Ask Andrew W.K.: On School Shootings and Hatred
[Editor's note: Every Wednesday New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or -- no surprise here -- a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
Photo by Sandra Sorensen
In this week's column, a bit of a departure. Given the terrible massacre that took place this weekend at UCSB and the many troubling and hate-filled letters from disturbed young men Andrew gets at the email address above, he felt the need to address how to best deal with overwhelming feelings of rage, and how to suppress them rather than be consumed by them. - Brian McManus
Hate is such a strong word. It's easy to use and most of us say it all the time. We "hate that movie." Or we "hate that song." Or we "hate that food," etc. Just thinking about all this hate makes me hate the word hate. A good exercise is to try and catch ourselves whenever we want to use the word "hate" and think twice -- is it really necessary? What does all this hating really add up to?
When it comes to hating other people, we've really got to be careful. Hating someone we've never met usually doesn't make much sense. Yet it seems most of us do this on a daily basis. There are definitely people who deserve our scorn, but most of the time, it's hard to justify feeling extreme animosity towards a common stranger. We "hate" some performer on TV. We "hate" a team of athletes. We "hate" a politician and his party. In all these situations, hate isn't really what's going on inside us.
We might be mistaking our different cultural style for hate, or our competitive spirit for hate. We might be mistaking different moral points of view for hate. Even if you're a genuine misanthropist, and someone who honestly despises the entire concept of the human race, it still doesn't really justify hating all the individual people you come across.
Hatred usually stems from a deep fear or hurt rather than a deep dislike. If you're very honest with yourself, perhaps you can recall times when you thought you "hated" someone when actually it was just someone you were intimidated or hurt by. And then once you had an interaction with them, you realized they weren't so bad after all. It probably feels more empowering to say that you "hate" someone, rather than say you're "afraid" of someone. Strangers represent the unknown, and that uncertainty breeds anxiety and fear. Remember that you hating a random person is no different than a random person hating you.
Perhaps you've had a lot of bad experiences with people you actually knew well, where they've abused you or let you down. In those cases, we must rise above the hurt rather than feed into it. The people who are mean to us are actually giving us a chance to become stronger and more resilient. They want to lash out, to help justify their own hatred and taunting, but we must be more focused than that. We must take a deep breath and move on to other things. We can help each other to look beyond the cruelty surrounding us and see that the goodness in life is still there.
We must try and humble ourselves. We must comfort each other and help rescue each other from the brink of madness and despair. We must see ourselves as equals -- no more or less special than anyone else. We must work to put ourselves in other's situations and have compassion for their pain and frustrations. These are the foundations of humanity, and we aren't fully human if we can't experience and fathom the concept of another person's existence and inherent worth. No matter how different or foreign someone else's life may seem to us, they're still a person with just as much value, whether we like them or not.
We don't have to like everyone, but we do have to try and love everyone. We must focus on love even when it's hard, even when we feel someone doesn't deserve it. We must find a way to relate to everyone, or we'll end up ultimately destroying ourselves and adding more pain to the world. Being a human isn't an easy task -- it takes constant effort and dedication and patience. Being alive and being human are two different things. In order to truly experience life for all it can be, we must search for common ground and live with humility. Every person is different, yet the fact that each of us is unique is the one thing we all have in common.
That's the miracle of humanity -- that we can work to get along even when we stand apart. War, violence, and inhumanity occur when we force ourselves to stop thinking of the other person as equal and start thinking only of ourselves. We may not always be able to peacefully co-exist, but we must strive for it. That must remain our ultimate goal, as difficult as it may be to achieve.
So the next time you feel hatred welling up inside you, stop and examine it. Where is it really coming from, what is it really accomplishing, and how can we better direct all that emotion and energy?
Maybe the person you were hating was actually just a friend you hadn't made yet?
Our hearts are strong enough and big enough to love everyone. It's not easy but it's crucial to our mutual survival, now more than ever.
- Andrew W.K.
P.S. No matter how angry or full of hate you're feel, there's someone out there who can relate to you, who will listen to you, and who cares about you. Stay strong. It's never as bad as it seems. Don't hurt others, and don't hurt yourself.