The Opposite of Love

In memory of Brian Haw

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity"

— George Bernard Shaw
Kurds at a demonstration holding a Kurdish flag
Kurds at a demonstration holding a Kurdish flag

Love & hate

The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.

Hate, in fact, is a form of love, since you cannot hate what you have not previously loved, or which has not hurt or wounded or threatened that which you love. Hate is love bent out of shape. Hate is love which is itself wounded. Hate is love broken or betrayed, tortured or defiled, raped or murdered, molested or mutilated. Hate is love when confronted by injustice, or by violence, or by cruelty or by hate. Hate breeds hate, just as love breeds love. Hate is love grown bitter. It is love roused to anger. It is love forced to witness the destruction of innocence. It is love in shackles. It is love enslaved. It is love deprived of hope or freedom or a say over its future. It is love humiliated, made to crawl, love whose spirit is broken. It is love’s ache at the loss of a loved one. It is love’s rebellion at the corrosion of liberty. It is love’s stand against the darkness of repression.

Hate is love’s wound.

Demonstration

I remember being at a demonstration a few years back. It was a Kurdish demonstration against the Turkish government, then engaged in the wholesale repression of Kurdish culture and Kurdish identity.

There were about 20 or 30 people there. It was outside a government department in Whitehall as the British government were helping the Turkish government at the time by means of financial loans. Most of the people were members of the Kurdish Diaspora, people who had fled the border areas in South Eastern Turkey where the fight for Kurdish independence was taking place. This was back in the 90s.

There was some drumming going on, and some of them were dancing. They had their arms linked in a line and were doing this elaborate stepped dance involving handkerchiefs being waved in the air. I remember it very clearly: the kicking and the dancing and the trills and whoops of excitement. There were a few cars lined up by the side of the road including an old VW van, onto which one of the demonstrators was attaching some posters with information about their cause.

I was there with my friend Paul, who knew some of these people personally. He introduced me to the man who was decorating the VW van. The man smiled and said hello, and shook my hand formally. He had gentle, kind eyes.

Paul said, “show my friend the pictures.”

And the gentle-eyed Kurd opened a folder, and showed me the first picture. He said, “these are photographs taken by Turkish soldiers as trophies. They sell for a lot of money in Istanbul.”

It was an enlarged colour photocopy of an ordinary snapshot. It showed a Turkish soldier in a snowy, mountainous landscape wearing a blue beret. He was kneeling down on one knee, grinning triumphantly, holding up a pair of objects in his hands. It was hard to make out what they were at first. They were about the size of footballs, and, indeed, that’s what I took them to be. But then my eyes focused on the detail, and I saw what they really were. They were severed heads.

The Turkish soldier was holding them up by the hair as trophies. The snow was stained with patches of blood, as blood dripped down from the ripped tendons of the neck, as blood stained the soldier‘s hands. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. The eyes in the two heads were rolled backwards into the skulls. Open-mouthed, they seemed to be screaming some unimaginable blasphemy to the sky. I immediately began to cry. The picture was like a jolt of extreme violence, like something from a nightmare. Ordinary Londoners passed by in motorcars, blissfully unaware.

Paul was looking at me pointedly, while the quiet-eyed Kurd spoke to me in a gentle even voice.

“Yes,” he said, “I have seen 23 of my family killed. My brother was killed. The Turks came to the village and called everyone out of doors. They took ten of them and shot them in the head while the others watched. The people were made to clap. If they didn't clap, they too were shot. My brother was 14 years old.”

There were several more of these photographs, of soldiers holding up severed heads, sometimes one head, sometimes two. Sometimes a number of soldiers would be standing in front of the headless corpse while one of the soldiers held up the head.

Then my Kurdish friend showed me another photograph. This, too, was like a snapshot. It was even arranged like one. It showed a family ranged around in someone‘s living room, on their knees, posed, looking at the camera. There are family trinkets displayed on shelves, and pictures and wall-hangings on the walls. Before them is a dead body. The body is naked, and has long white gashes along the legs. You can see the bone. The family consists of a woman and several children. The woman’s eyes are wild, though her face is held in a taught mask. The children just look towards the camera, eyes as deep and unfathomable as the eternal night.

My friend said, “this is the dead-man’s family. They are being made to pose by the corpse. Those wounds on his legs are where he has been tortured.”

I was utterly speechless. There weren't any words. In the whole universe there wasn’t a single word that meant anything anymore.

Opulence

I’ve never forgotten that moment. I remember going into a shop soon after to go to the toilet. There were all the products lined up in their various displays, looking shiny and new. But I couldn’t help seeing the blood that seemed to flow from the photographs underlying this conspicuous display of opulence all around me. I couldn’t help thinking of the murder of innocence.

So, now, imagine those children made to sit before the corpse of their beloved father while an enemy soldier takes a photograph. Their faces betray nothing of their feelings. But what will be seething in their hearts? What rage, what anger, will have been born there that day? What hatred? What acts of revenge? What future violence?

Hate breeds hate breeds hate breeds hate, but hate is born from love.

Now imagine that on a world scale: in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Syria, in Somalia, in Libya, in Bahrain. All over the world. Everywhere there is a war.

Thousands of corpses. Tens of thousands. Unimaginable numbers. Who knows how many corpses or how many children there are, just like these children, being tortured by the horrors of war? Who knows the scars on the heart of the world or how much blood has been accumulated there? How much sorrow, how much anger, how much violence, how much pain? How much love seeking revenge?

And you wonder why these photographs are not seen by everyone, all of these mutilated corpses in forgotten corners of the world: why they are not allowed on our TV screens. They should be on the front page of every newspaper: the consequences of war. We should see the bodies ripped apart, the innards spilling out of the wounds like the human sweetmeats they are. We should see the Mothers screaming for their dead children. We should see the fear in a Father’s eyes, the fear for their children, whom they cannot protect. We should see the children’s naked fear. We should see the broken bodies in the hospitals, the bloodstained sheets, the body parts. We should see the broken homes and the broken lives. We should be made to feel their pain. We should all be made to feel the consequence of our own indifference.

Because the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.

“If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be impossible to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the mangled corpses of schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan and listen to the wails of their parents, we would not be able to repeat clichés we use to justify war. This is why war is carefully sanitized. This is why we are given war's perverse and dark thrill but are spared from seeing war's consequences. The mythic visions of war keep it heroic and entertaining…

The wounded, the crippled, and the dead are, in this great charade, swiftly carted offstage. They are war's refuse. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they tell is too painful for us to hear. We prefer to celebrate ourselves and our nation by imbibing the myths of glory, honor, patriotism, and heroism, words that in combat become empty and meaningless.”

Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class

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Comments 28 comments

Die'Dre' profile image

Die'Dre' 5 years ago from The Great Pacific Northwest

Compelling read; strong article.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

So right, opposite of love is indifference!


DonDWest profile image

DonDWest 5 years ago from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Interesting take on showing photographs that demonstrate the true meaning of war. . .

I've had to deal with this first hand. I've had a few Hubs deleted due to posting such imagery. I would find the situation laughable if it wasn't so brutally true. Deleting my Hubs because Americans can't handle the violence? Sorry, doesn't register.

The censorship of war photography is a form of propaganda. The powers that be are downplaying the brutality of war.

A picture of a human severed head blown away by a mortar shell will no doubt churn up your stomach. That churning up of your stomach is called empathy and guilt. If we posted such pictures all over CNN and billboards, there would be no wars.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

True Don. That's why I didn't post up any photographs, but merely wrote about them. People should see the consequence of war, as I say in this piece.


DC Gallin 5 years ago

Those pictures are a symptom of underlying issues. I agree that hate is the other side of the coin we call love but showing more pictures of war and torture isn't necessarily going to make a difference. Viewers feel just more helpless and will become more 'indifferent' because indifference is the shield that keeps all those conflicting emotions at bay. Or else these pictures will feed the hate machine. Like in medicine we have to take a holistic approach and not treat the symptom but the underlying cause and what we really need to do is change the position of women in the world. They don't want to see their boys go to war after they've risked their own lives giving birth to them. War and torture is the consequence of disrespect towards mothers and the creation of life, the consequence of the brain laundry we call religion or education.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

The way it works is that the government with the aid of the media set up a narrative by which the war is made to appear "just", as it is in Libya right now. It becomes a kind of story in people's heads and the government can assume tacit support for their "just war". I think if people saw the real consequences of war they would be less likely to give that tacit support. I know that seeing those photographs changed me. I also don't want to get into a "men vs women" debate. Some women are part of the oppressed, some women take the sides of the oppressors and there are mothers on both sides. My main point here is to do with creating empathy for those that hate, because hatred has the same source as love. If you hate the hater you create more hatred. What I'm asking you to do here is to love the hater instead.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

It makes sense that the opposite of love is indifference. If you still care enough to hate you still have feelings towards the person or situation. I think you're right about the pictures.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

So one must first have loved the Nazi's in order to hate them later?

I'm not at all sure I agree with that conclusion. I hated a bully I knew in grade school from the first day I met him. I know I never loved him, because he attacked me on that first day.


robie2 profile image

robie2 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

Eloquent and passionate as always, CJ. Hate may be love's wound, but it is also fear's wicked step-mother. Whether it is Kurds and Turks, or Gauls and Romans, dividing the world into "us" and " them" always results in hatred born of fear rather than indifference. It seems to be hard-wired in humans. We are tribal animals in the extreme.

Seems we can only make war on people if we demonize them first to make our actions "just" and we all know that the " just war" depends entirely on whose ox is being gored and God is ALWAYS on "our side"

Indifference presumes a lack of passion. I would say that Hate is more like love turned inside out or the anti-love because both hate and fear are as passionate as love, but indifference just doesn't give a damn. Thanks for an interesting and provocative read as always.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Robie, there's more to this story yet. It is my view that the psychopaths, who are indifferent to anything but their own gratification, use hate as "love turned inside out" to promote their own requirements. So, I would say that Dick Cheney was utterly indifferent to the fate of the Iraqis whose deaths he was responsible for. He didn't hate them. They were used as part of his calculations, knowing full well that an attack upon Iraq would rouse the passions of the Iraqis and create more terrorism, for him to be able to justify the invasion which was a cover for the theft of Iraqi oil.

WillStarr: no that's not what I'm saying. Hate is born from love. The Nazis threaten that which we love, that's why we hate them. Your bully threatened your peace of mind and your dignity. I didn't say we always had to love those we hate first. You should read it again.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Except that's exactly what you said:

"Hate, in fact, is a form of love, since you cannot hate what you have not previously loved..."

Therefore, since I have not previously loved the Nazis, I cannot now hate them, according to your own words.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Followed by: "or which has not hurt or wounded or threatened that which you love." Read it more carefully please.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

A great read and thanks for sharing.

Take care

Eidddwen.


fen lander profile image

fen lander 5 years ago from Whitstable

Though you showed no pictures, you painted them with words most eloquently. I saw what you told us about as I read, and I agree that such images would have a powerful effect on the populations that would see them. I have witnessed though, young 'hoodies' in a Whitstable Bedsit watching Al Jazeera news feeds endlessly, waiting for the more honest/graphic depictions of war and death with eager excitement. Such images sometimes serve to excite a form of blood-lust in some folks, and start the de-sensitisation process off. Death is a kick for some watchers. Sick, sad, but true. I'm not saying the images shouldn't be shown though. Thanks Chris, a hub that got to the parts other hubs can't reach. And it's only 7am!


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

You might be right Fen. I can only say that seeing those pictures had a profound effect upon me.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Voted up, Chris, and shared at Facebook and elsewhere!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Hate is not a form of love, rather a transformation of it, as a butterfly is not a form of caterpillar but a wholly different entity arising from it and replacing it. I agree that hate does not materialize out of nothing and that its roots stem from love and belief betrayed.

Love and hate are forms of passion, of feeling, of emotion. Indifference, I agree, is something entirely other. It is a dead space conditioned by opulence in part, but also by a deeply seated delusion that any life different from one's own doesn't matter, or even may not exist. Indifference is lack of empathy.

You were fortunate to see those pictures in the hands of people for whom the images were reality, people who were able to convey to you the truth, in the setting you described at Whitehall, face-to-face, person to person.

Al Jazeera can't do this for the western world. We see their broadcasts in sound and images, as we do video games and crime shows: images and sounds that are very, very removed from our daily lives. And thus, Al Jazeera, effectively, has as much impact as a screen play: it may affect us for a moment, but it means little later as we drone on through our daily lives.

Thanks for this provocative essay.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Sally's Trove: yes, but you cannot deny the essential relationship between a butterfly and a caterpillar can you? Both are from the same source. Both are from the same root. Both are from the heart. That's my point. When we meet someone who hates with such a passion, we should empathise with them, as when we see the parents of children brutally murdered. Their hate towards the perpetrator is palpable isn't it?


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

On the issue of graphic images and their effect upon the morality and consciousness of the perpetrator nations: I'm reminded of that picture of the little girl burnt by napalm in Vietnam. I think that images such as that definitely helped to end that particular war.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

"The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference." Right. In so many cases I've seen that indifference just makes this world a little less wonderful.


flannery profile image

flannery 5 years ago from Elmhurst, PA

Two elderly sisters imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp were forced to watch another woman brutally beaten. The elder sister whispered, "Oh, I am so sorry for her." The younger, enraged and helpless, was astonished to understand that her sister was speaking of the Nazi guard, not the victim. The younger sister's rage was natural, but it was the elder, responding with empathy for the real victim, who knew that the guard's indifference to suffering was more wounding to her than to her victim. As Auden said, "Those to whome evil is done / Do evil in return." The only way to stop evil is with love for the one it seems natural to hate. Mr. Stone, I think you are one of those "ironic points of light" spoken of in Auden's poem.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks for that flannery, and I agree with elder sister. This isn't quite an evolved piece however. I think if I was to rewrite it now I would open it with "The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is greed." Might still do that, who knows? Thanks for your encouraging words. I do indeed have a heightened sense of irony.


flannery profile image

flannery 5 years ago from Elmhurst, PA

Isn't greed a form of indifference? A person who takes more than he needs doesn't consider the well-being of anyone but himself. Maybe the opposite of hate is generosity, putting the other guy's happiness before your own.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Love is a form of giving, greed a form of taking. That's what I was going to rap on. War is a form of collectivised theft, and those who wage it are indifferent to the plight of those who suffer by it. They do it to increase their personal power. It represents a calculation: knowing that it will elicit hatred which will elicit violence, they can unleash wars and seek the justification in the results, as is happening in Libya now. You attack a people, they are enraged, and commit atrocities, then, after the atrocities have been committed you say, "see, told you so, that's why we had to attack." But if they hadn't attacked there would have been no atrocities. Thus greed is the opposite of love, involving a coldly calculated act. Something like that. I haven't quite thought it out yet.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 2 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

There's too much hate and indifference in the world, as I see it! These atrocities are what men do.

Powerful words in your hub, Chris!


Blue Crow profile image

Blue Crow 2 years ago from Yorkshire

What Steve said... very powerful stuff. There was some very grim pictures (not as bad as you described) at the Olympic torch protest in London when China was hosting the games.

People spread hate like entertainment these days on social media, does my head in. I say challenge it, every time, challenge it!

RIP Brian =o((


Jason 22 months ago

I disagree. Love is the opposite of hate. Indifference is absence of both so there is no opposite. You don't have to loved to hate. It's saying life is opposite of death and its birth. Interesting take and I get what Elie was saying with the quote on apathy.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 22 months ago from Whitstable, UK Author

You're free to disagree Jason, of course, but whether you think that love and hate or opposite or not, I think it is perfectly clear that you DO have to have loved to hate, and the person who kills indifferently is far more frightening than the person who kills because he hates. The man who guides the drones that kills the wedding party, and who thinks of his victims as "bug splats" is more frightening and dangerous than the suicide bomber who blows himself up and who kills for revenge.

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