The Convenience of Demonization

A scapegoat is easy to find. If we want to find someone to blame, for our many crises, for war, for violence, we can absolutely find someone. This is a way of perceiving history, that the tremendous suffering and pain were caused by a few people making the big decisions. Implied in this way of perception is the tendency to separate oneself from history, to maintain a fairytale of the good against evil, and, of course, we are always the good ones. It is tremendously easy to demarcate, to draw lines and boundaries, to make someone into the enemy. Any declaration of war is this same movement. One must demonize the other in order to justify killing the other. One must say the other is evil in order to liquidate the other with good conscience. But, is any killing done in good conscience? Is any demonization a good? When we tolerate demonization, or even celebrate demonization, do we ever look at ourselves? And when we do, are we really different from the enemy?

And those we kill, whoever they are, whatever country they are from, are not also the children and parents of human beings? But why have we justified killing children and parents when we so insist that our own shall not be killed? If we are really interested in peace, in the cessation of war, then is propaganda necessary? Or, in order to realize a propaganda, an ideology, we can sacrifice human life? This has been the pattern for humanity, that for some kind of ideal, we can sacrifice the soldiers, the civilians, the earth, the wildlife. In this pursuit of the ideal, the self and the enemy are the same. For peace to exist, mustn't ideals be let go completely, therefore the enemy does not exist? Isn't any attempt to conform life into an ideal requiring sacrifice and violence? And who is to say whose life is more valuable to keep and less to be thrown away? Aren't we playing God by deciding the values of life? Isn't killing a fundamental expression of the inequality and prejudice we have? Aren't we essentially saying, by killing anyone with intent, that their life is less valuable than others?

It is convenient to demonize because then one does not need to consider these questions. Demonization makes the human mind cruel and callous, so it doesn't need to be aware of how cruel it has become. Demonization basically serves to fulfill a purpose, an objective, and when the mind is tied to an objective, it does not have the space or leisure to be kind and considerate. This isn't only true to war, to extreme circumstances, but also to our day to day life, seemingly peaceful, but always in conflict. The desire to fulfill oneself necessarily disregards everything else. When one is ambitious, driven, by success, career, or what we call love, one's action becomes exclusive. Whatever resistance or obstacle one might encounter become an opportunity for violence to break out. If we observe in our own lives, we see this happen in ourselves and in others. It is much more difficult to see this in ourselves, because we are so committed to our own perceptions, ideals, values, and so on. Because of our deep commitment, we are unable to admit our own roles in violence, to honestly face who we really are.

Does life have a value? Can life be compensated with however much money? Can life be traded with an ideology, either for a country or for a cause? Can life be measured with statistics and science? We want to seek justice, only after violence has been done and death has happened. But, can anything be sought after to repay life? I think, deeply, we all know that nothing can be the measure of life. No amount of money, reparation, death sentences and jail time can bring back what was lost. So, what we call justice is only a fantasy. It is to seek the comfort of vengeance. Isn't it more important to see that no violence happens? Isn't it more important to see that war does not occur? But all this time we have been building up to war. The geopolitical games, the influences each nation or bloc wishes to exert on earth, the natural resources and strategic ports that are occupied and then taken, the greed of the politicians and the greed of those who elect them or oppose them, are all the fuels that have been leading up to war. Now, we might condemn war, but have we put any effort in stopping war when it was bound to happen? Now, we might march, take action, sanction, assist, but when the water was slowly boiling, did we think of turning of the fire? Or do we only realize the crisis when the house has caught fire, and we have no option but to put it out. And when we do put out the fire, everything is burnt away.

The demon isn't over there firing missiles and planting bombs. The demon is right here, in human consciousness. War is a collective responsibility, and no one can separate themselves from it. No one has the moral high ground because morality is utterly irrelevant when there is killing and maiming. There is the fact of death, and no mount of moral judgments can argue with that. A death is a human death. It isn't a nation's death. To sacrifice any life for the ideal of a nation is violence, is selfish and calculating, is to maintain the interests of those in power. And it is not those in power that are to blame, because the society has educated people to become the president and the councils, and if one demagogue falls, another will rise. To solve this issue of war at the root, there must be an understanding of why demagogues keep appearing on earth, in all parts of the world. There must be an understanding of why we can sacrifice any human life at all, of why we can justify killing in any shape or form. And there must also be an understanding of why people allow demagogues to lead, to influence, to have power. These are all very serious questions, and one must travel very far in one's consciousness, as it were, to discover for oneself what is at the root of all this misery.

Without the clout, the group who support the demagogues, the war mongers, they cannot rise to power and point their fingers toward killing and murder. Without the people who wish to be led, to be guided, controlled, and from all this business derive a sense of security, the leaders cannot influence the people. Leadership is destructive, because it always lead to clashes of power and groups, religions and political ideologies. Real peace demands that human beings be self-sufficient, not in the sense of physical needs, but psychologically. When human beings do not depend on the leaders, then the leaders cannot lead anyone into war. This psychological independence is dignity, is to live a life that does not surrender to any force, influence, pressure, or reward for greed. No money can bribe, and no power can corrupt such a life.

To be independent in the psyche is not a plaything for the mind. It requires a deep understanding of oneself, to see how deeply rooted dependence has become in the psyche. This requires an awareness in daily life, to observe oneself in action, in relationship to each other, and to discover dependence while it moves. Dependence also implies comfort. There is comfort in depending on an ideal to live, or a person for guidance. This comfort is used to put a veil on the utter unknown nature of life, the perpetually changing fact of existence. In order to escape this flux, one seeks some static and permanent thing, either in another human being or in an idea. This very search for security is dependence, and one sees that dependence is essentially our lifestyle. We are perpetually seeking someone to validate ourselves, some idea to make us feel meaningful, some purpose to cover up the meaninglessness of life. There is nothing to fear actually, but because we are so conditioned to escape, to distract ourselves, we do not know how to face fear. There isn't a how. There is only facing. When we face whatever arises, fear cannot arise. When we face life as it is, in whatever form, either meaninglessness or utter joy, we do not escape. And what is there to depend for? What is there to depend on when everything changes? We do not like change, and we do not realize that change is that very dignity of life. Change does not compromise. Change cannot be argued with. Change is that utter immovable principle, and therefore the highest virtue. Change is forgiveness, because nothing is ever retained. Change is already peaceful. It is only when we resist change, violence becomes necessary.


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Cover photo by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash