If the wise Chesterton once argued that hate unites societies more than love, perhaps it can also be said that resentment defines our character as much, if not more, than our desires. Tell me what or whom you hate, and I will tell you who you are and how you think. While love is plural—and at times, even contradictory—hate possesses a cyclopean nature: it gazes upon reality with a single eye and from a sole perspective. Observing the actions of haters can be almost amusing, as they are so determined to caricature their obsessions and dehumanize their opponents, reducing them to three or four slogans that fit their distorted view of reality. It would be amusing, I say, were it not for the fact that hate—a paradoxically moral passion—is humanity’s greatest destroyer, even more so than the passage of time. What love imperfectly builds, hate destroys with precision. This also holds true for universal justice: it is not the crucifiers who have redeemed mankind, nor will they ever.
The genealogy of hate is ancient. One could say that Cain, the first murderer, was also the first man to experience hatred on such a scale that he could not control it. The death of his brother Abel marked the inception of horror and violence in history, later sung by the Greeks and Semitic peoples. The great genocides, those that seek to erase a race or minority from the face of the Earth (and our memory!), are fueled by hatred that, in turn, springs from the prior dehumanization of an adversary turned enemy. It is difficult to hate a man with a face; it is much easier, however, to despise someone you have reduced to a humiliating idea. John Lukacs reminds us that Hitler claimed hate as the founding passion of Nazism, and behind Soviet communism—with its millions of deaths—lay a similar fury. Uncovering the fine print of what transpired in those years sends shivers down one’s spine.
Hate holds a relationship with power distinct from that of kindness. While kindness is generous and accepts those who think differently, hate recognizes only itself. Recognition—among parents and children, for example—is another significant theme in classical literature and is also the very foundation of liberal democracy, which embraces minorities and defends them, not at the expense of others or in opposition to them, but by respecting their dignity. New-wave populists, however, now advocate for a false democracy in which they aspire to become the majority to silence all those they do not acknowledge, tolerate, or endure. While some are united by love for plurality, others are driven by a rejection of difference, cloaked in moralism and justice, as they incessantly accuse and create an atmosphere of division. For hate only unites by dividing—and by pitting us against one another.