The cycle of hatred philosophy of Naruto villain Pain has been extensively discussed and looked over for years since the character premiered. Given that Naruto has ended, the discussion has ignited anew with the rise of Code in Boruto and other villains like Madara and Obito.
Since Nagato/Pain wasn't a villain to start with but came from tragic circumstances and ultimately was forced into that behavior, this article will try to look at the philosophy itself and then judge it. It's always worth at least studying some of the thoughts of those that commit major crimes to see what their thought process is so that the problem can be solved.
Note: This article will discuss fiction, real-world violence, and discussions of political events. It will also contain spoilers from Naruto, Shippuden, and Boruto. The article only reflects the author's opinions.
Pain's philosophy in Naruto and how it translates into real life
Naruto has plenty of villains, heroes, and other people that come from tragic backgrounds. From war orphans to slaves to abused kids and scientific experiments, the world is rather cold toward many people as a massive failing of prior generations. In many cases, yes, those prior generations do bear a lot of responsibility for it.
In comes Pain's philosophy, which is that war is humanity's natural state and that it was his responsibility to save the world from itself, inflicting pain of such magnitude that no harm would ever come again. This ties into his Cycle of Hatred tangent that Justice and Revenge are two sides of the same coin and that the only way to really achieve peace is through fear and mass death.
Naruto Uzumaki's counter is that peace through fear or revenge wouldn't work. Even if there was some merit in that, the future Seventh Hogake worked to eliminate the cycle of revenge by achieving peace through friendship and bonds. Naruto succeeds as Hokage if Boruto is any indication, as even if that world is not perfect, it's better than the world Pain grew up in.
The overarching theme of the series is: Peace is not possible through fear, pure order, or mass death, which only leads to oppression and stagnation and is hardly foolproof in the long term. It's an ouroboros destined only to repeat the cycle of death and destruction after the oppression is removed without a long-term plan to diffuse the underlying tensions.
There was already a massive conflict holding the world hostage several times over: both World Wars and the Cold War. These conflicts resulted in nothing but pain, death, and hardship. Plenty of nations are still dealing with the fallout from the Cold War, with brutal dictatorships that feed certain interests being held up as good things and rampant destruction.
Even if talking about Pain's ultimate solution when compared to Naruto's, Pain's fails even further. Although under the grip of a pandemic, richer nations hoarded cures for themselves during COVID-19 crisis and spread misinformation, borders were closed to refugees even before the pandemic, and extremism has been allowed to fester in various portions of the world that is leading to further disaster.
Mutual aid indeed is one of the solutions to this. Simply holding a massive gun to everyone's heads will not solve many of the problems that plague the world, nor will causing as much pain as possible.
The idea that all that's needed to save the world is one person ruling over it all? Empires tried that and fell. Mass death? It was already done and resulted in nothing but pain and misery for all involved. Oppression still exists in many forms across nations, and simply burning it all to the ground won't solve anything.
The point put very simply is this: the ones arguing for further war and violence and that humanity is better off oppressed. The violent radicalizers of people like Pain in Naruto have always been the instigators of violence and hatred. They are incompatible with peace and should be rejected at every turn.
Humanity doesn't exist to oppress or hate and kill each other; that's a response to extreme trauma. What is needed is mutual aid, trust, and healing with human rights, and ensuring the future is better than it is now with the richer helping the poor.
Poll : Peace through love or fear?