Monday, May 11, 2015
Week of 05/11/2015
We Make Our Own Enemies
In the world of comics, a very common theory is that superheroes create their own supervillains. If there are no heroes, then there would be no villains.
Superman supposedly created Lex Luthor. Batman supposedly created The Joker. The Flash supposedly inspired simple criminals to become super-villains. Spider-Man’s appearance supposedly led to the creation of the Green Goblin and the Sinister Six. Without the X-Men, there would be no Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The creation of Captain America would lead to the Red Skull. And so on and so forth.
It’s about balance. The yin-and-yang of fiction. Good cannot be so powerful that it tramples over evil, so evil needs its own champion.
The one thing I’ve noticed of late is that this idea of “heroes and villains” is not just limited to fiction.
Seventy years ago this month - May 8th to be precise - we ended some real-live “villains” in Europe. Nazi Germany fell with a whimper to the steamrolling surge of Soviet troops from the East and the Americans and Allied nations from the West. Their supposed “thousand-year reign” barely lasted over a decade.
To commemorate this time of history, the various cable channels have been running specials on Nazi Germany. How they came about. How they came to power. How they manipulated the masses. Depending on who presented the documentary, the German people were seen as either suckers, manipulated by slick opportunists, or else victims of systemic bullying from both the European community after World War I and from brutish thugs who somehow got political power.
But no matter the presenter, the picture that they painted was clear: Nazis were every bit the evil villains that could come out of fiction. No exaggerations would be needed.
I find these specials enlightening because they show just how manipulative a group of people could be. It wasn’t just a whole country waking up one morning and supporting a certain party because they looked nice in their uniforms. It was a gradual process of manipulation and packaging combined with a little foresight about certain events like the Great Depression.
But then I looked at what happened after we won in Europe and later in Japan. We “won”, but we didn’t. We simply changed villains. Soviets instead of Nazis. And this time we didn’t fight them. We simply “prepared” to fight them. That way we could keep the “game” going indefinitely. And we made deals with people we supposedly would be against in order to keep this new villain at bay.
And once the Soviets collapsed, a certain political faction in America started scrambling for other villains to fight. The deals we made to fight one enemy created other enemies. We propped up dictators and despots because they would supposedly be on “our side”. In doing so, we made their enemies... the very people that we would otherwise support... our enemies. And then we would make more deals to fight those enemies. And the “game” would continue on and on, with new enemies to face and new deals to broker.
So I have to ask... when will it end?
How can it end, when we continue to play these games of “heroes and villains”, where we make deals with groups that we otherwise would fight against, and in doing so we set the stage for the next villains to face?
The sad part is that same political faction here in America can’t seem to turn it off. If they’re not focused on the enemy “out there”, then they’re coming up with ones in this country.
Look at how that same political faction deals with the poor and those that are considered “different”. They’re quickly demonized, blamed for all the ills of society. We’re told our society’s prosperity and security are at risk because of these groups. There’s talk of punishing these groups, restricting their activities, even banishing them to certain parts of the country. All of this sound familiar? It should.
Look at all of the people that are leaving this country to side with terrorists. We ask “why”, but we really don’t want to hear the answer to that question. We just say “they shouldn’t be doing that”. Yes, they’re being “seduced”. The problem is we’ve provided the ammunition for it.
Let’s get brutally honest here... we make our own enemies.
Every time we continue to define ourselves through conflict, we make instinctively create enemies. Every time we make deals with those we would otherwise not be associated with, we not only make their enemies our own, but we also betray what we believe in. No amount of self-centered delusion of being “exceptional” can hide our hypocrisy either. We’re not “exceptional” when we prop-up and support tyrants. We’re not Superman or Batman when we do that. We’re Lex Luthor or the Joker.
We need to see more of those specials of Germany seventy and eighty years ago. Not just of how they fell, but how they got into power in the first place. We need to remember how a nation was manipulated and maneuvered into accepting the mechanizations of tyrants. How they were convinced they could be prosperous if they simply gave up those they deemed “different”.
Then comes the hard part... we need to ask ourselves where we are today compared to the Germans of that time. If the only real difference is geography, language, and a calendar, then we also need to accept that somewhere along the line, we’re doing it wrong.