It’s amusing to observe the number of people who, if it is suggested that scientifically there are only two genders, will start screaming about the wonderful post binary world we live in, but faced with the nuances of resurgent European nationalism, the legitimacy of the Assad regime, the immediacy of the Russian threat to the liberal democracies or something similar with immediately revert to binary thinking, i.e. : all nationalism is Naziism or Fascism, Assad is an evil oppressor of his own people, and Putin plans to conquer the world by meddling in democratic elections.
If only they could understand we have never lived in a binary world socially or politically, only in matters of science are things so clear cut. Assad may be hated by Salafist (Sunni), but he is very popular among the Alawite (Shia) Syrians, also among the Yazidi and Druze minorities (both Muslim sects regarded as heretics by Sunni fundamentalists,) Syriac Christians and Syrian Jews.
Good guys and bad guys is fine for stories, for the sagas of skjalds and bards, the epics of Greek and Roman poets and the ballads of medieval troubadors and jongleurs, all of which had to play to a certain audience in a much smaller and less complex world than ours. Thus they conformed to the narrative convention of “WE” and our friends are the good guys, “THEY” are the bad guys. It made the complexities of live understandable and gave people certainties in a world where survival was by no means certain. The Greek poet Hesiod wrote that “Poets were the first informers of mankind.” His words were true, and if we expand ‘poets’ to include storytellers,historians, documentary makers, supoer hero comic writers, and current affairs commentators, are still valid.
But while the poems of Hesiod (who lived around the same time as Homer,) and his comtemporaries may not have been factual they contained moral truths. And not far behind Hesiod and his informers of mankind came the misinformers of mankind, the minstrels and actors who spread narratives that reinforced the power of rulers, the spin doctors, propagandists and mainstream media of their day.
If we want to know what is going on the most difficult thing we have to accomplish in our ancient, non binary world is learning to distinguish between the propaganda and the moral truths.