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Here’s a little lesson from a class I call Moral Reasoning 101: Hatred—Why it is good and who you should hate.
I’m not talking about racist hatred. I’m talking about loathing regular people—people you know personally—who are just awful. People like the loud moron who makes inane comments in section. This kind of hatred is necessary and at times wonderful. It doesn’t make us evil, it shows that we spend our days awake. As far as I see it, there are three main reasons to hate: a) to demonstrate moral awareness, b) because it makes life interesting and c) because people deserve it.
There’s a Christian doctrine that says hate the sin, but love the sinner. But that doesn’t work here. These individuals we’re talking about aren’t really “sinning” in any meaningful way. We’re not talking about murderers and rapists.
I know a girl back home who stopped dating a guy because he couldn’t name a single person he hated. Her rationale: it showed that he could not be discerning.
I understand her completely. People who are not discerning are boring. They cannot mock, or laugh at others being mocked. These are not the people you invite to your parties.
Realistically, we can only detest so many individuals. Between three and five is reasonable. Less than three is absurd; can there be fewer than three people in your life that irritate you to no end? More than five, however, and you start to tread into dangerously anti-social territory, and people start hating you.
You don’t have to loathe the same people your whole life. It’s important to keep hatred fresh and relevant. You can only despise a high school bully for so long. Like old love, old hatred never really dies, but it’s important to move on and meet new people to hate.
One way to do this is hatred by association. If some guy was mean to a friend of mine, I will hate him, having never met him and knowing only that fact about him. If you have nothing else to go by, it makes sense, and it’s that easy. You tell me to hate somebody and if I trust your judgment, I’ll despise him, no problem.
This kind of hatred is not wrong; it’s a simple value judgment that we all use to guide ourselves through social situations. And it doesn’t really hurt anyone, even those we hate, because we usually keep it to ourselves, or a handful of friends.
Think about it: if we hated publicly, we might cause a huge brouhaha. There would be all sorts of awkwardness, avoiding of eye contact, forced fake hellos—who needs that? Better to hate privately, and smile tolerantly in public, give more genuinely fake hellos. This form of hatred is healthy, harmless, and a whole lot of fun. It allows us to have all sorts of lively conversation behind our enemies’ backs, and we all know these conversations are spectacular.
Hatred then doesn’t affect our enemies, it only brings joy to us and those we share it with. That’s why we can lighten our hatred by making ludicrous statement about these jerks, like referring to them as minions of Satan, or comparing them to the Nazi leadership. For example, one can say “Bob isn’t quite like Hitler, but he’s approaching the Himmler, Goering and Goebbells range.” For women, Eva Braun works well. The implication, of course, is that these people are not evil dictators now, but under the right circumstances, you never know.
It’s important to have these individuals in our lives, to set up as contrasts with those we really love and respect. It makes you wonder: how do such people have any friends at all?
It’s a question for the ages, and there are no good answers. But when I think about the people I hate, I feel good about me. And if it feels good, go with it.
David A. Weinfeld ’05, a Crimson editor, is a history concentrator in Mather House.
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