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Can you love mankind if you can't stand people?

What is the message in Peanuts character Linus Van Pelt's cry "I love mankind... It's people I can't stand!!"?

Posted 28 December 2020

Yesterday, I gave my 59th "Thought for the Week" broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester. I based it around a Peanuts cartoon strip I read for the first time many decades ago, whose message I have never forgotten.

I was confident that with the aid of the internet and search technology, I would be able to find it. I first searched for a "Peanuts search engine." I was pleased, but not particularly surprised, to find just that: a website enabling Peanuts searches.

I recollected the phrase "I love humanity, it's people I can't stand" as a cry of anguish from Charlie Brown. Very quickly I found no hits on "humanity" and then tried "mankind" as an alternative.

That immediately found what I was looking for. The search on "mankind" comes up with 10 stories, the last of which is the one I had in mind. However over the decades I had forgotten that the protagonist was Linus Van Pelt, not Charlie Brown.

It is the last strip on the results page; I have not reproduced it here for copyright reasons.

Thought for the Week

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, BBC Radio Manchester have had their guests appear remotely. Accordingly I recorded the text of my Thought and sent it to the BBC in advance, while appearing live by telephone to discuss my newspaper review.

Accordingly, as well as reading it below, you can also hear it.

Hear my "Thought"

Read my "Thought"

For nearly 60 years, I have adored the Peanuts cartoon strip. In the year 2000, the cartoonist, Charles Schulz, insisted that when he died, the strip should also end.

All 50 years of Peanuts are available in 26 hard bound volumes. I have bought all of them.

Charles Schulz was a religious man, and taught a Sunday school class for most of his life. Accordingly, all human life is in Peanuts, with many lessons about morality and religion.

The character I most identify with is Linus, the younger brother of the domineering Lucy.

One of my favourite stories is when Linus tells his sister that he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. Lucy scorns him, telling Linus he can never be a doctor.

When he wants to know why, she replies. “Because you don’t love mankind, that’s why!”

Frustrated, Linus yells back at her: “I love mankind… It’s people I can’t stand!!”

Linus’s response to his big sister has always stayed with me.

There are many people in the world I really cannot stand. Flat earthers, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, Q-Anon believers, the list is endless. It’s not even worth trying to convince such people that they’re wrong. It’s impossible.

I still love them. I want them to have the best possible lives. Obviously, starting with the hope that they wake up from their delusions. But don’t ever ask me to socialise with them.

That is the point Linus wanted to make. As Jesus said: “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings”


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