12 February 2015

Read the enemy’s Bibles

This is the twentieth 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.

Many years ago, a left-leaning professor somewhere in the USA quite innocently gave his students an assignment.  The students were for the most part ‘progressive’.  The task was to research cooperatives.  The purpose was to gather a set of success stories.  The result was that one particular student who a die-hard socialist when she started on the project ended up convinced that it was all Utopian.  It is said that she later became quite a right-wing theoretician.

The above story was related by a Political Science Professor to a set of doctoral students.  One of the students offered that perhaps the ‘socialist who became a capitalist’ was a poor researcher since cooperatives and cooperation have worked and continue to work in many parts of the world.  Another student mischievously suggested that the professor give a similar assignment to a set of students who weren’t particularly interested in socialism: ‘Ask them, “What is capitalism?”  Then they’ll see all that is wrong with it!’   Everyone laughed, but the professor took the suggestion seriously: ‘That’s your assignment for the term right there: “What’s capitalism and what do you do about it?” There’s extra credit if you can get a version published in a local newspaper!’ 

The point here is not that studying things which you think are good would disillusion you or that it is a sure recipe to make you do an ideological U-Turn and join the enemy.  Whether this happens or not, it makes absolute sense to question your assumptions and revisit things you take for granted, including the ideological superiority of your positions.  It makes as much sense to read whatever it is that your enemy swears by, i.e. the bibles which for the enemy contain articles of faith.  Know it and you know where he/she is coming from.  It allows you to understand his/her every move and more importantly anticipate with a fair degree of accuracy what he/she is likely to do in given situations. 

Everyone has a book or books or a set of rules, a set of ethics, preferred methodologies etc.  You lose nothing by getting hold of your enemy’s ‘handbook of engagement’ be it the works of Karl Marx, Lenin, Che Guevara, Rosa Luxemburg, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, the Buddha, Krishnamurthi, Osho or whoever.  Studying the relevant texts would however give you a key into the enemy’s mind.  Once you get inside his/her head, it’s almost like you are watching the enemy drawing his/her plans.  Naturally you would be better prepared to meet his/her every move. 

It makes sense, then, to find out what the enemy’s preferences are.  What kind of music, what kind of literature, what kind of heroes, what kind of movies and plays does he/she like, you can ask yourself and proceed to find out.  A person is made, to a large extent, by these things and in general associate personalities he/she admires and wishes to emulate one way or another.  People end up mimicking their heroes and regurgitating the words of their greatest heroes. 

There are two things to keep in mind, then: go find the tastes of your enemy and keep your preferences a secret.  Get into the enemy’s mind but don’t let the enemy enter yours.  Read the enemy’s bibles, don’t let on that you even have one of your own.

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2 comments:

sajic said...

Why do you call the texts, enemies?
Someone whose ideas differ from yours is not necessarily an 'enemy', is he?

Malinda Seneviratne said...

not the texts....but 'enemy' here is subjectives. rebels tend to think of 'enemies'