John Cleese on Extremism

John Cleese on Extremism:

“Seriously, though, we’ve heard a lot about extremism recently, a nastier harsher atmosphere everywhere, more abuse and bother-boy behavior, less friendliness and tolerance and respect for opponents. Alright, but what we never hear about extremism is its advantages! Well, the biggest advantage of extremism is that it makes you feel good because it provides you with enemies! Let me explain.

“The great thing about having enemies is that you can pretend that all the badness in the whole world is in your enemies, and all the goodness in the whole world is in you! Attractive, isn’t it? So, if you have a lot of anger and resentment in you anyway, and you therefore enjoy abusing people, then you can pretend that you are only doing it because these enemies of yours are such very bad persons, and that if it wasn’t for them, you’d actually be good natured and courteous and rational all the time. So, if you want to feel good, become an extremist!

“Okay, now you have a choice. If you join the hard left, they’ll give you their list of authorized enemies: almost all kinds of authority, especially the police, the City [1], Americans, judges, multinational corporations, public schools, furriers, newspaper owners, fox hunters, generals, class traitors, and, of course, moderates.

“Or, if you’d rather be an extremist on the hard right, no problem, fine. You still get a lovely list of enemies, only they’re different ones: noisy minority groups, unions, Russia, weirdos, demonstrators, welfare sponges, meddlesome clergy, peaceniks, the BBC, strikers, social workers, communists, and, of course, moderates, and upstart actors.

“Now, once you’re armed with one of these super lists of enemies, you can be as nasty as you like, and yet feel your behavior’s morally justified. So, you can strut around abusing people and telling them you could eat them for breakfast and still think of yourself as a champion of the truth, a fighter for the greater good, and not the rather sad paranoid schizoid that you really are.”

Quoted from a YouTube video posted 12 years ago on a YouTube channel, eroosters, with less than 300 subscribers.

1. “the City” is a British expression for “an area in central London where there are many large banks and other financial institutions. This is often used to refer to the institutions themselves.” [MacMillan Dictionary] It is similar to the expression “Wall Street”, literally referring to a certain street where many financial institutions are located, but figuratively referring to the institutions themselves.

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