A wee guest post today from Duncan Thorp, who’s previously written for us about social enterprise. Thanks Duncan!

hate greed violenceHere’s a simple experiment. Have a think about the names of political campaigns, protests or social issues you’re involved with or know about. How many of these involve being against something or use the language of “fight”, “enemy” or “anti” this or that? Are these the ones that get you most excitable, angry and passionate?

This seems to be a constant theme of what we see in progressive and non-conservative politics. In fact it seems that sometimes we’re so hateful that we weirdly really, really hate the hate of our enemies, and so the cycle continues in a sea of increasing hate.

This became most evident (boringly predictably) when that old lady died recently. You know the one we really, really HATE.

But as progressives, supposedly campaigning for a better world, is this not a strange state of affairs? Why is rhetoric and campaigning not simply dominated by our positive vision for transforming society?

Don’t get me wrong, we need to identify the power hungry ego freaks who are doing bad things in society. But why does this have to be the overwhelming majority of the time? Those who are attacking the poor, those who are condemning the majority to a generation of cuts, those who exploit and abuse their power, the bankers, the politicians, The American imperialists, conservatives, right-wing extremists, fascists, monarchists, dictators, reactionaries, the rich… ok, check your blood pressure now. Is your heart beating faster after reading those words? Do you feel stronger, angrier and ready for the fight? That’s the problem.

Yes, we need to identify issues, and indeed individuals and political and economic systems, that, we believe, are causing crises. Without this identification and analysis we cannot of course put forward the positive vision. But how much energy is directed towards grandstanding and political rhetoric that will achieve nothing apart from make us feel all warm and righteous inside? Hate is not only self-harm, it’s really exhausting, it makes no-one happy. Two Minutes Hate anyone?

If you’re against the abolition of the welfare state then make your voice heard. But what are you actually doing in practical, positive terms to help those most in need? Have you asked your neighbours on benefits if they are ok? Have you lent them some money or invited them for dinner? Have you given money to a hardship fund of some kind? Have you volunteered your time to help tenants living in social housing? Or is negative ideology more important? Welfare cuts are real, sick attacks on the poor are real. Aggressive protest marches, while important as part of the mix, will change close to zero in terms of government policy.

We need to seriously question whether this wider negative culture of “fight” and “anti” campaigning works at all. It’s evident in progressive circles, for example in trade union movements and anti-poverty campaigning. We are, of course, anti-poverty but we are strangely never pro-wealth, despite the fact this is what we are, by definition, saying. We want wealth for everyone. So why not say it? Why the negative focus on what we’re lacking or what is missing? (Don’t even mention the bizarre “not for profit”, defining what a sector is not). It could be argued that, simply in terms of rhetoric, Thatcherism’s 1980’s focus on wealth as opposed to poverty was a better way of gaining public support. Whether this positivity, i.e. the word “yes”, will work in the Scottish referendum campaign remains to be seen.

This all means a fundamental reassessment of our psychology. I’m not talking about some kind of delusional law of attraction, mysticism, or smile or die positivity, but it’s focusing on what we want, not what we hate. The ego needs enemies, so work on getting rid of it. We need to rediscover the love, (wo)man.

The language of hate should be reserved for the many people who hate immigrants, the poor, gay people, women and ethnic minorities. Progressive people should act like thinking people not like left-wing reactionaries. It’s time to stop parroting the hate of others and – for the majority of the time – allow your beautiful vision of a better world to take centre stage.