I awoke one night two months ago and wrote the following piece in one shot. In the light of day I realized this isn’t a particularly joyful nihilism I’m expressing, and I felt a little embarrassed I had possibly overstated my case.
This does relate to my earlier blog today on war propaganda: When we demonize our opponents like this, we give them more room (and possibly cause) for behaving wickedly.
I’ve written about the need for enemies before. I have some further thoughts that are partially inspired by this gawker article about treating pedophilia as an orientation and these facebook comments on it:
We* need our enemies. They define us. They make us feel superior. They give us our virtue.
We need our demons and devils even more than our gods and angels. We want terrible evil to exist in the world so we can feel better about ourselves. The more terrible the evil is, the greater the good we feel about ourselves, simply because we are not that. We do not need to take any positive action to improve the world to feel good. Simply not being evil is enough.
There would still be evil in the world even if we (the righteous) stopped wanting it to exist, but I don’t believe there would be as much. If we didn’t want it to exist and didn’t need to feel superior to the people we hate for being evil, we would better understand the conditions that create them and take corrective measures to not create more of them.
I ran across this quote on Facebook today too: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” -Frederick Douglass
We fear that showing any compassion or empathy for evil (or broken) men means condoning their evil behavior. We cannot allow even the slightest possibility that their evilness is other than a willful choice. They cannot possibly be victims too, because where would that leave their victims? In our Manichean view there is only one victim and one victimizer.
We need conspiracies of illuminati mind control plots. We need reptoids from other dimensions feeding on our misery. We need Xenu and Satan. We need masonic cults and poisonous chemtrails. We need satanic ritual child abuse networks, government health-care microchip plots and 9/11 conspiracies. We create these things from our imaginations and believe in them enough to make them real, when they don’t exist in the world at large, just to feel better about ourselves and make us the good guys. We are all in a battle against the enemies of human freedom. We need the TSA security theater to give juice to our rants about “the fascists”. We need the Rothchilds and Bilderbergs and Bushes. We need “the socialist from Kenya”.
Vengeance is generally more important to us than justice. V for Vendetta invites us to savor vengeance. But in the rush to get vengeance we trample justice. What would justice look like? There must be a strategy to prevent re-offense and rehabilitate the individual, but there must also be some further accounting by the community for its failure, so as to learn from it and fail differently in the future.
I realize that Christians are instructed to love their enemy, and many will object to what I say here. I see very, very little love for enemies in this world. This is a really hard commandment that I think everyone fails at eventually.
There are some people who seem relatively unconcerned with their enemies. They don’t make them the focus of their lives. I think this is the most we can strive for. If you are going to obsess, then treasure the gifts your enemies give you.
Brad Blanton gave me the following feedback on the above, which I agree with:
I think it still leaves out the process of expression sensation and change. Sometimes to love your enemy is to hate your enemy out loud and get over it.
That might look like doublespeak to someone who hasn’t read Radical Honesty. The core idea is simple enough: resisting our experience of the hatred only gives it more energy and makes it more dangerous. If I really hate my enemy and want to get over it, the only way I can truly change is to go through it and be honest with my enemy and express it fully and be willing for it to not change until it does of its own accord.
* “We” is most of us. In the political world, the right needs the left and vice-versa. Sporting rivalries suffice for others. For progressives, corporations are the enemy. For many libertarians and anarchists, it is government. I doubt many humans can honestly claim to have zero enemies they hate. Who among us doesn’t hate child molesters and animal abusers? If you say you don’t, then know that the rest of us hate you for not hating them, and consider you our enemy too. You wind up with enemies trying not to make enemies, see?