Is hate a useless emotion

Martha Nussbaum: "Fear can be very useful"


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TIME CAMPUS: What about fear? Can it also be of use to us?

Walnut: Like love or compassion, fear has two sides. If someone fears that the refugees who are now increasingly entering Europe want to kill him, then this fear is irrational and useless. In some cases, however, the fear of death can also be very useful in avoiding it. The same applies if the fear of climate change prompts you to take actions that protect the environment. It is precisely this fear that should be encouraged politically. The question is whether the emotion is fed by positive values.

TIME CAMPUS: What about the anger, where does it come from?

Walnut: Anger is much more complex than fear. Aristotle defined it well: First of all, you have to be convinced that something that is close to your heart has been damaged. Anger is about insecurity and loss of status. Second, one has to believe that it was wrongly done. Finally, anger includes a desire for retaliation. And of course that doesn't help anyone.

TIME CAMPUS: Do you know the term "angry citizens"? It is often used in Germany in connection with supporters of the right-wing populist association Pegida.

Walnut: We saw something similar in Donald Trump's election campaign. He's perverted in anger the fear of white unemployed men who fear migrants will take their jobs away from them. We observe this helplessness in the face of the alleged decline of the "world of the white man" in many places.

TIME CAMPUS: Take the Brexit vote in Great Britain: uncertainty, dissatisfaction and rejection seem to have driven the voters. Has anger become popular?

Walnut: I think right-wing parties are very consciously instrumentalizing emotions for their negative goals. We need to use emotions for our positive goals to counter the influence of the populists. And I think it's already happening in a variety of ways.

TIME CAMPUS: An example?

Walnut: After the horrific, hate-driven massacre in the Orlando nightclub, there were vigils across the United States and people made speeches about love being stronger than anger and hate.

TIME CAMPUS: This was nationwide grief after an unexpected disaster, not institutionalized politics.

Walnut: Yes, but the gay and lesbian community showed no anger towards the perpetrator, who was probably gay himself, because they have no hate policy, but above all empathy and awareness of the doubts and failure of others.

TIME CAMPUS: Can this also be observed in other areas?

Walnut: America is big and very heterogeneous, but a lot is happening at the local level. Be it the speeches of a priest from the neighborhood church or partnerships between the police and the churches to reduce racist violence in the cities. A very practical example of countering hatred can be found near my university in Chicago. There is an ice rink that has been made freely accessible to everyone free of charge. This is where richer students now meet the poorer African American community. That was the goal, and it has been shown to reduce racism as well as crime.