The Importance of Love
The world is unquestionably in peril. Authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. Climate change is accelerating. And the response to both so far has been lukewarm at best. Looking at things as they stand now, it is easy to think that the future will be bleak. Averting such an outcome will require a lot of things in coordination, but one thing we are desperately in need of is love. A lot of you may roll your eyes at this, but love is the most important thing in the world.
I don’t say this as some pithy, empty statement. I’m not implying “love conquers hate” in any naive, overly optimistic way — we desperately need to be realistic about what we are facing. Likewise, I’m not saying that you can love a violent fascist into submission — much of the problems we will face in the coming decades may be, at times, a literal fight. Far from everything is deserving of love.
What I am saying is you need to find love both for the world around you and — in a healthy, non-selfish way — love for yourself. You need to feel like they are worth it. Hope in the face of against seemingly impossible odds is often only possible when one cares deeply enough about what is at stake.
Too easy it is to get trapped in cynical spirals of bemoaning what seems to be a dying world — though such feelings are natural and are ones I have expressed myself. But it’s of dire importance that we push back against that urge. The cynical, ironic humor of the internet often fuels these fires, though. We get more caught up thinking about the bits of content that give us a short burst of dopamine than the actual lives on the line. Mutually shared cynicism becomes an easier coping mechanism than actual solidarity.
To put it bluntly, it enables to exist in a space where our own (often justified) fears are constantly validated but the empathy and meaningful human connection is at a minimal. One’s social satisfaction too easily becomes centered around mutual hopelessness rather than acts of solidarity that can help kindle that fire of hope in your heart struggling against the elements.
To make matters worse, this pattern plays directly into the strategies used by contemporary fascism. When someone begins to feel as if solutions are no longer possible, they become easy pawns of those who seek to use such crises to further cement their power. From another angle: in the age of social media, cynicism can be exploited as a cyber weapon.
The fascist goal is to create an environment of abject nihilism — one where those who would oppose them and organize against them are too fractured and in disarray to be effective. Social media algorithms, which essentially function as dopamine feedback loops, training itself on what makes you, as an individual, feel good are easy targets. The con is to get you to mistake that nihilism, which provides little meaningful satisfaction, for self-righteousness that operates in accelerationist ways.
Michael Tracey is the epitome of this phenomenon. Though the Mueller Report conclusively established Trump has deep financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Putin and that Russia had interfered heavily in our elections, he has performed fantastical mental gymnastics in the following weeks to defend his perspective that the Mueller Report was a waste of time and an intentional distraction on the part of the DNC. Why? Because for people who are driven to this point of cynicism, it no longer becomes about winning the future — just winning arguments.
Some degree of cynicism is understandable and, to a degree, inevitable. There is much to utterly despise about this unjust and troubled world of ours. Asking someone to love the world in the state it is in is no trivial demand. But we must find as much love for this world as possible — and let that love drive us forward to act. When we hate those who we must hate, such as fascists, it must be built on a love for not just ourselves, but for humanity. Otherwise, we will be left prone to engaging in reactionary and destructive behaviors against anything and anyone — even those who should be our allies in this fight.
There is a moment in the first Kingdom Hearts game where Sora has the keyblade stolen from him, and an antagonist taunts him over his lack of a weapon. Sora’s reply? “Although my heart may be weak, it’s not alone. It’s grown with each new experience. And it’s found a home with all the friends I’ve made. I’ve become a part of their heart, just as they’ve become a part of mine. And if they think of me now and then, if they don’t forget me, then our hearts will be one. I don’t need a weapon. My friends are my power!”
Does Sora then go on to succeed without a weapon? Fuck no. The keyblade suddenly rematerializes in his hands, and he succeeds only through force. It’s easy to dismiss this as a contrived plot point, but there is an important takeaway here, and one that is at the core of the intended message of the Kingdom Hearts series: that we have to fight first and foremost from a place of love. One may have to use force — which Sora and comrades do throughout — to stop “the darkness,” but without centering that love, you just enable or even succumb to that darkness yourself.
Fill your heart with as much love as it can fit. While it will not directly solve problems, it will help give you the resolve, the direction, and the principles necessary for what is ahead. Those little bits of each other’s hearts that we share with each other are what keep the hope and the solidarity alive. They are what enable us to act instead of succumb to the forces that seek to overwhelm us.
Love does not, by its own virtue, conquer hate. But without an abundance of love, we will succumb to that hate.