I generally spend at least half an hour a day practicing genocide. I refer, of course, to weeding the garden. Some green things just don’t belong.
It’s not that I HATE weeds. True, I get pissed at the intransigence of stinky weed, sticky weed, thorny weed, ejaculation weed, etc. But I understand their imperative to survive and replenish the Earth, starting with our garden, and I don’t intend to demean their botanical dignity by disparaging nicknames: it’s just the easiest way to describe them.
But I do feel, in process of wielding my digger, that I’m tapping into a disturbing psycho-political dimension. I’m seeking to purify. It’s what I remember as a small child swatting flies outdoors on my grandparents’ porch or squashing a vagrant ant just because it’s there. It’s the Puritans purging sin. It’s the satisfaction of erasing the chalkboard. It’s patrolling the Web for any linguistic peccadillo. Call it hatred-lite.
Or maybe it needs another word. “Hate” is as slippery a word as “love.” It doesn’t really resemble hatred as we’ve come to think of it in melodramatic action movies, with Nazis grinding their teeth as their blood pressure soars and their kidneys erupt. It’s evoked endlessly to characterize cops, political parties, races, genders, movie reviewers, etc.
The assertion that Inuit languages have an inordinate number of words for “snow” has been largely disproven, but it might be productive to consider that as “hate” plays such a great role in our culture, we need to develop a wider range of words to distinguish its varieties: does it come fluttering down gently, gracing the trees, or blow with blizzard force?
It’s maybe a too-useful word. How much crime, violence, stupid speech or actions that arise apparently from “hate” are the direct result of fear, frustration, humiliation, a desire to tidy up the human race, or that maddening weakness of the playground wimp that magnetically attracts the bully’s fist? We’ve written quite a number of plays, sketches, and prose fiction involving very ugly behavior, but in none of them would I say that the ROOT CAUSE is “hate.” Certainly there are cultures that make it simpler to make the leap to violence, exclusion, etc., but I don’t believe that anyone is “taught to hate,” though we’re taught many things that may lead to it.
I say this only because we’re all looking for ways to mitigate the rampant violence and division in our culture, which makes it all the more urgent to pin down actual motives, not just the blanket phrase-of-the-day. These are just some of the inconvenient thoughts that flit through my head as I go forth to do my daily weeding.