The Anatomy of Hate

October 1, 2018  • Institute Staff

Hate. It’s a word we teach children not to say, but few of us ponder its broader ramifications. Back in 1990, former Czech President Vaclav Havel, a multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominee, spoke about the global dangers of hatred. Two friends of the late dissident—Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state, and Michael Zantovsky, who worked for Havel and now runs his library—discussed Havel’s ideas about hatred in a modern context at a Society of Fellows event in Aspen this summer. Nationalism and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment, which have been gaining strength in the West, are antithetical to Havel’s values. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union and the war that fractured Yugoslavia, Havel warned of “a powder keg of latent hatreds and nationalistic passions.” His words were prescient. “It all came back to haunt us years later, and Havel saw it,” Zantovsky said. What’s more, because globalization is faceless, personal identity becomes tribal. “If my identity hates your identity,” Albright added, “then it’s nationalism and hypernationalism, and that’s where Havel foresaw the identity issue as central.” Collective hatred becomes much more dangerous than individual hatred. “It’s a process in which hatred gets legitimized,” Zankovsky said. For more on the Society of Fellows and how to join, go to