How we became enemies

A brief reflection from a historian of the future.

We chose division. We rubbed the losers’ noses in it when we won. We protested against the result when we lost. We revelled in schaudenfreude.

We chose ignorance. We pretended facts which challenged our narrative did not exist. We shouted down the media when we disagreed with it. We read fake news. We relied on feelings instead of reason. We cared far too much about trivia. We embraced conspiracy theories. We grew complacent.

We chose echo chambers and safe spaces. We refused to talk to people we disagreed with. We banned newspapers, tried to shut down films, sacked scientists, no-platformed speakers, shouted down jokes, tore down statues, published private messages and emails, blocked or deleted people on social media and suspended Twitter accounts. We felt outrage, and we enjoyed it. We began a culture war. We made the personal political.

We chose labels. We called our opponents –ites, –ists, –phobes, bigots, deplorables, elites, regressives, apologists, Nazis, sympathisers and trolls. We pathologised the views of those we disagreed with. We invented ‘establishments’ to define ourselves against. We made lists of people whose views we disliked.

We chose comfort. We reaffirmed our preconceptions instead of broadening our minds. We wrote endless opinion pieces. We loaded clickbait. We did not make friends who disagreed with us. We tried to change other people instead of ourselves.

We chose purity. We forgot that there is good and evil in all of us.

We chose opposition. We made no effort to win others over. We called compromisers sell-outs. We pretended our side had lost when it had won. We knew what we stood against but not what we stood for. We fell for the allure of our enemy’s enemy.

We chose cults. We believed those who said they could fix all our problems. We defended leaders, not causes. We excused the inexcusable. We threw the first punch.

We chose competing interest groups. We set white against black, male against female, young against old, sexuality against sexuality. We embraced victimhood, resentment and destruction. We demanded more for ourselves at others’ expense. We abandoned our principles when the identity group we supported violated them.

We chose narcissism. We talked endlessly about ourselves. We adopted political positions because they made us feel superior, caring or rebellious. We sneered at the way others live.

We stopped listening to each other. We talked at each other. We chose to become enemies.

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