Complacency, and our need for an Enemy
John Talbot
Fri Aug 09 2019

As humans, one of our most fundamental traits is our desire for consensus. We feel—whether consciously or subconsciously—threatened by things that are different to us, and will seek to surround ourselves with the familiar. This is a behaviour that can be observed in a variety of areas and activities, and can partially explain the roots of a large number of our actions over the course of our history. Being a developed, sapient species, however, we are far more capable of overriding these instincts in favour of more rational thoughts. That being said, we are still subject to these instincts, and when said instinct relies upon the existence of a greater threat to be defended against, it can prove somewhat difficult to adapt them to modern circumstances.

To point this out is not a condemnation or criticism of humanity, quite the opposite in fact; to our ancestors, struggling everyday to survive in the wilderness, this instinct would be a lifesaving benefit. To us in the modern day trying to have a constructive political discussion, however, it can be quite the hindrance.

If you have paid even a cursory glance at the political scene over the last decade or so, you likely have noticed how tense the situation is. Hatred is everywhere, specifically hatred of the opposition; the right hate the left, the left hate the right, both view each other as “The Enemy” and are egged on by both mainline political factions and the ever growing reach of genuine extremists, given access to a wider audience thanks to the internet. The tension is obvious, and if something is not done soon to counteract this, something has got to give.

We are cannibalising ourselves, to put it bluntly. The last time we faced a genuine, tangible, existential threat was the Second World War and the threat of fascism. Whilst one could count the Soviet Union as a later example, the Cold War was much more abstract in the public eye since it wasn’t a traditional war, hence the effect wasn’t as profound. Now we have no external enemy and are instead turning in on ourselves. We seek consensus, but ultimately that consensus is to protect us against a foe, and yet now we have no such thing. Our minds are still operating on this instinctual doctrine as they should, but we are no longer able to provide an appropriate outlet through which it can be applied. Instead, we resort to internal factionalism, which does nothing but hurt us in the long run.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame any one faction, individual, event, or belief system for our current state. Indeed, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that we currently enjoy some of the highest quality of life in all of human history. The problem is that, for all our technology and progress, we are aimless. Look back at our history; our grandest moments have always been the result of hardship, of adversity. Without that external pressure, forcing us to unite and move forward, we struggle to maintain societal cohesion and instead allow ourselves to give in to petty squabbles and a host of far less important issues. We tear ourselves apart, because if we don’t have an enemy, we make one of our own.

When I previously voiced these beliefs, I was asked what my solution was. In truth, I don’t know; war is hell, and only a war on a magnitude equal to if not greater than the Second World War would suffice. I cannot, in good conscience, advocate such a thing. We do not have a tangible enemy, and to manufacture one would be reprehensible, in my eyes. So where does that leave us? Perhaps our next enemy could be space itself, as we set out to conquer the stars? Perhaps we must look inwards, and fix ourselves before we expand, before we earn the right to take other worlds. Is that what our current state is, a purification cycle? If so, I can only dread what is to come. I am not looking forward to whatever this is building up to, and a sick part of me sincerely hopes for an alien invasion or something along those lines, as much as it shames me to say it.

Our road remains long and open. We must ensure that we do not ruin ourselves before the next junction. Thank you for reading.

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