Transformative Hate: An Unlikely Exercise

Three frogs in a pot debating terminology. One says they’re in a pan, the other says its a pot, the third says its a kettle. The pot is labeled ‘climate change summit.’
From PenLive.com

My May newsletter goes out today and it feels dangerous. Granted, it doesn’t take much for me to feel like I’m trespassing the bounds of polite (female) society, but so much of pandemic rhetoric has been about good vibes. As though, we’re being asked to float around to Bob Marley in our heads (don’t worry, be happy).

To be honest, I’m tired of good vibes. (This is why I feel dangerous.) There are hugely important, dark, terrible things happening in our country and in the world. And to be honest, I don’t want my response to that darkness to be: take care of yourself, focus on what you can control, focus on the good in your life.

I’m conflating macro and micro perspectives here. And yes, many people need to learn to take time for themselves and be generous to their needs. So what I’m actually talking about is a social norm of feeling the pressure to be positive, to not be a downer.

My newsletter feels dangerous because in one of my #ExpandingBoundaries2021 exercises I suggest that you can write a poem focusing on gratitude where every line starts with “I’m grateful for…” OR you can write a poem where every line starts with “I hate when….”

screen shot of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow staring agahst at his hand.

Just typing the word ‘hate’ gives me a visceral body response. I’m not supposed to hate. Its ugly. It ruins the good vibes and grows ugliness like Jack Sparrow’s black spot.

But perhaps we could consider what we lose by having societal norms that push for positivity so much that we’re not allowed to hate? Bad people hate. The ‘other’ side hates. But we’re better than that. The topic of my newsletter this month is the future of climate change and how hard it is for humans to appreciate the time scale of planetary change to see the catastrophe that is coming. I argue that if we’re going to mitigate that catastrophe, we’re going to have to allow for a little hate. Hate, I have decided instigates change. Hate is powerful.

If we’re not allowed to express hate, it not only devalues our feelings, it defangs the perception of true evil being perpetuated by the powerful at the expense of the not so powerful. By allowing myself to hate, I keep myself from being complacent. I don’t want to forget the deliberate actions of a very small portion of the world’s population who believe that making money is a moral obligation that stops for nothing.

I wrote both a gratitude poem and a hate poem this weekend. What I discovered is that when I write about gratitude, I think about small personal things: having a house, my cats, my spouse with his ‘real job’ that makes my ‘not real jobs’ possible.

But when I write about hate, I think about large things. Things that don’t directly affect my life, but they are being done seemingly with my consent because it is impossible for regular people to consent to capitalism. And I feel powerless. I am, actually quite powerless. This is a valid feeling.

My Hate Poem (The Climate Change Edition)

I hate when politicians claim they support clean energy but do nothing to limit investments or the profitability of the petroleum industry.

I hate when misinformation politicizes and divides an issue that will eventually impact everyone

I hate when companies greenwash their carbon footprint for the sake of good PR

I hate when I pull out my two bins on trash day and look down my street and see a line of driveways with only one bin.

I hate when women being assaulted is part of the expected costs of doing business.

I hate when people argue that cold temperatures mean climate change isn’t real.

I hate when I go to the store and produce can only be purchased in plastic packaging.

I hate when state police are hired by foreign companies to protect their interests against American citizens.

I hate when I ride my bike in the same place I rode as a child. Where once I screamed in terror cruising through grasshoppers sunning themselves that then flew into my face and got caught in my hair when I disturbed them. Now there are one or two the whole ride.

Remember that old fable about the frog slowly cooking to death in a pot of water? He never jumps out because the temperature rises so slowly? That’s life on this planet. What do you hate today? There’s plenty to choose from. Would you ruin the positive vibes of your social feed by sharing some of that rage with the world? Link your sources. Build a conversation.

Jaye Viner knows just enough about everything to embarrass herself at parties she never attends. Her novel, Jane of Battery Park, arrives in August