Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Enemy with No Face

I was reading Juergensmeyer and I came to the bit he was talking about primary and secondary enemies. His portrayal of the secondary and collective enemies is really what caught my attention; maybe because it helped me understand religious violence towards government and innocent people. The concept is that the secondary enemy can be a moderate force, something which disrupts the dichotomy of good an evil in the view of a religious actor. The secondary enemy belittles the notion of cosmic war, in the view of the actor. People whom abide by the system (in the outgroup) are part of the collective identity of the system itself. Willing or unwillingly, they support the system and the immoralities that religious actors disdain.

Juergensmeyer states that "it is relatively easy to kill someone who is unknown" (178). I believe this notion is extremely true. There are no individual faces to these victims; only association that they are the enemy. This factor can, at times, exacerbate violence. If one does not know a person in another group, it is very easy to make judgements and even perform acts of violence. There is no bond or association with these groups of people. Thus if one performs an act of violence, they may feel less regret. They are known as the collective enemy.

Collective enemies are just another aspect of the way actors dehumanize other human beings. Grouping all into the same group as the enemy deprives them of human features. They are not seen as singular beings, but a force of evil that must be destroyed. They lack emotion, passion, intelligence and other human qualities. In essence, one can deem them as not human of non-existent.

This reminds me of the phrase: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" If another human dies in the opposite side of the world, does it matter to you? An even bigger meta-physical question: how do you know if they even existed? This absolute disconnect provides an easier moral justification for violence. If you didn't know them, how can it affect you? Aren't they all apart of the greater evil?

There are around 7 billion people on this planet. It would be impossible to learn every other human being. However, this is why exchange programs are so crucial. It exposes people to others. If one has a personal connection with someone in another outgroup, it may be harder for one to perform violence against the said group.

Ready for this? Putting a face on a person can make all the difference. Secondary enemies now have an individual quality to them. No longer are they some evil force, but another human being. I am not saying this will stop violence, but increased inter-group interaction forms relationships that can hinder group-on-group violence. If it is how we act and form relationships with other humans that guide all our interactions, I think it would be pretty important to establish the best relationships you can with others.

Put a face to another group, and it may make all the difference in how you view them.

1 comment:

  1. I really agree with this. Collective enemies are easy to dehumanize, and meeting real people from other groups reinforces the fact that they are like you--they have a family, a personality, friends, quirks. I think a lot of groups have come to this conclusion--that interaction between groups to form relationships would hinder violence. The group "Seeds of Peace" does this with young people from Israel, Palestine and Egypt, and the movie "Crossing Borders" that was on campus recently had a similar thing. I think it's definitely a worthwhile tool for building towards peace.