It is now widely accepted that US forces have removed Osama Bin Laden from the world stage. Whether assassinating him was a wise move will play out over the next few months. There is a school of thought that bringing him to trial would have been seen to be a more moderate response: what we have been told about the final confrontation makes us wonder whether he could have been captured alive. However, the action was taken and the stage has been set for his followers to express their feelings in the usual way.
What that leaves us with now, though, is a Public Enemy No. 1 vacuum. While Osama was alive, every red-blooded, freedom-loving, democracy-supporting, flag-waving citizen of the developed world knew instinctively that Osama was the one we were out to get. Now, who will take the focus? Will we continue to fuel the fires of evil by putting another middle-eastern warlord at the top of our list?
Let us look at the alternatives.
Religion has always been a convenient excuse for evil deeds. The major religions each claim they have exclusive access to The One True God and, therefore, everyone else is godless. The godless are wasting God's valuable time and resources, so each religion does its best to convert 'em, or kill 'em if they refuse to see sense.
Today, there is a perception that the world is divided into Muslims and Everyone Else, but this is not the whole truth. Muslim extremists certainly make the western press when they commit acts of violence against non-Muslims, but there seems to be even more bloodshed inside the Muslim camp when the extremist Shi'ites and the extremist Sunnis argue amongst themselves. The unrest in several Muslim countries at present is all internal, characterised as Muslim democrats seeking freedom from Muslim oppressors. In Palestine, the two major Muslim factions of Hamas and Fatah have only recently settled a peace between themselves and it remains to be seen whether they can unite to present a single face to the world. The concept of Islam as being a single force is purely a Western invention.
The Western focus on Muslim extremists is playing into the hands of those who want to increase friction between Muslim and non-Muslim, polarising the world and, in some twisted fashion, justifying even more friction. The sad truth is that, on both sides of the supposed divide, the vast majority of people have no hatred and would happily live together in peace, if only they were allowed to. Most of us are more interested in making a living and looking after our families than in the dubious views of a few psychopaths. In the Western world, no better example exists than Ireland, where people of peace finally managed to cleanse themselves of the evils perpetrated in the name of Catholic vs Protestant.
No. Religion has had its time in the spotlight of Public Enemy No. 1. What else is there?
Politics, of the non-religious kind, is a fervent hotbed of contrary opinions. Surely we can find a politician who needs to be hunted down and eliminated? We are all aware that politicians are universally labelled as corrupt, greedy, self-serving and ignorant, but the truth is that most of them are working very hard at a thankless job. Why they choose to get into politics is an interesting question for psychologists to answer, but remarkably few do it for the money. The majority are clever enough to have achieved pre-selection at some level inside their own party machinery and have put aside a successful career or business in order to run for office. Here in Australia, our Prime Minister had a distinguished career as a lawyer before entering parliament. Lawyer jokes aside, it is difficult to believe that she earns more as PM than she did before the courts and we are left to assume that she is in politics for some other reason.
Certainly, around the world there are politicians who are misguided, corrupt or malicious and they need to be brought to heel by their people, but no-one living seems to leap out from the pages of history as a creature so evil that they need to be given the ultimate accolade as Public Enemy No. 1.
No. Politics, like religion, has its share of rotten apples, but lacks anyone of such evil persona that they deserve the title.
Having eliminated politics and religion, we are left with Business and Culture. Can we find an Osama substitute in either of these spheres?
Business is a likely candidate. The scum-suckers who triggered the whole GFC thing by selling junk mortgages as securities should have been at the top of our list, but that damage has been done and a seek-and-destroy mission against them now would smack of revenge more than justice. Presumably, the people they deceived once will not fall for their tricks again. If there is a risk of another GFC due to the current activities of other scum-suckers, they are keeping their activities so secret that we will not know enough about them to place them at No. 1 until the sky starts falling again, by which time it is too late.
No. The whole point of Public Enemy No. 1 is that their elimination will prevent current or future actions on such a scale as to darken the history of our times. If religion, politics and business provide no current candidate, we must turn to culture to throw up our next evil mastermind.
Culture covers sport, drama, music, writing and fashion, as well as a slew of lesser topics such as architecture and its fellow traveller, design. In spite of the opinions of sports fans, no single sports-person or team really deserves the label 'evil'. Bad, yes. Incompetent. Cheating. Obnoxious, arrogant, overpaid and corrupt, perhaps, but not up there with Osama. In the field of drama, there are some awesomely bad performances and the bulk of movies produced today would be better left on the cutting room floor, but evil is too strong a term for them. Music follows a similar line, although the person who invented elevator music should be hounded to an early grave, but not as No. 1. Writing could incite bad behaviour in some susceptible readers, but generally only in the fields of religion or politics, which have already been covered.
Fashion, then, must be the key. Our next Public Enemy No.1 is lurking in the shadows of the tattoo parlour and the catwalk. Who will it be. Is it the person who told our kids they look cool in hoodies? What about the one who conned young blokes into wearing their trousers with the waistband down at the level of their genitals? A prime candidate must be the one who is still telling fat girls they can wear shorts. What about the idiot who made up the fiction that body piercing looks sexy?
All the above are worthy of our contempt, if not pity, but none comes close to my personal Public Enemy No.1. I submit that the greatest threat to our civilisation is the person who continues to brainwash us into believing that we can continue our carbon fuelled ways with impunity; who tells us it is OK to get into our massive SUV to travel two blocks; who makes us think that the latest, fastest, biggest, noisiest motorcycle is a suitable vehicle for us to use to commute to work in the city; who leads us into blind belief that we can still feed the world when crude oil becomes scarce and expensive. Who is this person? It is each of us, all the greed and self-interest within which lets us ignore the facts and instead pursue the goal of more of everything.
Forget about everyone else. You are your own worst enemy, unless you have the courage to face truth.
All words in this essay have been crafted from recycled after-dinner speeches.