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Chesterton and the Noble Value of Declaring Enemies

Discussion in 'Ethics & Morality Forum' started by historyb, Jul 23, 2020.

  1. historyb

    historyb Well-Known Member

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    For the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, πóλεμος (polemos or strife) is “the father of all things,” an aphorism that seeks not to encourage actual warfare, but rather to acknowledge that conflict and struggle in one form or another bring to light what is finer and higher. Lest this be shocking, we should remember that Christ Himself reminds us that He came not “to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), while urging his followers to sell their garments if need be, in order to buy a sword (Luke 22:36). At the very least, we may conclude that the Kingdom of God is worth fighting for. Addressing our age of “conflict resolution” that seeks to melt everything into a bland aggregation, and that praises accommodation while pursuing annihilation, Jesse Cone discusses G. K. Chesterton’s depiction of how opposing one’s enemy can ennoble both parties, while at the same time revealing the sacred. This insight is sorely lacking in today’s political, ethical, and cultural discussions, he argues, and we would benefit from rediscovering it since it reaffirms the vital importance of the sacred in our lives and safeguards our human dignity.


    Today’s deconstruction of our fairy tales and myths fails to see the ennobling possibility of fierce opposition. Shrek-like tropes now leave one suspicious of kind fellows on the white horse (“What hidden motives is he hiding? What woeful shortcoming are we not seeing?”) and excusing of the villains (“If you had the childhood of Maleficent or Elphaba…”). The disenfranchised war against the privileged because of either a painful personal or corporate history, not because of things in our lives that we hold sacred.

    All of this comes rushing to mind when looking at the ideological conflicts of the day. Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush have each been cast simultaneously as incompetent dolts and nefarious, conniving threats of the highest magnitude. That person who disagrees with you on Facebook is “ignorant”, subscribes to “fake news”, and the world must be told what a sniveling insignificant person they are so you can “no platform” them by making them an ignoble and unworthy opponent (And yes, before you go there, both sides are guilty of this.) But is this an appropriate response? Are we depriving our opponent and ourselves of the nobility of worthy opposition?

    Chesterton and the Noble Value of Declaring Enemies