Love holds the potential for political change

“Loving people is the only thing worth living for.” – Søren Kierkegaard

I believe that all kinds of discrimination, hate and suffering can only be destroyed by love.

In her book All About Love: New Visions, the philosopher Bell Hooks (or, as she prefers, bell hooks) defines love as the will to extend or expand oneself for the purpose of allowing the spiritual self to flourish—including the selves of others. According to the existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, love is edifying. Love is a verb; it does something. But that is not all! In a letter to his then-fiancée Regine Olsen, Kierkegaard wrote, “Freedom is the element of love.”

Love requires freedom. Or only free people can love.

I propose an understanding of freedom as being with friends. Freedom is the manifestation of a complete or meaningful relationship. Every relationship always assumes something that is not oneself. Love cannot therefore be reduced to self—love is, rather, an external force that arouses joy.

Seen in this light, I believe that a will to love—fundamentally—tries to overcome the devastating sadness that comes in the face of exploitation, discrimination, abuse of power, violence and death.

Works of Love, Kierkegaard argues that only love is edifying.Not anger. In connection with the religious injunction to love your neighbour as yourself, he emphasizes that the term neighbour does  not refer to your race, your gender or your nation, but all people. Anyone, he writes. All people should be loved as equals (not necessarily loved equally).

That is, treated equally. Treated with the same respect and rights.

With Kierkegaard’s call to love all human beings as equals, he turns love into a political concept that destroys the damning group identity politics of the time. Love possesses such a liberating potential. It confirms the wisdom of Hannah Arendt, when she said that evil is the result of our thoughtlessness, our reluctance to think well and thoroughly.

Mindlessness is associated with a lack of attention, an inability to love.

Love is the vitality with which all critical thinking begins. It’s like a friendly bond that can make you and me wiser. That which is part of life in all its complexity: everything that breathes, shits and dies.

Love can only flourish when we—all of us—recognize that none of us own life, but rather, that it is on loan. It is the manifold powers of life that we cherish, not our ego, race or territory.

Love holds the potential for political change. It happens when all people are loved, as equals.