This weekend I unexpectedly participated in a civil online debate about hate, the conclusion of which yielded a better understanding of how others perceive hatred as a phenomena originating outside of themselves. This concept can be subtly detected in the use of the phrase "hatred exists in the world". This statement postulates that hatred has an independent existence and exists outside of ourselves. Perhaps because we take the phenomena for granted, never having examined the process closely ourselves, we believe that hate comes in atop the different stimuli that impinge upon all of our senses. We hear something we don't like, hate must ride in on the sound waves. We see something we don't like, hate must ride in on the light rays. We might also consider that we don't want to accept responsibility for our own actions, that we find it difficult to accept that we're being hateful. So if we're not blaming someone else for our anger (i.e. you make me so angry!), we blame something else (the "force" of hatred that we perceive as separate from ourselves).
Now, when we consider closely, we can comprehend how sound waves meet with the ears, are then categorized as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, a perception of what we're hearing is created, to which we react accordingly (the same with every sense). These reactions always come from within. The sensations that arise haven't any inherent value as to whether they are good or bad, right or wrong, pleasant or unpleasant, which can be understood when we take into account the general lack of universal agreeance as to what individuals each find to be agreeable and disagreeable. To use the parlance of our times, everything "is what it is" and we are assigning the value.
Our reactions are learned. We are born with the tendency to like and dislike, but what we crave and hate is learned and changes with time. The fact that it changes means it can be changed. The fact that it is learned means it can be unlearned. Hatred has no separate, independent source or existence. It arises within ourselves dependent on the interpretation of external conditions. So instead of saying hatred exists in the world, we can say the potential for hatred exists, but whether that potential is realized or not depends on how skillful we are with our own reactions.
While laws can (and should) be written and enforced to protect us from hateful acts, because hatred arises within the hearts and minds of individuals, we cannot legislate an end to hate. Therefore, the first step in reducing the incidence of hatred is taking personal responsibility for and abandoning our own hateful reactions.
By the same means we use to return to our object of meditation throughout our formal, seated meditation practice. Practicing mindfulness, the moment we become aware that our mind has drifted and descended into less than loving thoughts, we drop the thoughts by redirecting our mind back to the breath. We repeat as often as necessary, noting, with persistence and determination, how the irritated, unskillful, hateful state, along with the thoughts that gave rise to it, gradually, eventually, completely pass by. And then, in their wake, we can fill the mind with thoughts that are loving, compassionate, and kind.