Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Hatred and liberty cannot coexist

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks pic 3 Copy

I have been following Lord Sacks, the chief rabbi of the Commonwealth, for a while on Twitter and have greatly enjoyed his writings ever since. Today’s post on his website is no exception and is well worth reading in full. Kicking off with a great quote by Martin Luther King:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness …
he then goes on to discuss one of the instructions Moses gives to his people: “Do not hate an Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land.” (Deuteronomy 23: 8). Lord Sacks emphasizes how counter-intuitive a law this is, given the exploitation and slavery the Israelites suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, instead of a spell of hospitality that the quote may suggest. His key point though is that hatred makes us slaves of the past and allows for past wrongs to persist in us even after they occurred. This does not mean that injustice ought to be forgotten, but only that its remembrance is to serve the purpose of prevention rather than retaliation. The key paragraph from Lord Sacks’s exegesis to me is the following though:
Hatred and liberty cannot coexist. A free people does not hate its former enemies; if it does, it is not yet ready for freedom. To create a non-persecuting society out of people who have been persecuted, you have to break the chains of the past; rob memory of its sting; sublimate pain into constructive energy and the determination to build a different future.
In many ways this is similar also to what St. Augustine, whose feast it is today, said:
“[He] he shall neither hate the man because of his vice, nor love the vice because of the man, but hate the vice and love the man. For the vice being cursed, all that ought to be loved, and nothing that ought to be hated, will remain.” (The City of God, 14:6)
Here Lord Sacks’ words can be read as saying that a fault’s or wrongdoing’s ‘cure’ needs to be accelerated and that those who have been wronged can take the first step. Maybe hatred is not a feeling I have myself, but there are certainly past events that have hurt or saddened me and I will strive to apply Lord Sacks’s advice to my attitude to them.