Sunday, December 18, 2011

Puck on... Antagonism

Now that does bring up something worthy of note.

If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem?

Yes.  What a very human thing to say.  How telling of your philosophy.

Elaborate, please.

Well, since you asked so nicely.  Firstly, it belies the hypocrisy of your age.  In an era where absolutes are regarded as unenlightened and truth is relative, that you would have such a statement, which itself leaves no room for neutrality, no space for moral relativism.  But that’s not what should interest us at this point.  We’ll get to relativism later; I have much to say about that, I assure you.

But the statement really points to a very central tenet, as it were, of your personal universal philosophy.  We might call it the “Us and Them” paradigm.

You’re referring to the habit of people to form parties and factions to the exclusion of others.

Very astute.  And so concise and philosophical-sounding.  I bet that made you feel good, to use such big words.  Anyway, you are correct.  You humans are always splintering off into little groups, little gangs, little cliques.  It’s quite cute, and it would be harmless but for what it makes you do.  And here names come in again, for we must have some way to really distinguish “us” from “them”.  It may be as simple as that little pronoun or it can become very complex and droll even.  You see, humans have a natural inclination to define themselves, to literally name themselves.  (You must remind me to speak more on that for a later post.)  You seek to define yourselves, to link your identity with the group, to say you belong, to make sure no one mistakes you for “them” rather than “us”.

And that in itself might be benign but for where it inevitably takes you.  The Us/Them dynamic is never cordial but always and ever adversarial.  Why?  Because you need an enemy.  There are so many uses for a good antagonist.  It cements that group identity, and, of course, it’s always nice to have someone to blame.  There must be a “them” to oppose the “us”.  Trust me on this, I’ve seen it happen again and again.  I wish you could see things from my perspective, how comical it is.  You blame your enemy, accuse them of seeking to harm you in some way.  You may be right, you may be wrong, but what’s funny is it doesn’t occur to you that your enemy may just be saying the same thing about you, and, in fact, most certainly is.  Often, each side blames the other for what are shared problems.

And what’s even more amazing is when you do realize that your enemy has the same philosophy of “us” and “them” only in the reverse.  Because, while you might think that would drive you to seriously consider your ideas to make sure they aren’t due to your perspective alone, it so rarely leads to that.  The philosophy remains.  “Yes, they may say the same things about us, but we are right.”  You accuse them of the sin, while maintaining your own innocence.  “They” are always wrong and “you” are always right.  It’s something of a Napoleonic martyr complex that pervades your entire race.

But the idea goes so much deeper than any of you might realize or want to.  You see there is always an “us”, but how that “us” is defined changes.  “Them” may refer to a real threat one moment and suddenly include the man next to you a moment later.  Because the problem goes right to the root: you.  Because that “us” starts with you.  The two parties are you and everyone else.  Anyone you would like to include in that little circle is up to you.  And that, by the way, is how it always ends up.  You may maintain that “us” for a good long while, but, in the end, it’s you, what you get out of it.  In the end, you stand alone.  Naked you came.  And naked you go.

Ha, that almost rhymed.

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