I’m a bit fascinated right now with the concept of a “collective villain.” Not a Marvel comic version, but the collective villain that looms larger than life in our consciousness. A collective villain whose downfall on which we have pinned all our future hopes and dreams.

It’s so easy to pick a collective villain to call our own these days. Our choices are guided by our beliefs, perceptions, leanings, loves and fears — in all areas of our lives. The politician, the celebrity, the business icon, the neighbor, the family member, the “institution,” and even the dissatisfaction we have regarding the levels of our own health, wealth, productivity and those who differ with us on innumerable topics, are all favorite choices.

Which leads me to ask one stark question regarding the collective villain foremost in your mind at this moment. Once this (person/institution/issue) is brought to its knees, eradicated forever, who or what will take its place?

The question popped up while I was re-reading The Book of Freedom from Paul Selig:

“If you were to be told that the action of the day was to find someone to destroy, would you do it or not? In that language, “no, why would I do that? I wouldn’t destroy anybody.” But if we were to tell you that the action of the day was to vilify someone that you were all taught should be vilified, you are more happy than not to go into agreement. “Well, I didn’t throw the first stone. It was already thrown. It doesn’t really hurt when you throw a pebble, and that’s really all I threw.”

You are in collusion to fear. You are being manipulated. And that pebble may be the last stone that ends a man’s life.”

Once we get this collective villain out of our life, what or who will replace it? Who or what will we choose to vilify next? I once read a statement that “To vilify is to make someone appear to be a villain and say disparaging things about them.”

The truth is, the one we vilify the most is ourselves. Which is hard to look at and even harder to accept. With all the time we spend denigrating, degrading, belittling, and Tuesday-morning quarterbacking our choices and actions, no wonder so many of us are completely exhausted all the time. And we use that exhaustion as our crutch for why we’re not creating the things we’ve always wanted to create in our lives.

It’s much easier to redirect all that vilification onto someone or something “out there” than to own it and transform it within ourselves, yes?

We believe that once this other villain is vanquished, we’ll have all the time, energy and brainpower to focus and harness our creativity to build great things in the world, to attend to and move forward our collective vision instead.

Or will we? How does that work, exactly? Especially when every villain ‘out there’ is simply an aspect of the things we vilify about ourselves?

It reminds me of the familiar level of lack and financial anxiety that people return to after a financial windfall. What will you do after “winning the lottery” and eradicating the demon you longed to be released from?

If we’re not willing to look within, we’re doomed again to seek out and binge-watch on every tidbit we can pick up about the next villain we want to hold aloft so we can have a new villain to gossip about, toss pebbles at, and collectively endeavor to bring down.

At which point we can once again celebrate like a big game hunter; posing with our trophy kill in our vain attempt to eradicate those parts of ourselves that we still haven’t found a way to lovingly embrace.

I believe it’s our creativity that terrifies us the most. The power to create good or evil, that we all harbor. We seek out evidence to support our belief that one person is Wonder Woman and another is Vlad the Destroyer, because they represent those two creative aspects of ourselves.

Unraveling this fear can be painless, if we’re willing to put down our confirmation bias and stick only with the facts — about ourselves and others. We must become willing to stop vilifying both ourselves and the other. Seeing the collective evidence of their villainy supports our bias against ourselves. We are neither good nor bad and, truth be told, neither is the collective villain who has our attention.

Once we accept that none of us are good or bad, our ability to release ourselves from the vilification hamster wheel is within our grasp. All that’s left is to honestly see ourselves, honor ourselves and work on ourselves, rather than trying to change anyone else. Do this, and you move the needle toward the vision of the world you truly wish to see. #bethechange