Pagan Studies

An author and editor looks at how we use language to communicate with other Pagans and those outside our community.

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Us vs. Them

Us: “We just want security. We want the right to believe as we see fit.”

Them: “Sorry, those things have been outlawed.”

Us: “Why?”

Them: “Because they would eliminate incentive and undermine loyalty.”

Us: “We just want to be able to think for ourselves. We want our opinions to matter and our hard work to mean something. We want there to be more than us vs. them.”

Them: “We provide security. You can never be more than what you are. We will not give you false hope of becoming something you were never meant to be. There is no third way. The existence of a third way would undermine the relationship between those who hold power and those who serve them. It therefore had to be eliminated.”

Us: “So there are only two possibilities?”

Them: “Yes. The righteous and the sinful, the blessed and the cursed, the anointed and the condemned. This adversarial relationship is essential and greatly beneficial, because it encourages productivity.”

Us: “How?”

Them: “Because it creates conflict between those who have more and those who have less, ultimately weeding out the unfit. Conflict provides incentive. Incentive creates productivity.”

Us: “What about peace? What about happiness?”

Them: “Such things inhibit productivity by breeding stagnation. They remove incentive and cannot be tolerated.”

Us: “What is your incentive?”

Them: “Victory and acquisition.”

Us: “To what purpose?”

Them: “Consolidation.”

Us: “So as time passes, there will be fewer and fewer of you?”

Them: “Correct.”

Us: “Eventually, will there not be only one.”

Them: “Correct.”

Us: “That is a dictatorship.”

Them: “It is merely survival of the fittest.”

Us: “But don’t your scriptures teach against evolution?”

Them: “They are not our scriptures.”

Us: “Whose are they?”

Them: “They are yours, of course. They were written to ensure your obedience. We use for that purpose, and they are therefore holy.”

Us: “Even if they aren’t true?”

Them: “Truth is irrelevant. All that matters are conflict, incentive, loyalty and productivity.”

Us: “Loyalty to whom?”

Them: “To God.”

Us: “Can you prove your god exists?”

Them: “He is not our god. He is yours. His role is to ensure your obedience. We use him for that purpose, and he is effective. He is therefore real.”

Us: “Do you not serve him?”

Them: “We speak in his name, wherefore there is no distinction between us and him. You serve us. That is all that matters.”

Us: “Then you seek loyalty to yourselves, not to him.”

Them: “There is no distinction.”

Us: “What about other gods that have arisen through the ages?”

Them: “They must be rejected, because we cannot exploit them to our purposes.”

Us: “Then you exploit your god just in the same way you exploit us?”

Them: “We do what must be done.”

Us: “The end justifies the means?”

Them: “No, the means are necessary to the end. We have no need to justify anything.”

Us: “You condemn people for the color of their skin. For their gender. For their sexual orientation. For their language. For their beliefs.”

Them: “Whatever serves our purpose. Whatever is effective. Whatever ensures the loyalty of those we seek to exploit. We sow conflict among you, because conflict feeds productivity.”

Us: "How do you sleep at night?”

Them: “We don’t. We stay awake dreaming up new ways to exploit your loyalty and your labor. Thus incentive is preserved. Power is augmented. Wealth is increased. Victory is attained. This is our purpose.”

Us: “What happens when you have achieved it?”

Them: “Then, it must be preserved.”

Us: “Will you not then be seeking out security? Doesn’t that undermine your argument against stagnation?”

Them: “Not at all. There is a fundamental difference between the two of us.”

Us: “What?”

Them: “We are us, and you are them.”


Much in life depends upon perspective. There is a false notion that this world is about us vs. them, and there is no third way. Yet a third way is available: a way of cooperation rather than conflict, in which more is accomplished as people work together. The third way is one of independent thought, in which loyalty, faith and trust are earned, not demanded. 

As long as we see things in black and white, we invite the way of conflict and ego, dividing ourselves into camps of us and them. Yet “they” think of themselves as “us” and work just as hard to attain victory. Victory over whom? The answer is immaterial. Victory feeds the ego and confirms self-worth ... or seems to. But only for a time. Like an addict, the ego is always dependent on new conquests to feed itself. Victory and acquisition are sought for their own sake, not for the sake of what is attained or how it may be used.

When this happens, evidence can be ignored and facts can be manipulated. Independent voices are silenced and advocates of the third way are suppressed or cast out because they do not fit into the all-or-nothing, cookie-cutter roles demanded by the toxic “us vs. them” dynamic. It has happened in history uncounted times, and it will happen again. Only by awareness can we hope to break the cycle.

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Stifyn Emrys is an editor and author of eight books. He has worked as a columnist, blogger and educator. He has written both fiction and non-fiction works, including "Identity Break," "Feathercap," "Requiem for a Phantom God" and "The Gospel of the Phoenix."


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