there's no denying that. Complaining can be healthy and beneficial. But when conversations become nothing but complaining, there seems to be a bit of a problem. I worry that this blog is nothing but complaining at times (and if you find this to be the case, then I encourage your commenting upon it). Something in our "post-modern" (if you use this term) attitudes with skepticism towards politics and political action as well as facts, news stories, and language in general has made it difficult for people to not only trust information and each other, but also care about things in ways we might have in the past. It's really hard to care about an election when you've got two candidates who sort of sound like they're saying the same things in slightly different words. It's hard to watch the news and stay informed when it's full of gaping holes and lousy writing. It's hard to care about things when organizations aren't acting as well as you'd like and people make mistakes and say ill-phrased statements. This has led into many different reactions of problems connected to criticism and complaining, two of which I see the most on the internet: apathy and hate.

Apathy I could (and probably will) write an entire post about. I was sitting in my Human Sexuality class on Monday, waiting for lecture to start, and heard a girl talking about how, when she graduates this spring, she doesn't want to do anything. She can't think about getting a job or planning for grad school because she simply doesn't want to do anything. She can't care about it or care about school. She is not alone; I've felt this way, I know people who feel this way, a lot of Tumblr feels this way. I mean, I see this gif all over Tumblr:

As funny as it is, it's also really relevant to a mental state I see in many age groups around me. People can't care - it's too exhausting or too complicated. As the Lumineers say in the song "Stubborn Love," voicing a well-known saying, "The opposite of love is indifference."

But love has another possible opposite - hate. Hate is one of those things that a natural, human response - everybody hates (or at least intensely dislikes) something. I, for instance, hate centipedes. Which is unfortunate, because they really enjoy residing in my apartment building. While centipedes are relatively harmless (except for being utterly disgusting with their gazillion legs and skittering around in malice and malevolence), I hate them for (presumably) self-preservation reasons. I see them as a threat. Despite the fact that I'm like 20x their size. Okay, so that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But I have an instinct to hat them because they, to me, represent the epitome of disgusting-ness. It might be a bit extreme (it is), but it's a reaction.

However, it's how we handle that reaction that causes problems. For example, I really, really hate it when people spit in the middle of the sidewalk. I think it's gross and rude. But do I chew people out for it? Do I tell them that I hate them and that they should *insert some terrible and possibly life-threatening statement here*? No. Because it's not that big of a deal and that would be even more rude. I just deal with it, grumble about it in my head, and walk away. If it was ever a serious issue, I would mention it to the spitter, but it's not that big of a deal in the long run.

This issue of hate gets a lot more important, nuanced, and complicated when dealing with political or social issues. The first that comes to mind is marriage equality. I have an interesting relationship with
this issue because when I was younger, I didn't understand the concept of gay marriage at all and was thus against it. However, once I better understood people and love and relationships in general, it made total sense to me. I used to think that my previous standpoint would help me better argue and discuss with people who don't support marriage equality. Except that it doesn't. For one, I'm so firmly resolved in my position that I've begun to forget what it was like to have ever thought differently. And secondly, the arguments people generally make against marriage equality are like nothing I ever thought and often sound truly hate-filled to me. What occurs in this situation of some of these arguments (and this is where Barry is going to come in useful) are two parts of hate. There's those against marriage equality, who hate and do something destructive. Then there's the urge to hate back, to hate those that are doing the destructive work. Often this is where problems arise. For if you act on that hate, then you're fighting hate with hate. And that can come to no good end.

However, we have to remember that people who are against marriage equality see things in exactly the reverse - those that support gay marriage are doing something destructive and the hate of something destructive comes from that. However, I get lost at how exactly gay marriage is destructive. And this is where we come to a very important point: different does not equal destructive.

We blur this line, especially when things are not going to great. We're in a recession, so I'm not surprised that hatred is taking on creepyish tones. Some things certainly deserve hate: poverty. Genocide. Stuff like that. Note that these are events or circumstances. Not people. Admittedly, it's harder to hate circumstances rather than people - otherwise the issues of scapegoats wouldn't be so common. We like to put a face to our hate. Even if it makes things uncomfortably creepy. Even if it's not really related to our hate - we hate it. Even if there's no justifiable reason to direct our hatred at a certain person - especially on the internet - we hate. This post from Tumblr has me continually baffled (it's a bit hard to read but maybe that's for the better):
I cannot understand what would ever make someone so upset that they would react this way and think that this is an okay response. This is where the confusion between who's being destructive is blurred - to me, it's certainly the anonymous respondent. But there must be something that's destructive to the anon that's making them respond this way - right? Right?

Let's use another example, something not political. Okay, well, technically everything can be political but I mean political in the "government and stuff we vote on" realm. Take a look at this article about Anne Hathaway and why people hate her. Put aside whatever current opinion you have about Ms. Hathaway and think about what makes people dislike her -  her "fakeness," her perceived "forced sincerity" - she looks like a fake because she's too sincere, essentially. But she's never really done something that makes her look insincere. Could it just be that some of us are growing unaccustomed to sincerity and when we see it, especially if it seems different than how we think it should seem or sound, we don't believe it? We've been taught to doubt - and now we doubt everyone and everything (and if this sounds like something I've said about myself before, well done you. You are absolutely correct. I'm here in this as much as anyone else).

So what do we do about this? What do we do when hatred seems easier to express and more commonly expressed and more seriously believed and regarded and genuine than appreciation? What then? Well, it'd be unhealthy to pretend we don't hate anything at all - suppressing it wouldn't end well and might result in a need for catharsis, which is psychologically proven to not be very beneficial. But acting on hate every time we feel the need to is not healthy either. If the only way we have of venting or addressing issues or conflicts or navigating around problems in our lives that we don't otherwise know how to express is hating on another person, then human interactions are going to become incredibly difficult and terrible. It would be better to accept that language has its pitfalls, that people have their imperfections, that the world is not an easy place to reside in, and try to talk about it anyway. Besides, hating is exhausting. I wrote about this in a fiction piece I was working ong and then a day or two later found a Tom Hiddleston quote saying the exact same thing I'd stated, only more eloquently, so I'm just going to use his quote:
"It’s funny how negative energy is so exhausting and it was certainly a challenge to cultivate Loki’s hatefulness every day. I had to get inside his reservoirs of pain and make that feel real. Hating is exhausting; it’s much more exhausting than loving, and that’s what took it out of me.” (via: this post)
Yep, that's brilliant.
The problem then is what to do about... well, problems. Here's an idea balloon, going back to the topic of marriage equality: the issue, shall we stay, stems mostly from the idea of what marriage represents to people and what love and relationships encompass. If, for instance, we agreed that GLBT relationships were equal in every way to heterosexual relationships, this wouldn't be an issue. There would be no sense of someone causing destruction. Perhaps it would be easier to accept that there are differences - perhaps irreconcilable differences - but not damage-causing ones. I want to believe that, through discussion and dialogue and not letting hate take over our tongues that this is possible. However, I also know from meeting with people who believe things much different from what I believe (which, if you're curious, you can read about on my other blog, here and here), that talking doesn't always generate more understanding - for me, there was a wall and I couldn't climb it or break it down. Trying to understand differences doesn't always do what you think it will. But it's the effort the counts, the act of trying to understand someone even when it's impossible. And I'm going to bloody keep trying.

(Finally, the "you tried" star is relevant. YES.)

All citations from:
Linda Berry, One Hundred Demons! Sasquatch Books, 2002.
Russ McDonald, Introduction, Othello. The Pelican Shakespeare. Penguin Books, 2001.


  1. Really enjoyed your post and you are absolutely right. We do live in a very judgmental society that is also very hateful.
    Growing up as a missionary kid over seas, I've seen my fare share of do good organizations. I've seen fellow missionaries come here, and to be honest a lot of them treat the locals like they're just props for pictures instead of actual people. It was easy to have a cynical outlook on organizations and missionaries. After reading this post it kind of struck hard. People can be very judgmental and extremely cynical. I will admit I was one of these people.

    1. Thank you so much for reading/sharing your thoughts and I'm glad you enjoyed it! Growing up as a missionary kid must really have made this post personal; wow. I agree that it's easy to have a cynical outlook on these organizations and I have certainly been a cynic and still am in some ways. But now that I'm aware of this, I think it's a bit easier to keep cynicism and anger from taking over :)