By Umberto Eco
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Additional info for Inventing the enemy and other occasional writings
Enemies are different from us and observe customs that are not our own. The epitome of difference is the foreigner. In Roman bas-reliefs the barbarians appear as bearded and snub-nosed, and as is well known, the word itself alludes to a defect in language and therefore in thought (bar-bar, “they are stuttering”). From the very beginning, however, the people who become our enemies often are not those who directly threaten us (as would have been the case with the barbarians), but those whom someone has an interest in portraying as a true threat even when they aren’t.
Turn out the top light, my dear. The switch is by the door. Then come and sit beside me. ” (chapter 9) The Jew has been described as monstrous and smelly since at least the birth of Christianity, given that he is modeled on the Antichrist, the archenemy, the foe not only of man but of God: This is how he looks: his head is like a burning flame, his right eye is bloodshot, his left is a cat-like green and has two pupils, his eyelids are white, his lower lip is large, his right femur is weak, his feet large, his thumb flat and elongated.
We can recognize ourselves only in the presence of an Other, and on this the rules of coexistence and submission are based. But it is more likely that we find this Other intolerable because to some degree he is not us. In this way, by reducing him to an enemy, we create our hell on earth. When Sartre locks up three people who have died, who didn’t know each other in life, in a hotel bedroom, one of them realizes the terrible truth: “Wait! You’ll see how simple it is. Childishly simple. Obviously there aren’t any physical torments.
Inventing the enemy and other occasional writings by Umberto Eco