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Undertoad 12-09-2010 08:41 AM

You must have an enemy
Somewhere deep in our reptile brains, it seems we must have enemies, others we need to destroy or merely hate.

When I was growing up, it was easy; the Russkies were the balance of power, and it was a lot of fun hating them, because they sucked. When the Berlin Wall finally fell, it was strange to find no obvious enemy remaining in the culture; Hollywood returned to the Nazis as the people it was safe to hate on.

For a while it seemed like illegal drug merchants were making a play to be our big enemy but that didn't have much staying power for some reason.

Personally, you must have others you enjoy hating. Many of us enjoy hating the people on the other end of the political spectrum from us. Both sides sometimes get really feisty and sometimes they even wish slow painful deaths on certain politicians or pundits.

What is it with this instinct? Why is it built into us; are we defending ourselves from other tribes, or from dangerous animals that could kill us?

glatt 12-09-2010 08:49 AM

It's different. Kill it.

Griff 12-09-2010 08:56 AM

On an individual level, I think people can build and progress without an enemy but a civilization needs an enemy to spur progress. We needed Sputnik as a sword over our heads to create the will to go to the moon. Tom Godwin explored the idea in Prison Planet where successive generations of humans were kept focused on progressing by a leader advertising their survival to the enemy Gerns. The problem is that petty politicians know and use this need for short-term gain which often collides with long-term goals.

footfootfoot 12-09-2010 11:22 AM

One of the 16 Buddhist precepts states: "Realize self and other as one; Do not elevate the self and blame others"

Having an enemy is an example of elevating the self by tearing down others. It is rooted in a fundamental misconcept of the self and other as distinct. The ego is extraordinarily powerful and cunning and will stop at nothing to assert and affirm its existence. I suspect, it has to do with survival strategy, hardwire it at the panel so you don't have to worry about replacing batteries or mice chewing through wires. The default is always ON, and on auto repair.

It takes an enormous amount of time, will, desire, and dedication to sit long enough to forget the self even for a moment, much less become adept at it and incorporate it into your everyday life.

For most practitioners (of any religion) I think we "fake it till we make it"

Clodfobble 12-09-2010 12:55 PM

I'm reading (actually listening to) Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga right now, and like most of his books it has some pretty lengthy philosophical themes. This one is that without suffering--both emotional and physical--there is no impetus for growth, either as individuals or as a society. If our neighbor has no suffering in his life, then we have nothing to empathize with, and cannot really love him. Great human advances almost never come out of tropical climates where food is plentiful. Perhaps we are hardwired not only to choose an enemy to hate, but to be an enemy to someone who has none.

footfootfoot 12-09-2010 02:07 PM

The gift that keeps on giving.

Let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

Griff 12-09-2010 03:15 PM


Originally Posted by footfootfoot (Post 699122)
"Realize self and other as one; Do not elevate the self and blame others"


Originally Posted by footfootfoot (Post 699147)
The gift that keeps on giving.

[guess]Why do you love anti-democrats?[/who] :)

I can see individuals realizing Buddha nature but for an entire society to do so seems pretty unlikely.

ZenGum 12-10-2010 03:16 AM

The following yarn is based on a true historical story, but the names have been omitted because I have forgotten them.

The bishop visits the dieing king.
"Do you forgive your enemies?" asks the bishop.
"I have no enemies" says the King. The bishop smiles, and the King adds: "I've had them all killed."

ZenGum 12-10-2010 03:17 AM

Can we take this thread as being cloned already?

ZenGum 12-10-2010 03:20 AM

Oh and back on topic, I think that having an enemy is one of the best ways to create a group identity. The unscrupulous and power hungry exploit this.
For individuals, I know the sort of mental state you mean, but it just doesn't appeal to me. There are some individuals I dislike, and some who have pissed me off and needed to be dealt with, but once that is done, I move on and let go. So I have no enemies. And no, I haven't had anyone killed.


monster 12-10-2010 09:31 AM

Perhaps "the enemy" is all the things you aspire not to be? If you find someone or a group who embodies those "qualities" they become a focus point for your anti-aspirations? Easier to "hate" a named, visualisable object/person/group that a collection of undesirable abstract concepts...

footfootfoot 12-10-2010 11:51 AM

On the other hand, sometimes enemies have all the things you want. But I agree about them becoming the focus point. The beauty of having "the other"

Flint 12-10-2010 12:25 PM

Human brains are wired to regard "us" and "the others."

skysidhe 12-10-2010 02:10 PM

Exactly. There are principles, a standard set, and most importantly who you would invite to a party. [Elle Woods impression]

TheMercenary 12-11-2010 08:43 AM


Originally Posted by skysidhe (Post 699419)
Exactly. There are principles, a standard set, and most importantly who you would invite to a party. [Elle Woods impression]

Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.

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