In Search of the Enemy / Fernando Dámaso

Machiavelli established that in order to rule a powerful external enemy was needed, with an internal link to it. In this way citizens will unite around those that hold power. The formula has been applied at every era with different shades but without changing its essence.

For many years the foreign enemy had its own name: Barbarian, Bolshevik, Capitalist, Fascist, Nazi, etc.. Over the years some names fell into disuse and new ones appeared, and there was even a time where in one part of the world there was only the capitalist enemy and in another part of the world there was only the communist enemy. This has produced a bipolar simplification.

With the demise of so-called socialist camp and the formation of a unipolar world marked by globalization, the scattered remnants of the Marxist Big Bang, grouped under different flags, began to call the external enemy, real or virtual, simply “The Empire.” Under the slogan of fighting it, there are demonstrations of all kinds, speeches are delivered, articles written, and deeply thoughtful broadcasts aired. The enemy within, as would be expected, is identified as a lackey of it, responding to its interests rather than national ones. Thus, he is disqualified to oppose the national holder of power.

Some, even more simplistic than others, simply referred to it as “the enemy.” This makes the work easier. So the responsibility for all problems and difficulties lies with the enemy. If the economy is bad it is because of the enemy. If the artist did not receive a national award it is through the machinations of the enemy. If health care is a mess, it is because of the enemy. From someone with a proper name, however absurd it may seem, the enemy has become an abstract entity, which serves any purpose.

It would be helpful to forget Machiavelli and his old-fashioned followers, and to stop using the term “enemy” irresponsibly, while facing the problems that affect us with commitment and sincerity and calling them by their real names: underdevelopment, poverty, violence, corruption, intolerance, etc., and to seek their true causes: our own inability to exercise good governance.

February 16 2011