Seeing enemies where there aren’t any

Women wear protective masks as they ride in a street, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hanoi, Vietnam July 27, 2020.
Women wear protective masks as they ride in a street, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hanoi, Vietnam July 27, 2020.
Image: KHAM

“A divided humanity is a broken humanity,” wrote Amanda Jeffs.

I found her article on this week, while trying to understand how quickly and aggressively the world’s people have polarised against each other over the past few months.

For me, the issue is symbolised by a small event — a minor subplot in the grand scheme of things — on one of my social media newsfeeds.

I had posted an image of reverse evolution.

A very clever (in my opinion, naturally) graphic explanation of how easily we are sucked into a belief system, or a “position” or division against others, when we don’t think critically and question what we are fed by the media.

That was the point of the visual — the power of screens in our lives.

It depicted a man walking with a mobile phone.

The man then, through a series of evolutionary steps (a reverse of the ape-to-man evolutionary picture that most of us know), turned into a sheep.

The symbolism of man-as-sheep is well-known in “alternative” circles — a herd mentality, an inability to think for oneself, a blind and animalistic following of the mass mind or instinct.

I liked it. Lots of people did.

We’re not all guilty of being “sheeple”, but we see more and more of it nowadays — particularly in the wake of a global pandemic that has made fear the new normal

But one of my friends didn’t like it.

Or, if he did, he chose, instead, to use its “left of centre” tone to launch into a potential argument.

“Are you an anti-masker?” he asked.

What masks have to do with a meme about screens and sheep, I don’t know.

Or, perhaps, I pretend not to know.

But it was clear — he had a suspicion that I was on one side of the great Covid-19 divide, while he was on the other.

He was buying into the classic and prolific division politics that fuel us now, via a media storm.

Masks vs non-masks, conspiracies vs science, believers vs non-believers — the virus has made enemies of, not quite all, but certainly a larger swathe than the usual percentage.

The meme had nothing to do with masks. But he made it everything to do with masks.

That’s not his fault and I love him.

Perhaps he was making a joke — I wanted to assume so.

But the fact that he said it, and the fact that it alarmed me, is enough to lend credence to what Jeffs argues — division is the enemy.

“The majority of humanity are peaceful.

“There are fanatics and extremists in every corner of life; every race, every religion, every diet, every sport.

“Extremism is division.

“Judging another’s beliefs and advocating that your belief, religion or way of life is better than another’s is division.

“Whatever you are proclaiming, by virtue of you espousing one thing over another thing, valuing one side of something over the other side of something, is diminishing the perspectives and viewpoints of others.”

She urges us to start accepting other people’s viewpoints, beliefs, perspectives, cultures, ways of doing things — to allow them to be, do, have, eat and believe what they want.

Yes, it’s difficult.

What about murderers and corrupt politicians, you would argue?

Fair enough. Those are biggies — there’s a general consensus about the “big stuff”.

But, increasingly, we’re not only sweating over so many other issues — and seeing enemies where there aren’t any — that I suspect we’re being played.

Pawns in a global game that lives by the credo: divide and rule.

Conspiracy nut? Maybe.

But let’s agree on one thing, then, if we can: mostly, humans simply want to be happy.

That’s a common goal — and we can start by doing our damnedest to see, appreciate and acknowledge a differing point of view.

It may be so wildly different to yours, that it makes you physically ill.

Chances are the other guy feels the same way.

But let’s begin anyway. What else do we have left?

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