Monday, October 30, 2006

The enemy within may do us in

"There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us"
- Walt Kelly, The Pogo (comics) Papers, 1952 (1913-1973)

Edited version: "There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that...the enemy...may be us."

My edit did not change the meaning of the quote. But it may have cut away the distractions that could have caused many readers to miss Pogo-creator Kelly's point.

Most of us will know at least one person, perhaps many people, who are their won worst enemy. They cheat, then carry around with them the burden of guilt. They smoke knowing that smoking will likely shorten their life for any of dozens of reasons (including poisons and carcinogens in tobacco).

The commit mean or selfish acts against their neighbours, then criticize them for not being more caring and friendly.

They dislike their job and say they only do it for the money, then criticize their employer for employing them for exactly the same reason.

They refuse to trust anyone, then can't understand why others don't trust them.

They look out for their own best interests at all times, but consider that others who do the same are short-sighted, selfish, possibly arrogant.

They refuse to vote because they believe their vote doesn't count, then complain about the representatives who are elected by the people who do believe theirs matters.

Nations characterize themselves in similar ways. One country invades another on trumped up charges they secretly know are false, then takes offence when the invaded country and others consider them bullies.

Another country believes that its relatively small population means that no one will pay any attention to its voice on the international stage, such as the United Nations where each country has the same one vote and where each representative has equal access to the media.

We project for ourselves the image that we want to be, whether we be an individual or a state. If we project an image that is less than flattering, then we should not be surprised if others take us less than seriously, something far less than positive.

We can be our own worst enemy. We can also be our own best friend. That's not a selfish or destructive friend, but a courageous and constructive one.

Whether we are prepared to admit it or not, we choose who we want to be. Over time, those who know us adopt a characterization of us according to the image that we project.

That image can be changed for the better, but only if we are prepared to be honest with ourselves and behave in ways that will consistently project the image we want people to have of us.

That in itself may be the greatest act of courage.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give people the tools to be who they can be, who they want to be.
Learn more at

No comments: