30th Oct2019

‘Why We Hate’ Review (Discovery Channel)

by Chris Cummings


Why We Hate is a six-part documentary series that aired this October on Discovery Channel, and is an exploration into why human beings hate and how, if at all possible, we can overcome it. Directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Sam Pollard, this Stephen Spielberg produced series is both harrowing, depressing and terribly frightening, whilst also presenting hopeful points, images and stories of human empowerment, of fighting back against hatred, and of building bridges rather than walls.

I watched Why We Hate in just two sittings, and it wasn’t easy. Not because it was boring, or tedious, not because I was disinterested, but because of how heavy it is, how full-on it confronts the hatred of our cultures, of our history and of our current climate. It doesn’t shy away from the political walls being built, figuratively and literally, and how history should be learned form but seemingly isn’t. In the six episodes we witness a variety of experts delve into the psyche of humankind, showing, through historical photographs, video footage, interviews and first-hand stories, the kinds of tactics utilised by humanity to incite hatred in its various guises, from violence, dehumanisation, political feuds, war and genocide. The query of “why” is repeated by these people who “host” each episode. Why do we hate, why are we driven by hate, why can hate become so strong that human beings are willing to fight, attack, brutalise, torture and kill for it. Why can hate turn a human being into nothing less than a monster?

Upon viewing this and letting it all sink in, letting the sheer depth and weight of the series soak into me, I realised just what an undertaking it must have been. Taking just six hour-long episodes and attempting to highlight such a massive concept isn’t just brave but it’s incredibly daunting. The things we see here, from the historical photos from atrocities such as concentration camps during the horrific years of Nazi Germany to the atrocities of the Rwandan Genocide, to news footage of riots, protests and people beating one another in the streets are hard to view. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t view them. That’s something I feel is vital about this series, because the way it aims to understand and illuminate the issues it confronts is to go head-on, showing the death, dismay and horror that hate can result in. Racism is looked at here on many occasions, showing the horrors of slavery in America, right up to the modern day racism that exists around us every day, suffocating the very notion of peace or acceptance that many of us hope for.

Amidst the endless images and stories of sickening violence and tension, conflict and terror, there are moments of hope, compassion and change. We witness tales of the ability of human beings to change their cognitive behaviours, to chance their way of thinking in order to no longer hate, but instead to move past that and become a better person. Seeing interviews with a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church talking about her regret for being a part of such a hateful group, as well as a man who rehabilitated his views on race, leaving behind his racist attitudes in order to become better. The idea of “change” is spoken of a lot, with the frank fact that the human brain is designed to indeed change begin a huge factor in the potential of removing hatred from ourselves.

Why We Hate isn’t an easy series to watch and nor should it be, but I highly recommend it. It’s the kind of program you watch and wish everyone on the planet would watch too, because it has a lot to say, and it says it in a very honest manner, showing evidence of the things it speaks about, and looking to science as a way to consider a way out of these things. You will likely feel sick, angry, sad and horrified here, but hate is all around us, and this series does an incredible job at confronting the vast subject. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. We have a body, a brain and a heart. We live. We breathe. It should not matter where you come from, what colour your skin is, who you choose to love, what religion you choose or which football team you watch. There should be no political side that instigates hatred and violence, there should be no division in humanity based on horrific concepts such as racism and intolerance. If we could only accept the differences that exist in all of us and, so long as they don’t alienate or hate, show compassion, empathy and acceptance, then the world would be a much kinder, better and easier place to live.

Why We Hate attempts a great deal in such a short time, and I applaud it loudly. See it.


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