The language of love in an angry world
I miss the time when “hate” was a somewhat foreign concept, a term encountered in theatrical drama but too extreme to be needed in the real world.
Yet, in the past few years, “hate” has made a resurgence. Terrorists of all ideologies stalk the world, attacking ordinary citizens as they shop, dance and love. After the EU referendum vote last summer, hate crimes in the UK soared by 41 per cent, Home Office figures revealed. In January Sadiq Khan, the Muslim mayor of London, had to warn of zero tolerance for hate crimes in the wake of anti-Semitic incidents in London. New York City saw a rise of 31 per cent in hate crimes in 2016, and leading financier George Soros announced plans to donate $10 million to fight what he calls “dark forces that have been awakened”.
On social media, we even have a new word: a “hater”, used to describe someone who seeks out ways to criticise others in public.
How has this global mood come about? Not all the fears that drive such hate can be easily dismissed.
In his new book The Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra talks of a global pandemic of rage. He suggests the phenomenon of continuous terrorist attacks can be attributed to ressentiment – a word taken from the French by Soren Kierkegaard to suggest that the mood of one “hater” can somehow multiply and ignite the suppressed feelings of others, morphing into permanent, murderous rage among groups.
The US presidential election seems to have opened the floodgates to allow dormant prejudices and fear to resurface. Political correctness, while often criticised, at least created an agreement to communicate with neutrality and sensitivity. That agreement is now in jeopardy.
How could we think about bringing people together in a way inspired by love instead? Interfaith research unit The Woolf Institute says this may be done especially well by those who practice a faith.
In its 2015 report Living with Difference, the institute describes a common theme among people of different religions and beliefs: they express their citizenship by demonstrating responsibility towards others in need, often regardless of religion or belief. “Social action is what will help bind our diverse communities together and contributes to a sense of well-being, empowerment and connection – and as long as we are not only ever taking care of our own. “Initiatives that involve less talk and more action and good deeds, done in a shared fashion between people of all faiths and none, should be encouraged, financed, celebrated and reported routinely as part of secular society’s public policy.”
How can we then all take individual responsibility to rehumanise our world? It is a great task. Our political systems seem often to have lost their soul, and it is up to us to consider reclaiming responsibility and belonging in our communities, and trying to reconnect sections of our fractured societies.
In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman suggests we can all improve communication with our immediate loved ones in five ways: through giving gifts, offering quality time, using words of affirmation, carrying out acts of service, and through physical touch.
Perhaps this is the language we need to use in the wider world too. We might chip away at global ressentiment, and tip the scales back in favour of love.
Bruno Wang, founder of the Pureland Foundation