Your parents probably told you that ‘hate’ was a strong word and not to be used lightly – mine did, anyway. At some point or another, most of us forget this and begin to use it casually in conversation; “I really hate that advert” for example. The interesting thing for me is that the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that contains it is almost always that which holds most emphasis by the person that speaks it. It’s a word that holds our respect even when used improperly.
But what ‘hatred’ really means and whether its use can ever be justified takes a little more thinking than a throwaway comment about a cheesy advertising slogan. To me, hatred represents a seemingly irredeemable repugnance and dislike for a person or thing. Now, the dictionary disagrees with me on this, insisting that hatred can be described simply as “intense dislike.” The reason why I stand by my definition over that of the dictionary’s in this instance is that the dictionary is a representation of language as it is used in its current state. This is why pathetic excuses for words like ‘selfie’ find their way into the dictionary; if people consistently use a sound to represent a thing enough that it becomes generally accepted, then it becomes a word. So people have diluted the meaning of the word ‘hate’ over time by expressing their dislike for petty things like television advertising. I stand by my definition because of the respect we still seem to have for the word even when used carelessly in these situations.
Anyway, I’ve managed to digress as I so often do. Can hatred be justified? Short answer: yes. Long answer: sometimes. It’s at this point I realise that the long answer isn’t all that much longer than the short one – so I’ll expand. For hatred to be reasonable I think we can agree that the subject must have a negative impact on you, otherwise there’s nothing to dislike or be repulsed by, and it must be defined by its impact, else it is redeemable. So, in short, you can justifiably hate anything that falls within these highly selective criteria.
To explain, I shall draw up one of my famously extreme examples, in this case the murder of a child. There are things you can hate in this scenario and things I think you shouldn’t. I’ll start with things you can hate – the act of murder being the obvious candidate. A murder is characteristically negative and can only be defined by the extinction of someone’s life, thus fulfilling all of the criteria. Now on to things you shouldn’t hate – firstly, the murder weapon. People say they hate guns, which seems fair when you see what they can do and what they have already done in the world… but this does flout my criteria I’m afraid. Obviously, guns can have a pretty negative impact on people, I won’t dispute that, but I don’t believe that they are defined by this impact; that undoubtedly falls to the act of shooting someone. People will argue that guns weren’t designed for anything else but I think that’s irrelevant. Yes, they can be seen as a symbol for murder but that doesn’t make them murder and I think that distinction is very important.
Lastly, is it acceptable to hate the murderer? That’s an interesting one – some people would say ‘definitely’ and you can understand why. Others would say ‘only if they showed no remorse,’ which seems equally, if not more, sensible. I would say ‘no.’ Let me explain myself. We said that it was justifiable to hate something that was defined by its impact, else it was redeemable. After all, you can do nothing to change the past – you are only who you are in each moment, so showing remorse allows you to be redeemed. If they show no remorse then they can’t be redeemed so you can hate their thoughts at least. But should you hate them as a person? I can see how this is a bit of a grey area and I would still say ‘no.’ This is because I would argue that this person is mentally ill. I would argue that they never chose to be a person who showed a disregard for human life, that they should be rehabilitated, and not persecuted. But this is a question of free will and one that I know many people will disagree with. It is for you to decide what you think about that.