The Designated Devil Du Jour

St Michael and the Devil by Guido Reni
St Michael and the Devil
by Guido Reni

Mao, bin Laden, Saddam, Putin, Ayatollah Anybody…

The unifying power of a common enemy is well-known and often exploited. As Condoleeza Rice reportedly said in a Houston speech in 2000, “We need a common enemy to unite us.”

Catholics, immigrants, the Irish (Catholic immigrants!) Communists, Muslims, terrorists, (Communist and Muslim terrorists!) have all been exploited in the US as designated enemies against which the “village” should unite.

It is important to recognize this trick, because hatred is a bad thing and it has lead to horrendous violence. Rwanda and the Holocaust come quickly to mind.

Is a common enemy a psychological need or just a trick to divert attention from domestic problems? Since the official devil has been deposed, we seek others to take his place.

Could we designate a non-human enemy? Nuclear weapons? Greed? Imperialism?  How about global warming, famine or water shortages? Would those fill the bill?

In a 1991 Report from the Club of Rome (of which Al Gore is a member) this possibility was discussed.

“In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together.” (page 75)

It remains to be seen if the enemy-need can be filled by an amorphous threat like inequality or environmental degradation. “Terror” may be working but only if we identify a lead “terrorist.” Thing is, we come to hate our enemy, as a Club of Rome report pointed out:

“ All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.” (page 75)

Indeed, some have concluded that nasty humanity should be “limited” until there are less than 500 million left as the creepy Georgia Guidestones advocates. Rest assured that those who hold this view expect to be the cullers, not the culls.

The famous Pogo cartoon “We have met the enemy and he is us” contains a profound truth. The official devil as an evil spirit who could influence anyone (even you and I!) had a truth- advantage over the current made-up devils because it forced us to examine ourselves to see if we are harboring evil.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Not us, because we would rather not take the beam out of our eye while we busily fuss over the dust mote in our brother’s.

What to do?

1). Refuse to accept the designated enemy (D.E.)

2). Suspect stories that show just how evil the D.E. is.

3). Remember that this is a trick from the “How to Make Enemies and Influence Public Opinion” bag.


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