I don’t suppose you’ve ever made a mistake?

“Why would you ask that?”

Because I’ve just made one.

“Ah, I see… And you don’t like making mistakes, do you?”


“Want to tell me?”


“Are you sure?”

I’m sure.

Kill shot


It’s something you said.

You made me realise something.

“I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have intended – ”

You said, “Is it ethical to have so many enemies? Is it ethical to see so many people as ‘enemies of the people’?”

“I said that – but that doesn’t mean – ”

But you were right.

I like to think I’m strong on ethics… So what you said was quite a challenge. It hit me where it hurts. Right on target.

A kill shot.

Big numbers

We were talking about the people who run our corporations, who control our economy – the engorged and greedy 0.1%. I said they were the enemies of humanity: Public Enemy No 1.

“But when you think about how many people you’re talking about…”

Yes, exactly.

There are 10s of 1000s of them. 100s of 1000s.

8 million, in fact.

0.1% of 8 billion, the population of the Earth.

So, 8 million enemies…

That can’t be ethical, can it?

 The mistake

“But isn’t what you told me true? The 0.1% do own most of everything, don’t they? They are the big polluters. They do hold the reins of power.”

Yes, all of that’s true, but there’s something else which is also true.

“Which is?”

They’re people – the 0.1%.

Just people.

And morality says you shouldn’t put labels on people. No group of people are ‘all the same’. Humans aren’t commodities sharing the same bar code. Individuality and non-identicality are part of what our identity is.

Any morality suited to the 21st Century, a world occupied by 8 billion humans, will tell you that you shouldn’t other others. It’s immoral. We’re all in the same boat, caught up in the same storm. We’re all just people.

I made a mistake.

I’m sorry.

A small number

There’s another problem with the ‘enemy’ thing. A more practical, pragmatic problem – one that’s numerically the very opposite of the ethical issue. You see, if I’m trying to zero in on the adversary our species faces, the enemy who’s jeopardising our survival, endangering the biosphere and destabilising the human world then the 0.1% aren’t enough. There are too few of them. They’re too puny.

Even with the system they’ve established, the rules, the laws, the nation states, the police, how could the 0.1% maintain their position without our tacit consent?

There’s 999 of us to every 1 of them.

Imagine us on a football pitch. 999 of us in our team and 1 in theirs. And they’ve got the ball.

They wouldn’t stand a chance.


Every hierarchy in the world is an act of consent.

The 0.1% can’t sustain themselves just by themselves. It’s a ridiculous idea. At the very least, they’re sustained and enabled by the 1%.

What of the 1%? Can they sustain themselves?

The 1% are no more an island than the 0.1%. They’re sustained and enabled by the 5%.

What of the 5%?

Well, there’s the 20%, and the 50% and all the rest.

Our society is an edifice, held together by something much more powerful than military capability or brute force.

There’s no gun to each of our heads. There are too few police or guards to police us all.

Something else compels our acquiescence, our participation in the hierarchies which enfold or oppress us.


You play with your fingers for a moment. I think you’re practising an arpeggio. Then you say, “Ideas…”

I look at you blankly.

You repeat, “Ideas!”


“It’s not what’s pointed at our heads, it’s what’s in them…”


I’m forced to agree.

The thing that binds us all together?

It’s the stuff inside our heads.


It’s ideas that convince the 1% to support and enable the 0.1%.

It’s ideas that convince the 5% to support and enable the 1%.

Ideas convince the 30% to support and enable the 5%.

And it’s ideas that make the rest of us think that all of this is tolerable, acceptable or even the way it has to be.

Our civilisation is made up of ideas.

Society is nothing more than a trick of the mind.

 The threat

Each human institution is an edifice of thought. Civilisations aren’t made of uniforms, documents, machines, buildings or walls. They’re made of the concepts those things embody or enforce.

When we say something is wrong with the human world, we’re saying something is wrong with the concepts that drive us.

If human civilisation has become self-damaging, rushing headlong towards ecological disaster, it’s because the ideas that sustain it have become outdated, dysfunctional or diseased.

Our society is under attack, it’s true.

We have an enemy, it’s true.

The evidence of this is all around us: the hatred on social media; the ruthless exploitation by our corporations; the destruction of the biological world.

But the enemy we face is not an elite, a conspiracy – or any group of people of one description or another.

It’s something bigger and more pervasive and more powerful.


Ideas are driving the attack on our well-being – viral, malign and dangerous ideas.

Ideas are our enemy…


“I was happy earlier,” you say. “I’m depressed now.”

Don’t be depressed.

We’re thinking things through, bit by bit – and I hope that maybe we’re beginning to get there.

Now, at least, we know our enemy.

And it’s only once you know your enemy that you can begin to work on your weapons of defence.


“So, do you need to make a apology?”

I’m sorry – an apology?

“Yes. To the super-rich, to the 0.1% who you called our enemy, but who aren’t our enemy because they’re just people.”

Ah, yes… Yes, I do.

How about this:

Dear Super-Rich,

Please accept my humble but heartfelt apology.
You, the 0.1%, are not Public Enemy No 1. That was a mistake. You are not ‘the enemies of humanity’. I was wrong about that, too.

You’re just infected with a thought plague: viral concepts and beliefs that have turned you into despicable human beings.

I’m sure we can find a vaccine, to rid you of this plague – to rid us all of the plague.

Be patient. Rescue is on its way.

Yours, with sincerity and regret,



“I’m not sure that’ll give them much comfort,” you say.

No, you’re right. I don’t think it will.

But if you’ve got an infection you have to fight it. You have to develop antibodies. Society and its medics need to develop vaccines, antivirals, cures.

And the 0.1% – the ultra-greedy, the hyper-authoritarian and the psychopathically uncaring – are the most desperately in need of treatment of us all.

Luke Andreski

Luke Andreski is co-founder of the @EthicalRenewal and EthicalIntelligence.Org cooperatives. He is author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019), Ethical Intelligence (2019) and How To Be Happy (2017).

You can connect with Luke on LinkedIn,, on WordPress,, or via the EthicalRenewal co-op on Twitter

Substitutes For Bread image courtesy of James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey (1795). Public Domain,


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