‘Chief Enemy’ politics
January 11, 2011
In 1974, as an undergrad, I once took a class from a long-time respected anthropology professor.
In class, while discussing the difference in stability between the political institutions in the United States and those of the states of Africa, he alluded that one reason that African politics was so fractious, volatile, and unstable was due in part to the language used to refer to the political opposition.
Being a scholar of African societies and a speaker of a number of African languages, he told us that the “mildest” reference he had come across in speaking about an opposing political party was, “The Chief Enemy.”
The discussion went on to the historical and cultural factors that influenced this thinking such as, tribal societies, etc.
I believe that the instability of “Chief Enemy” politics in the U.S. has now completely pushed aside all reason.
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We have replaced compromise, which was once fairly broadly accepted as the unavoidable part of the rough and tumble of life in a heterogeneous democratic society, with the desire to dominate and destroy the opposition in vicious circle politics.
And those that express legitimate differences within democratic dialogue are drowned out by the spitters, true believers, and spouters of undefined slogans seeking to give the illusion of broad consensus of opinion while intending to destroy communication and make democracy impossible.
They want reason to be subordinated to their ultimate view of the truth by rejecting any tentative and tolerant discussion of truth and values and replacing it with their patriotically holy non-negotiable demands which they believe should trump compromise, tolerance, and civility.