Hell is other people? Modern misanthropy

Sunday 19 October, 16.00 until 17.15, Cinema 2, Barbican Me, Me, Me Politics

Just what is it about other people that makes us so angry? We seem to hear endlessly about road rage, online video rants, twitch-hunts and Twitter storms. There seems no end to the people that get up our noses - we hate our noisy neighbours, the ‘1%’, bankers, corporate exploiters, benefit scroungers, migrants, greens, feminists, men, foreign people, old people, young people, Gwyneth Paltrow. We seem to hate other people, full stop. The sheer number of people on the planet is viewed as one of the biggest threats to the future. Is Hell really being locked in a room with other people? Forever? With no way out?

For the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, the struggle to be yourself was always tied up with the fact that while you may be clear just how special and unique you are (and you are), other people don’t view you in quite the same way. Other people look on you as some-thing among other things – often more as an object than a fellow subject. Has it got harder to see past the surface appearances to the real you? Have we become more easily typecast as just this, or that? Is it harder for the individual to stand out from the crowd and be seen as a person with a name, not just a number? Or in the absence of any sense of Heaven, has brotherly love been replaced with misanthropy? Is the problem that what we really can’t stand (but can never admit) is ourselves?

Listen to the debate:

Patrick Baert
professor of social theory, University of Cambridge; forthcoming book, The Existentialist Moment

Dr Ashley Frawley
Senior lecturer in sociology and social policy, Swansea University; author, The Semiotics of Happiness: rhetorical beginnings of a public problem

Angus Kennedy
convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination

John Waters
Irish newspaper columnist; author, Jiving at the Crossroads and Was It For This? Why Ireland Lost the Plot

Jacob Reynolds
consultant, SHM Productions

Produced by
Jacob Reynolds consultant, SHM Productions
Recommended readings
The strange death of individualism

Individualism is dead: we have succumbed to the lure of the crowd

Ross Clark, Spectator, 2 August 2014

Bill Hicks: the midwife of modern misanthropy

The late comedian’s unfunny miserablism now rules the world.

Rob Lyons, spiked, 28 February 2014

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