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Divide and Conquer Tactics

Updated on July 20, 2020
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I've been actively involved in politics since the 1960s and an activist since the Civil Rights era.

If You Want to Fight, Join the Marines!, by Howard Chandler Christy
If You Want to Fight, Join the Marines!, by Howard Chandler Christy | Source

Demonizing the Opposition Obeys the Will of the Powerful

The Romans knew the answer to easy crowd control: bread and circuses. Bread, that is, being stuff that keeps you satisfied, and circuses being that which keeps you distracted. With the current situation in the United States, distractions abound. The United States has become highly divided, but each person that demonizes someone who holds an opposing viewpoint plays right into the hands of the world's powerful entities, who wish to keep us distracted from the real source of our problems. By being distracted, we take our eyes off the real goal, of having a free and just country. It is vitally important that we unite and work together to find at least a little common ground to achieve our real goals and promote our common interests.

Both Sides Cast Stones

There is plenty of blame to go around. People criticized the TEA party, calling them "baggers," and referring to them as uneducated, and watching only Fox News, or of being corporate stooges. By the same token, people demonized the Occupy Wall Street movement, dismissing them as "dirty hippies," "lazy," "smelly," shouting "Get a job!" at them, and accusing them of all sorts of dirty and despicable behaviours. This is exactly what the powerful people around the world want, because with our eyes and energies focused on each other, we are taking our eyes off of the people that we actually need to influence.

Why Attacking the Other Side is the Wrong Strategy

When we attack "the other side," we are diverting our focus and energies away from where they need to be. In addition, we are playing into the hands and following the desires of the powerful. The powerful could not face a united front of opposition in this country, because there would be too many of us, and too few of them, and inclusiveness in a movement would mean that the people who serve the powerful, but who are not powerful themselves, might be convinced to join ranks with the people who are fighting for them, not the powerful people they formerly served.

Are there differences of opinion on the problems and the solutions? Sure, of course. But if someone states a point and you attack the person, that other person often has no other option but to attack you in return, because, as neuroscience research has shown, they are compelled by millions of years of biology to defend their position against attack. It takes an incredible amount of discipline to set aside the emotions caused by all those neurochemical reactions in the brain and treat one's opponents with kindness and tolerance.

Prophetic Words

Capital must protect itself in every possible manner through combination and legislation. The courts must be called to our aid, debts must be collected, bonds and mortgages foreclosed as rapidly as possible. When through a process of law the common people have lost their homes, they will be more tractable and easily governed through the influence of the strong arm of government applied by a central power of imperial wealth under the control of leading financiers.

A people without homes will not quarrel with their rulers. History repeats itself in regular cycles: this truth is well known among our principal men now engaged in forming an imperialism of capital to govern the world. While they are doing this, the people must be kept in a condition of political antagonism.

The question of tariff reforms must be urged through the organization known as the Democratic party, and the question of protection with reciprocity must be forced to view through the Republican party.

By thus dividing the voters we can get them to expend their energies to fighting over questions of no importance to us except as tethers to lead the common herd. Thus by discreet action we can secure all that has been so generously planned and thus far successfully accomplished.

This was printed in circular form for exclusive circulation among bankers in 1892, and published in the Bankers' Magazine of March, 1892,and reproduced in the Chicago daily papers of March 21, the same year. By the foreclosure crisis (and the unemployment crisis which led to the foreclosure crisis), the powerful keep us divided and distracted from the real issues.

Constructive Ways to Unite

There are many constructive ways to approach someone who differs from you on a certain position. First, you can find a point on which to agree with them. By showing them that first, you take their concerns seriously, and second, that you are at least partially on their side, that person will be more open to listening to you. The lesson to be learned here is never to attack someone who is not your enemy!

The second way in which you can approach someone who differs from you is to show them that you are not fighting against them, but against someone with whom they are angry. This unites you in a common cause and they will be more open to listening to your points. Joining together against a common enemy causes neurochemical reactions that lead to bonding behaviors, which is more likely to then help you find common ground.

The Argument, 1997, by Laura James
The Argument, 1997, by Laura James | Source

The Moral of the Story

The lesson is: don't call people who hold opposing opinions names (it's called an ad hominem attack) or accuse groups of other people of behaviors that are not acceptable. Refuse to allow the powerful to divide your forces, but instead, forge what common ground you can, and unite where possible. Treat those who oppose you with tolerance if you must, love if you can, and work together for the common good. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by artificial divisions of rich vs. poor, or of race, or of right vs. left. Those divisions are not the problems! They are the result of the Roman "bread and circuses" distractions thrown in to deceive the masses.


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