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It’s the conviction that certain common human emotions are evil and harmful and wrong, and the way to make a better world is to get rid of them in one way or another.That belief is taken for granted throughout the industrial societies of the modern West, and it’s been welded in place for a very long time, though—as we’ll see in a moment—the particular emotions so labeled have varied from time to time.During its heyday, people in Britain and America loudly proclaimed exactly the same attitudes toward sex that their great-grandchildren now display toward hate.If you wanted to define anything as utterly beyond the pale, you just had to label it as “immoral”—in the jargon of the time, this meant “sexual”—and the vast majority of people were expected to recoil from it in horror.Back in the Victorian era, the privileged classes defined themselves as the Good People, the moral, virtuous, pure people, which in the language of the time meant the people who didn’t have sexual desires.
The class dimension of all this rhetoric about hate, by the way, is one of the most telling things about it.
No political campaign back in the day, as far as I know, used the slogan PURITY TRUMPS IMMORALITY, but then political sloganeering hadn’t yet decayed into the kind of empty mouthing of buzzwords on display at present. By the way, yes, I know that comparing current attitudes toward hate with Victorian attitudes toward sex will inspire instant pushback from a good many of my readers.
After all, sexual desire is natural and normal and healthy, while hate is evil and harmful and wrong, right?
It was also something that all of them experienced.
That’s where the comparison begins to bite, because insisting that sexual desire was beastly, horrid, filthy, etc.If you’re speaking in public and you want to be sure that everyone in the crowd will beam approval at you, all you have to do is denounce hate.At the far end of this sort of rhetoric, you get the meretricious slogan used by Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential campaign last year: LOVE TRUMPS HATE.A culture of pretense, hypocrisy, and evasion springs up to allow them to vent the unacceptable emotion on some set of acceptable targets without admitting that they were doing so.