I recently finished reading Magic Slays, book 5 in a light fantasy series by Ilona Andrews, set in an interesting alternate world that includes periods of time where magic is real.
There are factions, and zealots, and conflict, and more. The thing you’d expect from an engaging story.
But a series of paragraphs late in the book, as the characters were preparing for its major battle, caught my attention for reasons I think will become clear.
People, especially unhappy people, want a cause. They want something to belong to, to be a part of something great and bigger, and to be led. It’s easy to be a cog in a machine: you don’t have to think, you have no responsibility. You’re just following orders. Doing as you’re told.
Rage is a powerful thing. People get upset over many things. Frustrating jobs, small paychecks, bad hours. People want things; people feel humiliated by others who have the things they want; people feel deprived and powerless. All this gives fuel to rage. The anger builds and builds and if there is no outlet for it, pretty soon it transforms the person. They walk around like a loaded gun, ready to go off if only they could find the right target. They want to hurt something. They need it.
Humans tend to segregate the world: enemies on one side, friends on the other. Friends are people we know. Enemies are the Other. You can do just about anything to the Other. It doesn’t matter if this Other is actually guilty of any crimes, because it’s a matter of emotion, not logic. You see, angry people aren’t interested in justice. They just want an excuse to vent their rage.
And once you become their Other, you’re no longer a person. You’re just an idea, an abstraction of everything that’s wrong with their world. Give them the slightest excuse, and they will tear you down. And the easiest way for them to target you as this Other is to find something that’s different about you. Color of your skin. The way you speak. The place you’re from.
The politics you express.
The values you hold.
The religion you espouse.
The people you love.
The person you are.
Anything that can label you as “different”, “other”, or “evil”.
And let’s be clear: particularly in our currently bifurcated environment, this applies to both sides. Each is expending incredible effort demonizing the other.
Demonizing the other is how you win, particularly if your own position is weak. It’s easier to destroy than to build.
It’s how you get people to take their actions against your opponent rather than for you.
Issues are forgotten. Logic is set aside. Emotions rule. Minds are closed. Listening stops.
I don’t have an answer, beyond awareness, but I thought Andrews’ words needed more distribution since they capture the state of the world so clearly.
No magic needed.