Anger and hate spread perniciously and the latest stretch of Australia in modernity is testament to a building up of a level of hate that decades ago would have been unexpected today. There is a climate of hate in Australia – yes, it’s a global phenomenon – the hating is not limited to polarising public affairs issues but has spread to hating anyone who has a differing view.
There are the haters of racism, the hating of racism’s culminations in systematic abuses, of the transgressions of immigration detention – ‘internment camps’ – on Manus and Nauru, and of the more than two score immigration detention facilities that not long ago polluted the Australian continent. There are the haters of refugees and asylum seekers and there are the haters of the haters of refugees and asylum seekers. The hating culminates in pitchfork standoffs.
Let us make distinctions: hate and anger are not the same just as forgiveness and condoning are not the same. I don’t have to explain the difference between hate and anger. Like a forest fire, hate can spread and leave just ashes. Hate gave rise to the Cronulla riots, to Islamophobia and xenophobia and to the degeneration into misoxeny. Xenophobia is the fear of others, of the stranger, of the foreigner; whereas misoxeny is a dark place, an abyss filled with the hating of others, of the stranger, of the foreigner. With this building up of hatred the hating pervades our everyday lives. In the present generation we are coping with eruptions of hatred towards political and other public figures to an extent we had moved away from more than a half century ago. Not since the McCarthyism of the 1950s which corralled hate-filled tensions into the 1960s, not since the Cold War and its pitting of humankind against humankind in the largest numbers ever known to humanity has there been a delving back into the near paranoiac driven mass hate of anyone seen to represent incongruous ideologues. We are ready to tear down anyone and with a certain militancy or vigilantism rush to shut them down – ‘an off with their heads’ beastliness.
Yes, there are the Hillary Clinton haters and there are the Donald Trump haters. There are the Vladimir Putin haters as there were the Margaret Thatcher haters. However for those more in tune with the body politic and the conniving that is brewed from those agendas, the hating tool is now part of every body politic; be it neo-liberal capitalism, globalist transnational imperialism or muddle-minded neo-conservative ideologues. What of the wash through society by the hating, right down to the ordinary citizen hating thy neighbour, railing against their neighbour because of what they support politically or appear to support? What of the pitchfork standoffs between racists and those who perceive themselves as anti-racists? What’s with all the hating? Where will it get us? What is hating Pauline Hanson, Bill Leak, Mark Latham, and Andrew Bolt going to serve in any genuinely civil society? How is the hating ever going to journey us to universal social justice and human rights? I emphasise ‘universal’ because if the goal is not universal, if it is not about everyone, then by definition it is not social justice or about human rights.
The famous saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” usually attributed to Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) is a foundational argument to freedom of speech but it is more than that – it is about the journey to a civil society, to as best as possible a corrupt-free society, to an equal society, indeed to social justice and human rights. Without conversation, no matter how defamatory it can get, no matter how murky, there can be no social justice and human rights struggle. To shut down any voice is to close a door on the prospect for universality. We must have more faith in the reasonable-minded arguments overwhelming the muddle-minded arguments. We must allow for everyone’s argument if we are to get all of us across the line to right-mindedness but we must at all times remember that we will not cross that line at the same time. Let conversation flow and let us educate one another in not hating each other. My experience has been one where I have extended my hand to racists and the self-centred and we have gone forward, they have changed their views. The changing of views and the coming together of people from opponents to comrades will never happen if we oppress. So basically I’m arguing for a Climate of Love.
I am not naïve in believing that propaganda won’t continue to do its damage but there is no hope whatsoever if we shut down voices, if any of us oppress. Of course I know that throughout human history the ability to discover the truth has been outstripped by the capacity to manifest deceit but there is more capacity for the truth in a society that allows for freedom of speech; whereas in a regulated forum we have seen the chasing down of truth obstructed, perverted by the elemental exploitation that is litigation. Litigation only serves those who can afford it and more often than not those who buy its use are those who wish to protect lies. The Climate of Hate has given rise to one law after another in the hope that there shall be generated civil courtesies and protections from vilification but in turn these banal laws never work and instead justify even more significant controls that shut down truth and in turn let mass propaganda run rampant with manifest deceits.
A Climate of Hate near always leads to a Climate of Death.
Hate accelerates a cognitive decline and in its pathogenic circumstance generates an opioid-like addiction. Hate is addictive. It can damage an individual into social isolation, and the unhappy circumstance of this clutters the mind into often serious illness. Despite an internet-connected world, there are increasing numbers of people who are socially isolated. The power of the internet, 24/7, is still in its formative stretch but in this transitioning period to wherever we are going with the internet the transition has been ugly, with so much hate overwhelming the spreading of the love on this penultimate human forum. There is a capacity for hate today never before known: with the internet and mass media in a 24/7 cycle; where the hatred of others, be it through outright or through signification is giving rise to maladaptive social cognition. We live in a society where social media, where the 24/7 news cycle can make ‘blood boil’. In the end it is up to us to somehow to rise above pitting people against people, because human connectedness is vital to our happiness. The pursuit of happiness is an expectation that human beings are born into. The pursuit of happiness is contingent on our connections with one another. Hatred interrupts our connection with one another. Hatred isolates human beings.
We should not want ourselves to hate, as we do not want this of our children. Hatred is intense and its duration can be long, and in sociopolitical circumstances often extends generationally. Hatred is pervasive, overwhelming, obscuring right- and reasonable-mindedness. Hatred is a two-way street. Where people feel intensely threatened, though they have never met each other, the hatred on both sides of the divide builds. We are vulnerable to trauma and the psychological wounds can become unforgettable, unforgivable, and in many instances there may be no recovery from the damage.
The narrative of hate has long failed us and certainly makes impossible the narrative that pursues happiness. The counter narrative is the spreading of love – with the subtexts of forgiveness and redemption – and this narrative is in tune with the inherent human striving for interconnectedness and on equal terms.
Let Pauline Hanson and the One Nation Party speak all that they want. This is freedom of speech. Let us carry people across the line to that universal place; it may not be Elysian fields but it’s a better place than where hate takes us to. I am as hard a ‘left-winger’ as imaginable but the left is, or should be, about the universal and inalienable rights and should be all for the conversations that we should be having without shutting down conversations and hating others. It does matter how we carry ourselves on this earth and we must remind ourselves that our days are not that many nor are they guaranteed.
If we are not careful, the testaments of hate will become firmaments of institutional hate and terror.
* Gerry Georgatos is a prolific writer on trauma and trauma recovery, on redemption and forgiveness. He has written widely on suicide prevention and wellbeing. Gerry is a suicide prevention and prison reform researcher and advocate with the non-tertiary Institute of Social Justice and Human Rights. He is a member of national projects to further develop suicide prevention and prisoner wellbeing and education programs. He works first-hand with the critically vulnerable and marginalised.