How Much More Should We Love Each Other?
The question seems rather odd when talking about political and social matters, but not senseless when we see how emotionally saturated the public sphere has become. Emotions are slowly but surely diluting the rational foundations of Western civilization, and it seems that love is the most pervasive of all.
The concept of love is probably as old as the human neo-cortex. Throughout Western history, it was a subject handled mostly by artists, philosophers and priests, with the latter managing to politicize love during the ages of Christian clero-fascism. During the Enlightenment movement, emotions were set aside for a couple centuries, only to be reintroduced again in the 20th century as a symptom of the advent of parliamentary democracy and populism. Under democracy, people`s feelings become important again, often more important than the empirical and the factual.
Love, particularly, made its entry in the hippie era as a part of anti-war rhetoric and it survived as a stable trend pursued by social activists, new-agers and celebrities who wanted to look like they actually cared about politics. Today, love is truly everywhere, in mainstream media, on the Internet, in art, the air, in human social and political discourse. We are constantly being bombarded by messages of how we should love each other more, how love can save the world, how to make love instead of war, etc.
It is also true that people do love each other at an ever increasing rate. I see couples in love all the time, people having children out of love, loving families, friends that love each other in a friendly way, people that love animals, etc. I don’t see a lack of love these days, and find no positive causation between that and the state of the world today. Quite on the contrary.
Love is a subjective category; it can be interpreted in many different ways, and can lead to disparately different outcomes. From happy families to gruesome murders; from progress to holocaust; Nazis really did love Germany and its people; Mao loved the Chinese and was a nationalist; the love of God. We all probably share the same angst regarding groups of armed people loving someone or something. It is unavoidable that love has much too often played the role of a major emotion driving the greatest humanitarian disasters in human history.
As I said before, even in our most “advanced” liberal democracy, love has already caused too much havoc leading to runaway self-enslavement. On the left there is a whole rhetoric that evolved around love. We have a “welfare” system based on “loving the poor,” so if you oppose the massive extortionist apparatus, than you “hate” the poor. In this dichotomy no other explanations are possible so it is used mainly as emotional blackmail. The same goes for right-winger body inspection mania. They love you and care about your health. This is why they throw you in a cage and ruin your life and health if you do stuff that they believe can ruin your life and health. All this is impossible to grasp from a rational point of view, but from the point of view of a loving and caring parent, not that much. And this is one of the most important reasons why its dangerous to spill out love in our social and political surroundings. Its not just love that spills out, it’s also parental instincts. This loving/caring relationship is absolutely needed in a family surrounding with a limited number of familiar people, but once we apply those emotions on largely abstract and politically defined social groups, all hell breaks loose. Not because people hate each other on a larger scale. Its because loving/caring emotions have different evolutionary roles and simply don’t work with arbitrary political constructs consisting of hundreds of millions of total strangers.
Like religion, love is intimate and should remain for private use only. Instead of preaching about lack of love, we should be talking more about treating other people with respect and dignity because respect and dignity have universal meaning. The neighbor that reported my unlicensed lemonade stand can claim he did it because he “loves me” and is “concerned” that my business could be “swept away by market forces.” But he can never claim he acted with respect and dignity, not even in his wildest statist dreams.
In the end, the most advanced societies in history were built around rational systems of mutual respect, not on irrational systems of love (or hate, among other emotions). In socio-political terms, love mostly ushered militant collectivism and crazy tyrants. Love didn’t make the poor richer. It didn’t cure the sick. Its was people cooperating with mutual respect that did.
I’m sorry John, respect is what we need.
* Mirko Bojadzijevski is a 36 year old artist, illustrator, a hobbyist social and political analyst and a loosely-defined libertarian. He believes libertarianism is a very poorly defined label and can mean many different things in different societies. He is from Macedonia, which is a post-socialist kleptocracy struggling with corruption and massive government abuse problems – a perfect place to stress-test every conceivable statist idea. He believes that everything that can go wrong with the government, will go wrong in Macedonia. Mikro has a keen interest in getting into the content writing business.
Image: Denver Public Library