Monday, October 26, 2009

The meaning of hate

It's no secret to many people that this world often has (and has had, all throughout history), some very screwed-up definitions of love. I know this partly through observation, but mainly because I've seen seeds of the same misunderstandings in my own heart. True love doesn't just mean reciprocating feelings that others already have for you anyway. Sometimes it means caring about people who don't like you. Real love is not lust, or puppy love, or even emotional affection or casual friendship. But these are all things that the title of "love" is often incorrectly applied to. Using someone else for your own pleasure is not love, and yet it's often labeled by that word.

Most people would readily admit this, because we've all seen examples of it somewhere or other. But one thing that I think is often overlooked is the fact that the word "hate" is sometimes just as misapplied as love. I'm seeing this more and more with the heated political debates, while people take sides on issues and begin applying generalized epithets and political buzzwords to their opponents.

"Hate" is one of these. And I would never dispute the fact that we live in a world with a lot of hatred. Both past and present again provide much proof for our self-centeredness and utter disregard of human life. There is also a good deal of genuine hate in politics. But like I said, this word often becomes just another name for people to apply to their opponents, regardless of the subject matter.

Let me use an illustration. In the movie "V for Vendetta," there is a scene where V breaks into a TV station and airs a message to the people of futuristic London. They are living under a government that rules them by means of fear and injustice, keeping them in submission through regulation and violence. V points this fact out to them, and invites them to join him in standing up to the dictatorship. Once his message is cut off, a regular broadcaster immediately comes on the air and apologizes, explaining that a terrorist had hacked into their system in order to "broadcast a message of hate."

This movie, like most, is fairly manipulative, and audience sympathy is easily shifted away from the government and towards this terrorist and the people he claims to stand for. But that is what makes this scene such an odd contrast - the hero of the movie is aiming to save the people by standing up to the government, and yet his message is labeled as hateful. Clearly in this sense, "hate" is only being used to express disagreement.

But is that what this word really means? I totally agree that there are a lot of people out there who are very hateful, and will use those feelings to destroy others. There are terrorists, yes, but you do not have to be a terrorist to employ hate. This is, however, a very strong word, and I feel that it is often used very inappropriately in political mudslinging. Essentially people are simply aligning their own views along their own idea of "love," and therefore anyone who has any kind of opposition to it must be full of hate. That simply isn't true, anymore than a shallow, lust-based relationship can be called "love."

The word "ignorant" is used much the same way, essentially coming to mean merely "those who don't know the exact same things that I do." But that's a different treatise for a different day.

When it comes to politics, there are many issues that I am for, but there are also many issues that I have no choice but to oppose. Sometimes the government oversteps its bounds (well, a lot of the time actually) and attempts to reassign meaning to things that simply don't mean that. You don't have to agree with me. But don't call me a hater. If you want to assign that word to me, find some evidence for it first, and I'll be willing to talk with you about it - if not, don't just use "hate" to refer to the position opposite to your own. That's a sad misuse of the word, and it cheapens the term when it's applied to instances of actual hate.

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