Too much hatred in the world, and too little empathy

Mike Davies: Be more understanding, tolerable of others

I cried in my car again this week as I listened to the news on the radio.

I’m probably a bit more emotional than most people (I cried at the end of Terminator 2, for example. Hey, shut up! It was sad!), and sometimes the slow buildup of depressing news about people being terrible to each other just suddenly pushes those emotions over the edge.

This time it was hatred.

I just don’t understand hatred.

I mean sure, I say I hate things all the time.

I say I hate people who don’t follow the rules of the road, don’t use their turn signals or just sit there when it’s their turn to go at a four-way stop.

I say I hate the lights on Dogwood Street.

I say I hate vegetables.

I say I hate Bubba Watson.

But I don’t actually hate any of these things, really, because hate is a word that should be reserved for the angry emotion that causes people to intentionally harm others.

I’m not about to intentionally cause harm to others, especially for a reason as petty as them not knowing how to work a four-way stop. There are a ton of you here, by the way, who don’t know how to work a four-way stop.

But I digress…

Hate should be a term reserved for the feeling the gunmen had when they walked into a school in Pakistan this week and started killing children in a gymnasium.

That’s hate.

It’s the emotion that caused Man Haron Monis to take the staff and patrons of a café in Sydney hostage this week.

That’s hate.

But it’s also the emotion that causes people every day to make decisions that affect others negatively, intentionally causing harm in other ways.

It’s the emotion that causes pain in the schoolyard, when one child has a disability and the others have no empathy.

It’s what people feel when they see a Facebook post where someone is asking for help, and instead of helping, they judge and mock and jeer.

Wait…is hate actually just the extreme end of ignorance?

I only ask because I was about to say that hate is also the thing that makes people pass (or fail to pass) legislation that keeps inequality so prevalent in our world, but I think that might actually be more about a lack of willingness to consider the perspective of others – which wouldn’t actually be hate, it would be ignorance.

And come to think of it, that’s the same reason that people like Man Haron Monis did what he did in Australia – he couldn’t see the world from anyone else’s perspective, and was ready to kill (and die) rather than do so.

It’s the reason people spout off about things they don’t know about, intentionally causing emotional pain to others. It comes off as hate, and it fits my above definition (the angry emotion that causes people to intentionally harm others), but it’s actually just an inability and unwillingness to pursue empathy.

So let’s make a conscious effort to view things from other perspectives, shall we? Can we at least recognize we don’t know how other people have come to see the world how they do, or the circumstances that have led them to where they are?

Maybe if we get rid of ignorance, we’ll end up getting rid of hate.

And I’ll end up crying less often in my car while I listen to the news on the radio.