Hater. Rarely has one word suffered such a vast and comprehensive fall from grace. Once used powerfully by icons of the civil rights movement to symbolize a culture of animosity, it has fallen into a deep dark hole, banging its head on some god awful rap songs on the way down and ultimately evolving into a term that is apparently defined by anyone who expresses dissent for virtually anything. Introspection of one’s actions have fallen by the wayside in favor of one ugly, two syllable word that can be regurgitated with ease to reassure oneself.
If we examine the meaning of the word itself, from its root definition, it becomes a very simple term. One who hates. Thus, it had held very profound resonance in the aforementioned civil rights movement during which it was first widely used. Although ‘hate’ is a very strong word, it was perfectly representative of the lack of acceptance large portions of the general population held for different races and ideals. Thus, by the classical definition, it is much too potent of a word to be applied to something as benign as a modified car community. In the relatively tight-knit group that the car community is, there’s little to no need to even apply the term ‘hate’, as it represents a much grander scale of emotion than cannot be captured in something that is essentially a leisure activity. We disagree, we dislike, and we criticize, but this is not hatred. Hatred is deep seeded, lying at the very core of one’s value system, not an emotion that fleetingly dissipates within 30 seconds of walking away from a certain car or person that the emotion was supposedly directed to.
In an effort to examine all sides, it can be acknowledged that ‘hater’ has developed a different, more slang oriented meaning in the past two decades. It is defined by one who resents another’s success just for the sake of being successful. Indeed, in the small scale of the modified car community, there are those who resent cars or people simply due to their large scale success and acceptance. This definition is not characterized by actual hatred, but by jealousy and feelings of personal inadequacy. This does not completely validate the word ‘hater’ en masse, but it can at least be understood that these emotions form the roots of what make up its more modernized definition.
Unfortunately, even the clear confines of this definition only account for a small percentage of use of the word today. In fact, in a bizarre twist, it is often used to by those attempting to deflect their own feelings of inadequacy, indeed becoming close to the reversal of the previously mentioned meaning. Often directed at those who criticize rather than give blind approval of something, it has become a word of refuge for those who are unwilling to accept their own flaws or take criticism from others, be it constructive or otherwise. In a way, its use in the car community can draw comparisons to much more significant historical terms and events. In the late 1800s in Salem, Massachusetts, those who expressed criticism of the norm were branded a witch and burned at the stake. In the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy branded anyone who criticized the government a communist and had them blacklisted, effectively destroying their place in society at the time. Indeed, the word ‘hater’ has become almost symbolic of personal feelings of fear of a lack of acceptance.
How can we combat the use of a word that has become so very widespread even in the small scope of our own community? Perhaps the time has come to dismiss our own ideals of right & wrong and acknowledge our unique and broad differences in opinion. Anyone building a car for any other purpose than to sit in a garage and be looked at exclusively by themselves is going to be subject to opinions and criticism, and as a whole, we need to be able to receive both of those with more grace and humility. If someone offers a piece of criticism that stings so much that the need is felt to lash out, perhaps it’s time to be introspective and examine what made the comment burn in such a manner. On occasion, it will cause the discovery of something that can be legitimately improved upon if one is willing to realize their own imperfections.
Criticism is not always going to be offered in a polite manner, but unfortunately, as they say, that’s life. Not everyone is going to like the picture you paint, but thus is the risk of creating your vision, be it through a car, a book, or a photograph. We are a creative community and we will not always agree with each other, but the word hate has far too malicious intent to be thrown around simply due to personal differences.