Animosity is An Amorous Enterprise for Hate Campers
Monday, November 4, 2002
In a town famous for peace, love and hug-dispensing hippies, the Hate Circle on Sproul Plaza seems out of place. Every night around 8 p.m., "Hate Campers" pound unceasingly on anything that will take the beating.
They yell, they headbang, they throw things in the air, relishing the clatter of the landing. But despite the name, the camp is pure love.
Hate Camp, a nightly event for the past eight years, is the brainchild of local street personality "Hate Man." Looking at Hate Man, a 66-year-old who wears rags around his head, mismatched shoes and drags around a cardboard box with his belongings, it's hard to imagine he was once a rising New York Times reporter named Mark Hawthorne.
"Hate Man" started off as a copy boy and had been working for the Metro section from 1961 to 1970, when he quit and chose street life.
"I just felt like a helium balloon in a room where I was bumping the ceiling," he says. "I thought, 'This is it. This is what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life. I'm bored.' I guess you could call it a midlife crisis. I quit the Times, got a divorce and started being downward mobile."
A CBS news producer who worked with Hawthorne at the Times, George Ostercamp, was so compelled by Hawthorne's story that he did a segment on him for CBS in the early 1990s.
"I still cannot figure out why he took this path," Ostercamp says. "He is still coherent and bright and can make a good argument-over the years he has certainly made an impression on a lot of people."
Hate Man offers no explanation.
"I am definitely nuts by ordinary standards of reasonableness," Hate Man says.
The core group of Hate Man's nightly circle believe in his philosophy of "oppositionality," which teaches that saying "I hate you" is a way of caring. Hate Man gained his name in the late 1970s standing in the fountain on Sproul Plaza for several hours a day telling people "I hate you" and "Have a lousy day."
"If, at that moment of opposition, we can say 'fuck you,' 'I hate you,' 'I'm pissed,' that's a way of staying in there with that person on a verbal level," says Hate Man, who wears one white shoe and one black to make his point. "We can care in a negative mode if we can be straight with each other-to verbalize the negativity dissipates it."
His philosophy also teaches "pushing." If someone wants something that another person refuses to give, they must lean and push against that other person. The unwilling giver feels the energy of the person's need-for things ranging from a piece of pizza to a piece of information.
"It is both bizarre and simple," Hate Man explains. "It is not like arm-wrestling-that's about win or lose. With pushing I am not trying to dominate you, I want you to feel where I am coming from."
Thirty to 40 people a day "push" Hate Man for cigarettes if they do not have the 25 cents he charges. Up until recently, he had a once-a-week janitorial job to supply his own two-pack habit of Virginia Slims and the five packs a day for those around him.
"Some people pay a quarter," he says as a demanding teen pushes against his side. "I'll also take Marlboro Camel cash. This is my basic hustle."
Hate Camp newcomers soon learn that to say "I hate you" or to push is a way of gaining trust and entrance. If someone refuses to do either, the circle moves to a different location, sometimes as many as 10 times in a night.
"We've had all kinds of people-students, maniacs, gangsters, perverts, you name it," says "Backfire," an ex-art dealer. "But my goal is to hang in there with you and the negativity you are dealing with. If you are unwilling to push then you are most likely to be dangerous and menace me."
"Backfire" is one of six designated Hate Camp veterans who set up the circle. He says the entire group must approve any new "instruments" based on loudness and storage potential.
"A lot of flat, duller items don't make it, but if the person insists we will push for it," Backfire says.
The group collects the equipment in large white canisters and stores it in remote campus locations. Fed-up campus groundskeepers finally threw away the barrels six months ago, causing a panicked rush for equipment.
Hate Camp's relationship with the police has evolved into one of peaceful coexistence. At 9 p.m. a UC police officer rides up to the group and yells out "Stop drumming!"
Calvin, a longtime observer of the group, says an officer once sat down and started drumming before giving the stop order.
The older veterans get leftover Greg's Pizza after they stop drop drumming. They sit on crates talking philosophy until the early morning.
"The world right now is operating in a power mode of 'I win, you lose,'" Hate Man says. "But it hasn't worked. It is not enough. Hate Camp allows us to be awful and opposite, yet be close by caring and responding. That's what helps us get through this shit."
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