The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for hatred


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The Independent Culture

Ailment: Hatred

Cure: Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell

Hate is a violent emotion, and if you harbour it in your heart it will devour you from the inside out. Whether it's traffic wardens you hate, the colleague who sits opposite you at work, or someone who has caused you a genuine grief, your hatred will get you nowhere. See it for the self-destructive poison it is, and banish it without delay.

This is easier said than done, of course; but reading (or re-reading) George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four will help.

Penned in 1949, Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian society in which everyone is being watched, and controlled, by an all-seeing Big Brother, presents hatred as a free-floating emotion which attaches itself to its target at random.

During 'Hate Week', the people of Oceania are dispatched on rousing marches and subjected to emotive speeches designed to fuel their hatred of the state's number-one enemy, Eurasia. By day six, they have been whipped into such a frenzy that had they got their hands on any individual Eurasians, they'd have torn them limb from limb.

Then, suddenly, word goes round that the enemy is no longer Eurasia, but Eastasia. Posters are ripped off walls, banners are quickly replaced. The crowd barely misses a beat. Soon the "feral roars of rage", that only a moment ago had been directed at Eurasians, are being redirected at the Eastasians.

The ease of the switch certainly gives one pause for thought. Does hatred have anything to do with the object of hate at all?

If you know you have a tendency to cultivate this ugly emotion, read Nineteen Eighty-Four and ask yourself this question: if the object of your opprobrium were to disappear in a puff of smoke (we can always hope), would you find something or someone else on whom to vent your venom instead?