Tag Archives: Umberto Eco

Inventing The Enemy

Some years ago in New York I found myself in conversation with a taxi driver whose name I had difficulty in placing. He was, he explained Pakistani and asked where I came from. Italy, I replied. He asked how many of us there were and was surprised we were so few and that our language wasn’t English.

Then he asked me who our enemies were. In response to my ‘Sorry?’ he explained patiently that he wanted to know who were the people against whom we have fought through the centuries over land claims, ethnic rivalry, border incursions, and so forth. I told him we are not at war with anyone. He explained that he wanted to know who were our historical enemies, those who kill us and whom we kill. I repeated that we don’t have any, that we fought our last war more than half a century ago – starting, moreover, with one enemy and ending with another.

Having an enemy is important not only to define our identity but also to provide us with an obstacle against which to measure our system of values, and in seeking to overcome it, to demonstrate our own worth. So when there is no enemy, we have to invent one.

Umberto Eco: Inventing The Enemy and Other Occasional Writings.

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