16 January 2015

When the enemy is your best friend

This is the sixteenth in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'. Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.

Enemy is not friend, it goes without saying.  If enemy were friend, there would be no antagonism.  This is why rebels tend to treat those they oppose in a ‘no quarter asked nor given’ way.  The word ‘friend’ on the other hand prompts us to drop our guard.  This is why, in battle, people don’t want to smudge lines.  If we confuse enemy with friend we simply lose direction.  You can’t fight that way.  You can’t win that way.
At the same time, i.e. even while keeping lines intact, it is not impossible to see ‘friend’ in that entity you call ‘enemy’. 
Why do we divide people into two broad categories, ‘enemy’ and ‘friend’?  We do so because we see things differently.  It is not just that someone is bad and someone else is good.  That may be the case of course, but sometimes enmity is perceived because people read positions, actions and plans from different angles, different sets of values, and different understanding of ‘greater good’.  It is not necessarily that the other person, i.e. the one we call ‘enemy’ is a bad, bad, bad dude, although we might use that word when we refer to him/her. 
We can find friend in enemy of friendship in what the enemy says and does.  This is how it happens. 
Let us begin with something we can all agree on: none of us know everything.  We start off knowing very little.  As we live, engage, experience ups and downs, reflect on all these things, we acquire knowledge.  We being to understand certain things.  And yet, there’s no way that any of us can claim to have absolute knowledge about anything.  There are things we take for granted.  We presume a lot of things.  We make calculated guesses.  We make mistakes.   The last one is important.
The very fact that we can and often do err shows that we are imperfect.  We may have at heart the best interest of the people whose causes we want to champion but we must never forget that in understanding the issue, solution proposed and the program designed to right wrongs, we are always handicapped by our human frailties.  So the first thing to remember is that honest in intent though we may be, there is that small possibility that we could be wrong in all these things.  That’s where the enemy provides ‘friendship’.
Clearly the enemy sees things differently.  If we were to assume that the enemy choices are also prompted by similar values (although the conclusions drawn may be totally dissimilar) then we could acknowledge that he/she has seen something we hadn’t, analyzed in ways we haven’t and so on. 
The enemy may pour invective on us.  Vilify us.  Attack us.  In these things ‘enemy’ is ‘enemy’.  There’s no friendship, not even of the unintended kind.   But when it comes to the identification of any problem, discussion of the causes and suggestion of remedy, the ‘enemy’ always shows us a different way of thinking, or ‘different ways’ as the case may be. 
The problem is, we are not often ready to even entertain the idea that the enemy might be endowed with superior logic or is spurred by virtues that we believe we alone have.  So, we meet invective with invective or we just take the enemy on without worrying too much about the bad-mouthing.  We seldom stop and ask ourselves, ‘do you think there is something in what the enemy says?’ 
‘Seeing’ the enemy in this manner does not mean we have to subscribe to what he/she says.  It is not a sign of weakness.  Indeed, we might consider his point of view and still conclude that our reading is more a more logical extrapolation of available facts.  In the very least contemplating such questions would give us insights into the enemy’s mind and that’s always useful. 
More importantly, when the enemy offers critique of our ideological positions and political methods, we are forced to defend ourselves.  Here arrogance can be our enemy, and humility a source of strength.  When we are tested, we have to think.  When we think, we act better.  In all these things, enemies offer us something that is useful; in all these things there’s (unintended) friendship.  But if we see ‘enemy’ as a black, monolithic entity, we miss these ‘friendship-shards’ that might, who knows, make the difference between victory and defeat.  

Other articles in this series
Dear Rebel, please keep it short
Get ready for those setbacks
The rebel must calculate or perish
Are you ready to deceive?
Dear Rebel, 'P' is also for 'Proportion'
Dear Rebel, have you got the e-factor out of the way?
Have you carefully considered the f-word?
It is so easy to name the enemy, right?
The p-word cuts both ways
Cards get reflected in eyes, did you know?
It's all about timing
Heroes and heroism are great, but...
Recruiting for a rebellion
The R, L and H of 'Rebellion'
Pack in 'Humor' when you gather rebellion-essentials