In a recently recorded comedy script, John Cleese suggests that enemies serve an important purpose. They enable us to identify who is to blame for our problems and provide an outlet for our frustrations. He suggests that while this highlights the irrationality (and stupidity) of human beings, we need enemies to help us feel good about ourselves.
In the case for good versus evil, who is good?
I am not a fan of the Cleese view of the world. But on this point, I agree with him 100%. Human beings thrive on knowing there is someone to blame for the bad things in their lives so they can feel better about themselves. Some people turn trying to feel better about themselves by highlighting how bad others are into an art form.
This occurs at an individual level and at a community, or even societal, level. Right now, we are being told that the bad guys, the enemies, include: ISIS and associated organisations, radicalised Muslims and boat people. Some people, with only token resistance from politicians, have expanded this group to include all Muslims, all people from the Middle East and any immigrant.
These people are variously called extremists, cowards, towel heads, radicals, terrorists, evil, criminals and most of all, the enemy. They are the people we should identify and blame – the people we can hate or despise and, in doing so, take our attention away from all the evil our society has done and the bad things we do ourselves. At least we are not a bad as ‘them’!
The United States has been telling us for years that North Korea, Russia, China, and Iran are the enemy, the people we should blame to many of our ills, many of the world’s problems and of the shortcomings of the US government, along with its allies, including the UK and Australia.
Conveniently, this also draws our attention away from the illegal activities of the US in South America over the last 75 years, the atrocities and war crimes committed in South America and Pakistan. It draws our attention away from the eight unsuccessful and very bloody, often illegal, incursions into the Middle East by the US and Australia. It draws our attention away from the illegal treatment of refugees trying to get to Australia, and our increasingly selfish and short-sighted approach to foreign aid.
For me, it does none of these things. All I can see is a very fuzzy and often indistinguishable line between the good guys and the bad.
Self-righteous Catholics point the finger at Muslim terrorists, conveniently forgetting the IRA, a Catholic organisation that killed more English than ISIS
Self-righteous Americans criticise the illegal and violent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, conveniently forgetting the illegal and violent invasion of Iraq
Self-righteous Australians criticise the violent and illegal manner in which the Burmese treat the Rohingya, while all the while treating refugees to this country violently and illegally.
Self-righteous Australians criticise the Chinese treatment of Christians, all while locking Muslim refugees in refugee camps in New Guinea
Self-righteous Americans mourn the death of 3000 people in 9/11 while killing that number of innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan (people on their side) every month.
Self-righteous Brits mourn the death of terrorism victims while conveniently forgetting the Australians they sacrificed in Gallipoli, or the thousands of people they have persecuted in their colonies over the years.
Self-righteous Australians tell immigrants to respect the established culture in Australia, while showing little genuine respect for Aboriginal culture, when Europeans arrived and now.
This list goes on and on, and on and on!
There are no good or bad guys. All societies have done good and all have done bad. Most are doing good now and most are doing bad now.
But this is an inconvenient truth. It tests the brain. It calls on us to shut out emotion and think objectively.
It flies in the face of our need for someone to view as the bad guy, someone to blame, someone to help us feel better about ourselves.
It is hard to like the human race.