“Can you guys tell me which is the most important fuel of social progress?”
That was thrown into a gathering of friends, thank god! With me alone, I KNEW that any question would only be a prelude to dissecting my shortcomings. As it was, all I had to do was keep silent and I would escape unscathed.
There was a silence for a bit and then people started talking all at once.
“The pursuit of happiness…”
“Making the world a fair place for all to thrive in…”
As is usual, the person who asked the question sits on judgment on all offerings. AND this one smiled smugly shaking his head at everyone.
“What is it in your most exalted opinion?” asked a friend, sarcastically.
“Hatred,” said the sage.
I knew I should have kept my mouth shut but…
“Hatred? Say love, instead,” I yelped, before caution asserted itself.
Immediately, everyone was looking at me condescendingly.
“Love?” said the sage. “I know that the first time you ever thought to wash your clothing was when you thought you were in love. THAT is individual progress. When was the last time any Society moved forward impelled by love…for anything?”
“Love, compassion, empathy…call it what you will,” I said, stung by the insulting tone. “Why, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha, Jesus…”
“Ye gods! The man is a moron,” he said, and the others nodded. “Tell me, has Society become more non-violent, less greedy, started loving its neighbors or whatever? From those times to now? Yet, Gandhi propagated non-violence, the Buddha prescribed freedom from expectations and Jesus…”
“Yeah, yeah, love thy neighbor! But you cannot say…”
“Oh! Can’t I? Listen, extraordinary people, prophets can sway a populace in their times towards being a more loving, empathetic people. Unfortunately, the human animal is so constructed that their impact barely outlives their lifetime.”
“But, hate? How can hate cause progress?”
“What unifies people more than a common enemy? Pushes them to greater efforts than they ever conceived possible? Take World War I and II. When did science and technology ever move that fast? What started as useful to the war effort is what lead to nuclear power plants, and decision theory. Why, even the Internet owes its origins to the armed forces. Progress fueled by hate, all of it.”
“Yeah, fine! In Economics, though…”
“Competition is but diluted hatred, much like the Olympics was a substitute for war. But for laws, so-called unhealthy competition would be the norm – in other words defeat the other guy by any means. The fact that you provide a socially acceptable outlet for hate, for going one up on your opponents, does not mean that the milk of human kindness is fueling progress.”
These guys beat me every time. I mean, when they talk it all sounds plausible. When I say what I think are convincing arguments, they make it sound like the babbling of a baby.
I was not willing to give up…yet.
“You cannot say the same thing about social progress. Human rights, the move towards egalitarian societies, even climate change…”
“AND those ideas are propagated how? By praising those who practice those values, highlighting the achievements in those areas…”
“Are they not?”
“Are they? What do you always hear…the war against inequality, the battle against patriarchy etc. What gets the most support – praise for those who do the right thing or diatribes against those who do not? What constitutes the bulk of all ideological posts of any sort? Insults against those who do not agree or heartwarming stories about those who work for it? How do you get people to unite – by asking them to work FOR something or fight AGAINST something?”
“You are playing with semantics. The hatred there is for those ideas, not for people. If THAT sort of hatred is what you mean…”
“Nope! Look, when do people scream on Social media and on the streets? Merely for the idea? Nah! It is when you can give a FACE to that idea. A person, a government, whatever who is seen to stand for that idea. It is hatred for that person, that government, which galvanizes people to concerted action.”
“Your point is? That it is bad?”
“Nope! Just that humanity is a strange species which needs to hate in order to progress!”