In her writing on what she describes as a “love ethic,” bell hooks argues that if society adopted love as its base setting, if each individual understood her role within the larger collective conscience and responded to it by treating all people, both domestically and globally, with love, then a radical transformation would occur. hooks writes about the disparity between what people want for the world and what people will actually do for it, the actions which people will take to create the world they want to inhabit. She writes of the importance of maintaining faith that narratives of fear and hatred can be changed into ones of love and acceptance. Hooks wants her reader not to be fearful of her fellow human beings, but to embrace them, to understand the potential for any interaction, even those we have with strangers.
Politically, I think love is a very difficult concept to actually apply. I think hooks’s abstract formulations miss this difficult. She makes it seem as if once one becomes a loving person, once one begins to accept the world and those who inhabit it with open and welcoming arms, then that person’s perspective will be perfected. But this formulation ignores the nuances and difficulties of loving other people. For example, as an ally to social justice movements, I cannot simply express open, unabashed love for the folks doing work. It’s not enough, as a white person, to love the work of Black Lives Matter. To call oneself an ally, there is much more work to be done. Hooks’s discussion of the disparity between what people want for the world and what they will do for it turns ironic here, because I felt like once I read this piece, part of me began to feel like I had done my work for the day. Part of me began to feel like reading this piece and agreeing with its universalized, loving principals, was enough to formulate a love ethic within me. And while this isn’t hooks’s fault per se, I think her piece, because of its reliance on such an abstract concept, does not speak to the difficulties of applying love in tangible, practical ways, without being inappropriate and/or hurtful to those for whom one expresses one’s love.