Inventing the enemy

An Uncomplicated Mind Apr 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm
 Great enemies - former US President George W. Bush and Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden

Great enemies – former US President George W. Bush and Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden

Noted semiotician, philosopher, medievalist and author of The Prague Cemetery, The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco once wrote: “When there is no enemy, we have to invent one.”

Eco considers the enemy as important in defining our identity and in providing us with an obstacle to test our value system, because in seeking to overcome it, we demonstrate our own worth. He further writes that identifying the enemy is almost a natural phenomenon, so with the process of creating and demonizing the enemy.

We can cite some examples why Eco’s words carry more than an iota of truth. When the great Soviet enemy faded away during the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the United States appeared in danger of losing its identity. But thanks to Osama Bin Laden, who fought the Soviet Union on behalf of his former benefactor, the United States, he gave George W. Bush the opportunity to create new enemies and to strengthen American feelings of national identity and exceptionalism as well as his power and image as the war president.

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