Serious problems, however, occur when the concepts underpinning the high fantasy battleground start to leach into real life; when the equivalents of Dark Lords and Orcs make their way into politics. In September 2015, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott got himself into all sorts of trouble speaking about ‘different levels of evil’ when comparing IS behaviour with historical atrocities. That was on top of his analysis of the Syrian civil war as ‘It’s not goodies versus baddies, it’s baddies versus baddies!’
Of course, the prince of the high fantasy approach to real world problems was the US President George W Bush, when, in his State of the Union address, he first identified the ‘Axis of Evil:’ Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. He went on to make many high fantasy references during his presidency, including
‘The evil ones have roused a might nation, a mighty land.’ 12 November 2001
‘We're determined to fight this evil... We act now, because we must lift this dark threat from our age and save generations to come.’ 6 November 2001
‘Our struggle is going to be long and difficult. But we will prevail. We will win. Good will overcome evil… we are fighting evil, and we will continue to fight evil, and we will not stop until we defeat evil.’ 2 November 2001
‘This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil. But good will prevail.’ 12 September 2001
In April 2003, the US Government passed up Iran’s proposed concessions, which included making peace with Israel, saying ‘We don’t speak to evil.’ Really? Iranians are evil? Created that way like Orcs, as a perversion of humanity by the Dark Lord?
History is littered with people who have done appalling things, totally convinced that they are right. The problem with treating people like Orcs is that it bestows the moral right to do absolutely anything to them. To be ruthless in unconditional certainty. No discussion. End of story.
But it shouldn’t be the end of the story.
We should all heed the warning sirens any time a politician starts talking about evil. Don’t let it go unchallenged. Real life isn’t high fantasy. It’s not hard to keep the two separate. None of us has been created by a Dark Lord. People aren’t Orcs. #PeopleArentOrcs
This blog appeared as an Editorial in Aurealis #87.