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Eradication Fantasies Don't Come Free

Eradication Fantasies Don’t Come Free

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Two decades back when the War on Terror™ was announced—you know, that thing that killed millions, cost trillions, made no one safer, and enabled the Covid fraud by giving people a crash course on how to cower and comply in the face of government lies and fear porn—I tried out a line with friends that I saw and both critically piercing and drolly funny: “And what comes next, The War on Original Sin (TWOOS)”? 

Except, no one laughed. No one even chuckled. In fact, few had any idea of what I might be getting at. So, I reluctantly placed it on the shelf of completely failed comic gambits. 

What I was seeking to highlight was the rank absurdity of an organized campaign to end “terror,” which is simply a word that powerful state entities, covetous of their near exclusive ability to serially inflict violence on large numbers of others as they see fit, slap on the violent activities carried out by those with less power who are not in conformity with their forms of “leadership.”

Given that none of the measures undertaken by the leaders of this alleged campaign of eradication of “terror” seemed aimed at curbing their own use of violence (indeed, quite the opposite), or addressing the feelings of aggrievement that had led certain less powerful people to resort to their own—it must be said—almost always less lethal, forms of violence, I couldn’t see how it was supposed to work. 

Did these “anti-terror” warriors really believe that they could eradicate hostile feelings inside the heads of certain people, hostile feelings rooted in their own sovereignly-generated perceptions of reality, by recurring to even more of the same big power behaviors that, if they had listened, the “terrorists” had pointed to, again and again, as being the wellspring of their distrust and anger? 

Had they never observed how unduly critical, harsh, and non-listening parents often tend to produce the most violent and angry children? Apparently not. 

These thoughts came to me this morning on my early morning walk after walking by a man wearing an “Eliminate the Hate” t-shirt. I thought for a moment about stopping and doing a slightly altered version of my “War on Original Sin” routine. But given its track record, I demurred and walked on, and began thinking of what I might say to him if by some accident of fate I were to accidentally crash into him on my next loop around the park. 

That would-be soliloquy went something like this. 

“Hey, interesting shirt there. It certainly expresses a nice sentiment. But I’m not sure if I can get on board with it, though. And that’s because I know that like every other person on this earth, I can and do hate, and probably always will from time to time in the future. And my guess is that you do too, and that if I sang the praises of certain ideas or people I could probably do a pretty good job in a relatively short time of eliciting hateful sentiments in you. That’s because the emotion of hate, like the emotion of love, are inalienable parts of the human condition. 

Or, have you exempted yourself from that? Judging from your shirt, it seems you have. 

It pains me to say this, but over the years I have come to fear people who suggest they are above hate, and its correlates like prejudice and anger, more than I fear people who quite openly assault me with their hostility. 

The latter types may or may not know they hate. But if you confront them with what they’ve done face-to-face, they do, in my experience, usually admit (with or without repentance) to having mobilized a non-loving (aka hateful) part of their being against you. 

In contrast, it is with people who have declared themselves as being above such low emotions, as you seem to be doing, that have tended to casually and, at times quite proudly showered me with opprobrium.  

Why’s that? 

While I can’t be sure, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s very hard, if not impossible, to manage a condition that you don’t know or admit you have, and that you see as something you can only observe from a safe remove in others. 

This contrasts with the thoughtful person cognizant of the fact they have an inborn and probably terminal proclivity to hate and who, knowing this, tends to try and develop strategies for tempering its presence in their lives, and by extension, in the lives of others. 

Make sense? 

Thinking about what I’ve just said now, I’ve probably been a little too harsh on you. It’s probably not all your fault. 

After all, we live in a culture where what was seen as one of the central tasks of becoming mature in most societies throughout history—learning to manage the less palatable instincts and tendencies in one’s self to limit damage to both self and others—has been replaced by the infantile practice of placing most, if not all blame, for the inner turmoil and unfortunate outcomes in our lives on sinister forces outside our realm of personal control, and then declaring objectively impossible-to-win wars of total eradication against them.  

What kind of things am I talking about? Things like:

—As mentioned above, treating countries that have legitimate historical reasons to be very angry with the US and/or its closest allies as largely irrational incarnations of an evil that simply has no comparable presence in our own cultural realm, and that is therefore not amenable to management through good faith negotiation, only campaigns of eradication. 

—Putting the lion’s share of the blame for our country’s epidemic of drug use on the countries that supply our addicts with product rather than the desperate spiritual conditions in our culture that lead so many to want to narcotize their senses before the world around them, a line of reasoning that is particularly rich when, as is not infrequently the case, it issues forth from those who, out of the other sides of their mouths, serially point to consumer demand as the prime mover of economic activity. 

—Turning medicine, a profession founded upon the goal of healing in the knowledge that we are all dying and no one is ever in perfect health, and the belief that,  for all of our advances in research, the human body is still an often unfathomably complex system subject to constant changes in both time and context, into a game of narrowly searching for that one thing that, if eradicated by the right pharmaceutical or the most cutting edge procedure, will deliver us back to the world of perfect health™. 

Does anyone really believe in their heart of hearts that we will ever really eradicate heart disease or cancer? Or for that matter, that a vaccine will ever be developed to eradicate or even substantially impede the transmissibility of fast-mutating respiratory viruses? It is objectively absurd to think that such things will ever come to pass. 

And yet we are constantly told that we must fork over enormous resources to pursue precise goals like these, resources that might be a lot more useful if applied to the job of helping people manage their illnesses and their angst about mortality in less dramatic but arguably more effective ways. 

If you think about it, I’m sure you can come up with many more examples of great campaigns of eradication (climate change, anyone?) around us that have absolutely zero chance of ever achieving their stated goals.

That we spend so much time and energy on things we know, or should know, can’t possibly ever succeed in is tragic. 

What’s even more so, and less talked about, is what our enlistment in these endless wars of eradication do to our spiritual lives, and from there, the ways we visualize and treat other people in our midst. 

Verbs like excise, eradicate and extirpate, abolish, demolish, eliminate, annihilate, and exterminate, all carry within them the suggestions of both violence and martial discipline. 

And with warring intentions there inevitably come calls from on high for all below, which are most of us, to sublimate our individual personalities and liberties to the pursuit of the Greater Good. And this, in turn, always sets off witch hunts within the culture against those seen as traitors for not kowtowing enough to what the majority of “good soldiers” (those anxious and willing to cede their autonomy) see as the clairvoyant design of the leadership cadre. 

Is such sublimation of the self sometimes necessary for the survival of the collective? Of course. But we need to be very, very sure when called to participate in such efforts, that our collective survival is, in fact, truly on the line. 

Looking back over the course of my six decades of life, I can say with considerable assurance that none of the many “wars” of eradication that I have been serially asked and/or coerced to participate in have come close to rising to this standard. And needless to say, absolutely none of them have come close to achieving the sterilizing goals their authors and cheerleaders said were essential to achieve for the “good of us all.” 

Our elite classes have spent a great amount of time and energy studying the psychological dispositions of the people in the collectives they seek to bend ever more fully to their schemes of control. They are quite aware, for example, of our in-built disposition toward sublimating our individuality to the will of the collective in times of perceived danger, as well our tendency to apply our inherent clean-dirty sorting mechanism with heightened vigor to our fellow citizens in these same moments. 

Having freed themselves from the last vestiges of the ethos of noblesse oblige in the waning years of the 20th century, they have come, in their moral barrenness, to see fomenting bogus wars of eradication as their prime means of governance. And they will continue to pursue this path as long as we continue to hand over our emotional energy to these Dementor-led campaigns of emotional blackmail. That’s why I’ve got to say I’m really not a fan of your shirt. 

Oh, by the way, I hope the rest of your walk goes great!” 



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Author

  • Thomas Harrington

    Thomas Harrington, Senior Brownstone Scholar and Brownstone Fellow, is Professor Emeritus of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where he taught for 24 years. His research is on Iberian movements of national identity and contemporary Catalan culture. His essays are published at Words in The Pursuit of Light.

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