Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Scary Menace

This is hard to add to but can we all just be honest for a second and admit that as Americans, maybe even more specifically, White Christian Americans, there is something in our cultural DNA that needs a Scary Menace? Without a "them" we start to get a little insecure about "us". Without a constant focus on all the bad shit "they" do we might accidentally encounter an opportunity to confront or acknowledge all the bad shit WE do. And we couldn't have that. Maybe the very fabric of civilization would unravel without the constant threat of the Scary Menace, some intrinsically evil group of sub-humans who are obsessed with destroying everything we consider good and holy. If that Scary Menace can be associated with an opposing religious group all the better, as any shred of rationality or reason is guaranteed to evaporate as soon as religion is brought into the discussion.

Maybe as individuals we need a Scary Menace to feel more comfortable with our place in the world and maybe that explains why whatever group fills the role of Scary Menace is interchangeable. Whether that be Japanese-Americans, Communists, Black Welfare Queens, Illegal Mexican Immigrants, or Muslims makes no difference. The point is that "we" have someone to hate, and most importantly, to fear.

Or maybe all of that is complete and utter bullshit. Maybe it's our corporate and/or military industrial overlords who ensure the perpetual existence of a Scary Menace. A scared population is an obedient population. Who can question our own physical security? If powerful people (and the media they control) are constantly ensuring us that our safety is at risk, it must be so. Right?

Nothing works more effeciently to destroy reason and logic than emotion, and no emotion is more powerful than fear. Nothing divides human beings and blinds them from recognizing their common interests more than fear. And, I would argue, nothing scares those in power more than the prospect of solidarity among people who recognize their common interests. For those in power the status quo must be preserved at all costs and in the absence of a status quo that promotes the well-being of everyone in society, there is no better way to preserve the status quo than a Scary Menace!

At this point we can only imagine what life would be like without The Scary Menace. We can contemplate whether it's existence meets an intrinsic human need or whether it's just a cynical tool of manipulation created and promoted by the powerful. I would argue that it's primarily the latter. And as long as the agenda of the powerful is at odds with the overall good of society and/or that agenda conflicts with our basic human morality, the Scary Menace will be with us.