My conjecture is that ‘perception of an enemy’ could be a Jungian archetype or a category of perception that represents a certain dynamic between groups of humans in societies or between humans and aspects of the world.
Humans are on one level tribal and it could be that tribal creatures have benefitted from being able to unify against a collective perception of an enemy, whether that be a pack of lions, another tribe or an individual within the tribe that must be exterminated or resolved at all costs for the tribe’s survival.
It could be argued that this archetype, if it has some physical expression, underwent a process of natural selection, where prehistoric human societies in which it was activated could be provoked into a destructive frenzy that would ensure their survival, in the face of an enemy.
Jordan Peterson explains how swearing uses the same neural system as alarm cries in apes. If this is true, there are neural systems that are representational. The ‘enemy’ archetype could feasibly be said to be a biological neural system in the brain that has evolved in humans and other social species.
To push this idea further, I hypothesise that there could be a subtype of this ‘enemy’ archetype, where the enemy is ‘unseen.’
History is full of examples of societies that have behaved in a way that suggests that they had collectively activated some primal archetype that fills them with fear and disgust of an ‘unseen enemy’. Crucial to the concept, is that the enemy can be (or be in) any member of the group at any one time, making any member of the group potentially a suspect.
An evolutionary argument as to why this archetype might exist could be as follows:
a tribe that decided that there was an ‘unseen enemy’ in their midsts might kill a minority group within the tribe for some arbitrary reason. Whether or not the minority group is guilty, the remaining members tribe would then have a greater share of the resources than they did previously. The archetype, then, would have served an evolutionarily advantageous cause.
The devil, evil in general, witches, radical muslim terrorists, Jews, communists and coronavirus are all examples of phenomenon that have become, in some groups of peoples’ eyes, in some time in history, an unseen enemy.
Cases in point:
- Witches: The Salem witch trials where any person could be a witch
and therefore everyone had to be alert to the ‘unseen enemy.’
- The devil: In literature regarding the medieval ages (The Name of the Rose and the Devils) the devil is a purgeable demon that could exist in anyone. “He’s always the one you least suspect.”
- Radical Muslim terrorists: Employed during the War on Terror against anyone carrying a bag on public transport. “If you see anything suspicious please contact a member of staff.”
- The persecution of Jewish people in Nazi Germany, who were thought to be secretly plotting to undermine the Reich.
- The House Un-American Activities Committee who sought to root out covert communists from American society in the 1950s.
- All diseases and viruses are unseen and the media and corporations refer to the “fight against coronavirus.”
I should say at this point, it is beside the point whether the unseen enemy exists or not. Ultimately this archetype reduces to Descartes’ evil demon hypothesis: the idea that there may at any moment be an evil demon manipulating your reality and perceptions.
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