La haine n’attire pas la haine, elle l’engendre

By Mario López-Goicoechea. Mario, 47, is from London, UK, and works as a writer. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

The revolution will not be televised, Gill. It will be Twitter-ised. It will also be hate-driven, because nowadays hate is more profitable than love.

I’m an optimist. I once read that optimists were those who believed we lived in the best possible of worlds. Pessimists were those who feared this might be true.

And yet…

Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán… the list goes on. You can bet your bottom dollar (and that’ll probably be considered as initial investment) that hating is in fashion. Whether hatred comes packaged up as pure and unadulterated ready-to-use bile, or punching-down risqué comedy, is moot. Hatred is here and it’s here to stay.

First things first. I slightly disagree with the premise of the film La Haine. That is, I disagree with the phrase “la haine attire la haine”. I believe that rather than attracting hate, hate begets more hate. Which is then turned into hard currency by someone who might or might not have been the original instigator.

Let us travel swiftly back in time to Paris, 1995. Neo-Nazis hate immigrants; immigrants distrust (and hate) the police; the police hate immigrants. Hate is partout. And the state? The state hasn’t got a clue about what to do, other than carrying on with its austerity-driven measures.

These are perfect conditions for deep-seated anger and resentment to surface. You have banlieue youths who are often looked down upon and therefore short of options. These young people (ironically, some of them representative of the future, much-celebrated, multi-ethnic, ’98-World-Cup-winning French football team) don’t need to attract hate. They are hated for being what France has gone out of its way not to become. A slang-heavy, black-and-brown subculture which sits at odds with the idea of France as a place of refined culture and excellent cuisine.

The bomb that went off at the Saint-Michel métro station on 25th July 1995 was more than just the explosion of a device. It was, metaphorically speaking, the bursting of a big bubble and the revelation, in the process, of a hitherto-hidden world. The big bubble was the self-told lie on which French society had depended on for much of the existence of the Fifth Republic; that just by invoking the principles of egalité, fraternité, humanité, everything and everyone would be OK. The hidden world was that of Vinz, Hubert and Saïd, and in it, things were not OK. Cheaply-built, brutalism-influenced estates and its inhabitants were not particularly looked at with candour. In fact, they were very much ignored until the riots in Paris in ’95 made people sit up and notice.

And notice some of them did. Jean Marie Le Pen, then leader of the Front National, called for the rioters “to be sent to jail”. Twenty-two years later, in 2017, his daughter, Marine Le Pen, by now in charge of the FN, went into a runoff against La République en Marche candidate Emmanuel Macron in France’s general election.

This was six months after Donald Trump had got into the White House. Trump steamrollered his way into the highest office in the world in a hate-driven frenzy. The screams of “Lock her up” (directed at Democrat presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, and currently replaced with “Send her back” in reference to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar) reminded many of the same hate-filled atmosphere of Nazi Germany in the early to mid 1930s.

Hate attracting hate? More like la haine engendre haine. Hate begets hate, because the feeling is already inside us. All it needs is a trigger for it to come out. Before Trump’s ascension to power, the UK was beset by Brexit malaise. The 2016 polarising referendum left a deep anti-immigrant feeling. By reviving old ideas of grandeur and colonial brilliance, Nigel Farage, Arron Banks, Boris Johnson, and Michael Gove sought to shine this past-its-use-by-date sun on their own version of Britishness. One that excluded people who looked like Vinz, Hubert and Saïd.

With the stagnation of wages in first-world nations since the 2008 financial crash and the economic crisis that followed, the global middle-class has taken a hit. This has led to feelings of anxiety, resentment and anger. In response to this situation, the political right has played one of its more effective cards: “it’s the immigrants’ fault” – and as a consequence it has achieved a series of triumphs at the polls. Orbán in Hungary, Salvini in Italy, the AfD in Germany, Bolsonaro in Brazil and (at the time of writing), possibly Boris Johnson in the UK. They are all united in their hatred of political correctness, identity politics, and wealth redistribution. Lagging not too far behind and keeping a close eye on events are corporations such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. Their stock in trade is data, which has become a much-in-demand commodity nowadays, even, according to some reports, helping to swing democratic elections. The other people who have gained from this new version of hate are writers such as Jordan Peterson and Rod Liddle. The stories they peddle in their books are avidly gulped down by (mainly) men with an axe to grind against what they see as an erosion of “true masculinity” (whatever that is) and the threat of multiculturalism.

Twenty-four years after the then Prime Minister Alain Juppé organised a special screening of La Haine for his cabinet, Vinz, Hubert and Saïd still stand as symbols of what can happen to societies when hatred is not confronted. To go back to my earlier point, la haine n’attire pas la haine, ella l’engendre. But it needn’t be that way. Let’s televise – or Twitter-ise – our own revolution, Gill Scott-Heron style. And let’s make sure this time it’s love-driven.

8 comments on “La haine n’attire pas la haine, elle l’engendre

  1. Hannah McDowall on

    the distinction you make between Hate attracting hate and hate begetting hate is important, it reminds me of the ‘Betari box’ which I think the police use to help them make decisions which defuse aggression, It says that my attitude affects my behaviour, which affects your attitude which affects your behaviour which affects my attitude…..and round and round we go (in a box with 4 sections). There is a (lowest and highest?) common denominator mindset in all of us which will engage with this arms-race of identifying difference between us and then either loving or hating that difference.

  2. Iris Flavia on

    I think this is very well written, though I have some points. My Mom used to say I´m a pessimist (I think I´m a realist) – she thought so because I always feared the worst can happen, not the best. I don´d want to be too disappointed from life.
    And I have to say, yes, I learned French at school. At school! I am your age… I understand you refer to that film (I admit, I´ve never heard of it), but, weee… what about those who didn´t even have that?
    (In Germany you could choose between French and Latin).

    Yes, the state has no clue and carries on. And yes, salaries don´t rise, but every other costs do, that causes fear. And certainly malevolence/jealousy when people, who never worked come here and get money.
    Don´t forget that many refugees have no respect. Women are “things” for many (not for all!!!). Once two African refugees grinned and said something to me. I repeated the three words till I was home and asked google. It was nothing nice. Also, most are financial refugees. The “real” ones, that had to flee from war, learn our language and integrate.
    I saw a docu, rumor is, come to Germany, you get a house, a car, a good job. That is when “hate” is born – they end up with masses of others in small rooms.
    And the loss of confidence in politics in general. Their salaries had just risen again.

    • Mario Lopez-Goicoechea on

      Hi, Flavia, thanks for your reply. I replied yesterday but my comment failed to upload. 🙂

      You raised some very good points. What I would ad to that is that the socio-economic model we’ve depended on for more than thirty years has, unfortunately, affected not only those living in the global south but also those living in developed countries.

  3. Susan Swiderski on

    I’m not familiar with the film, so I’ll just address your hate-attracts-hate vs. hate-begets-hate train of thought. Actually, I think both premises are true. People who are filled with hatred attract others of the same mind set. Haters aren’t interested in facts; they merely want input that supports their preconceived biases. They band together and feed on the hatred like a pack of wild animals. Hatred also begets hatred. It’s taught and passed on like some kind of sick personality disorder. Like a mutant gene.

    I once wrote a blog based on a newspaper photograph that was taken at a Klu Klux Klan gathering in north Georgia some years ago. It showed a child, maybe four years old, clad in the classic white garb typically worn by the Klansmen. He’s looking up at a police officer… a black police officer… and the expressions on their faces are absolutely unforgettable. There is such a depth of sadness and compassion on the officer’s face, and the child is just looking up at him in curiosity. Not fear, not hatred, just normal childhood curiosity. But his parents were evidently hellbent on teaching him how to hate. Their wish was for their hatred to beget more hatred in that innocent child.

    Like you, I’m a die-hard optimist. I like to think that child grew up to have his own mind and his own opinion, and he hasn’t perpetuated his parents’ hatred and carried it forward into a new generation.

    The politicians you named are stoking the fires of hatred, but I believe there’s going to be a backlash. I believe we the people will rise above it, and I believe kindness and love will prevail. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to write such a long comment. Great post, Mario!

  4. Jeff (Sage) on

    Good thoughtful essay. I have not seen the film, but I agree with your idea of hate begetting hate because we all have some hate inside of us that seems to rise up when something strikes us as unfair… This is also why Russian internet trolls are so dangerous, as they can play both sides of an argument and then let us attack each other without realizing we’re all being played.

    • Mario Lopez-Goicoechea on

      You’re spot-on on Russian bots. Sometimes I imagine, or would like to believe that those driving hate come to a sudden realisation of what they’re doing and how they might end up being affected by it. But, then, I hear the Kerching! sound their hatred produces and I despair.

      Thanks for your comment.


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