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.
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.
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.
Thanks, thanks, thanks. Such a clever and informative response! 😀
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.
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.
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!
I really appreciate long comments, Susan! 🙂 I think I might have read that post you mentioned. I remember coming across a similar photo, but this one was from a BNP rally in the UK.
Thanks for your feedback.
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.
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.
I haven’t seen the film but I do believe that humans respond to each others’ emotions and so love begets love and hatred begets hatred. But I think that the role played by some social media is an important element in the recent rise of mass political movements inclining towards hate. Not only are previously extreme views now expressed freelyonline but the structures of Facebook, Twitter and Google are known to create an echo chamber which helps unify those who follow the same sort of views. Retweeting favours the forwarding of extreme views at the expense of less extreme ones and the algorithms for curating content, favour what is called “engagement” and give people more of what they’ve looked at previously. I believe that this artificially amplifies the sense of grievance and wish for revenge which will always exist in human society and offers online human contact with others who feel the same way and who might wish to work together to take things further than merely hating in private.
So I am inclined to think the way forward is the regulation of social media. At some point someone has to grasp the nettle. Just as in the 19th century there were all kinds of libertarian arguments against freeing slaves, or interfering in the right of people to do what they wanted within the walls of their own homes etc. so will regulating the internet deprive some people of their rights to sit at home and do what they like online. I believe we must accept that some limitations on internet access are needed to avoid social breakdown, and these need to be very carefully considered and closely and publicly regulated just as the law on, say, child abuse is. Nevertheless, this will mean that there will be a number of undeniably bad consequences and deprivations of rights, because there is no perfect solution. You can’t have complete liberty to kick your own kids to death in your own home, even though perhaps a case can be made for your right to do so. So my conclusion is that while riots in Paris and London by deprived and overlooked people are very, very bad, Orban, Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro pumping fortunes of dirty money into trying to alter the entire balance of world power is even worse.
I totally agree with you and social media. The echo chamber it has created has become detrimental rather than beneficial.
Thanks for your comment. 🙂
I remember a lot of talk about that film at the time though i didn’t see it. You’re right hate does engender hate and i think Jenny’s comment is very true too, social media, though it has a lot of positive values, does tend to push people together in such a way that hate (and other extreme views) becomes amplified.
The film hasn’t aged at all. Anyone who has seen recent developments in French politics will recognise some of the same issues the movie explored back then.
Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it. 🙂
Thanks Mario for sharing your thoughts.
I’m so disappointed to read so few commentators on this post have seen ‘La Haine’. I thought it was an indispensable classic of the late 20th century. I admit, I haven’t watched it in roughly 20 years when it was shown in one of my A-Level French classes. I was completely floored by it at the time and recall similar reactions from those whom I met later who’d also watched it in other contexts. I assumed thus it was embedded in the Western cultural psyche, at least.
Anyway, I’ll need to re-watch it one of these days as I’ve been meaning to for years. In terms of this well-crafted piece, it has an admirable objective. However, there are so many facets to the issue that can’t be done much service by this format. This would definitely be better served by a New Yorker-style long essay format-even in our attention-deficit age.
I’m glad to see regular references to the political backdrop; how the neoliberal model has broken down only for its bitter fruit to be manipulated by its very architects/adherents to further their aims. I feel the dots could be joined up/spelled even more so that it’s not completely abstracted i.e. Legitimate fears of scarcity are exploited by right-wing politicians through typical divide-and-conquer tactics.
The traditional mainstream media (MSM) also need to be held account for whipping up these sentiments. They often eschew nuanced discourse and instead foment division by encouraging over-simplified, polarised narratives.
I think hate, as well as love should also be defined. We should acknowledge that these terms can be contestable. Hate and anger seem to be conflated in the piece, for example. They can be bedfellows but aren’t automatically interchangeable.
This is where I believe a theological/philosophical piste could be useful for a more holistic evaluation. I feel this too often lacking in modern Leftist discourse around socio-economic/political issues. Historically, the likes of RH Tawney demonstrated this does not have to be the case.
Even if one doesn’t subscribe to a religious worldview (whatever that means), the metaphysical aspect has its uses. Not least as all ideologies -secular or otherwise-need a level of religious-like adherence for them to work. Therefore to critique them you have to delve more into how they operate and why they can be effective…
…Exploration of the Ancient Greek categories of love (philos, eros, agape, storge) for instance, might be helpful here. When people speak of countering hate with love, it can’t be assumed we all mean the same thing. There’s the danger of it all sounding a bit twee and fickle too. Whilst Eros, Philos and Storge can be passive and subject to sentiment, Agape love, according to Christian traditions at least, denotes something more active. It’s often accompanied by a sacrificial gesture, regardless of how one feels towards the recipient. The unconditional love of a parent or spouse for example or how Christ instructs His followers to love their enemies in the Sermon on the Mount.
(Incidentally, I am not oblivious to how the likes of Bolsonaro, Orban, Trump etc have tried to co-opt Christianity to promulgate their own ideology; something the Far Right have attempted at least since the 19th Century. It’s important to distinguish their distortions from the Gospel message itself; something that all sides of the political spectrum are very bad at doing. Furthermore, sadly, too many who claim to be Christians not only do not make this distinction but are given to even supporting these ideas. The other day I heard a woman of central-African descent remark that the Far Right are sometimes ‘spot on’).
Relying on a feelings-based understanding of love will not overcome hate. It’ll take something much stronger. If provoked enough by the other’s intransigence, our feelings of goodwill can easily dissipate.
This leads me to my last point (promise). It’s important to recognise that hatred isn’t something only ‘those people over there’ do. It’s a form of othering that the Left are as guilty of as anyone else. I say that as a card-carrying, Corbyn-supporting socialist.
We are human after all; each subject to the same broken condition as everybody else. We are also capable of hatefulness. That’s not to say we don’t have agency and can’t make better choices. I just think we need to be honest about our own human frailty. it’s not just those on a different side of an argument who are susceptible to it.
Anyway, I know you like long responses Mario but I’ve already over-stayed my welcome. I can’t promise I won’t be back though :p
Many thanks for your thoughtful and thorough reply. Yes, I do like long answers! 🙂
Two key points in your comments. Hate cannot be overcome by just love. I agree 100%. I you just throw love at a hatred-caused situation, you might end up stoking the flames even more. Some people wouldn’t recognise love even if it were biting their leg off . That’s down to several factors, but take into account these factors we must.
The types of love you mentioned and which were common amongst the ancient Greeks, were familiar to me but not in detail. Thanks for your explanation. I am of the opinion (as a humanist, that’d probably be obvious) that a leaning towards our common human bond would go some way to address our thornier issues. It’s not that I don’t value religion (as a cultural phenomenon, it is perhaps one of the more influential and far-reaching ones in the history of humankind), but rather that its role in problem-solving has been overstated. To be sure, religious figures can and have on occasion intervened to help bring conflicts to an end, but one of the reasons for that lies in the proselytising nature of the world’s Abrahamic faiths (other religions might have a similar trait, but they never display as prominently as Judaism, Christianity and Islam).
Your’re right about hate and anger. Close but not the same. I never intended to merge them into one single unit. I guess that anger can be a consequence of hatred and a weapon of it, too.
Once again, thanks for your thoughtful comment.
Good piece, Mario. No long comment from me but a wee poem (from years ago):
It started with a sneer
Anger breeds anger
Hate breeds hate
Break up the cycle
It can be too late
I haven’t seen the film, but I love your response, Mario. I appreciate how you addressed the problem and ended on a hopeful note. I see hate like a virus that can infect any nation. Empathy, tolerance, and yes, love are the vaccine. Also people need to vote and to take action for the world to change for the better. I’d add that one other factor is climate change, which adds more stress to the system.
thank you so much for such incredibly done essay dear friend
i think this one deserve an award !
it is insightful prose and added appropriate knowledge into my account
as a common person with little study of politics all i can say is that such unrest and hatter is pure product of injustice and cruelty sowed by nations or may be only bunch of businessmen belong to them ,who supervise agencies to get hold upon world politics and specially world economy .
lust of power has destroyed the balance of everything in world which is essential for the peace of this planet
and for the growth of love between nations ,though we all know that common citizens of this glob want to live in peace and still have respect for humanity
i always have dreamt about society which will be “politicians free”
i really hope wish and pray that peace loving common people realize the power of unity and gather to throw away this ugly system which has damaged the life of people only worst