Another traumatic episode in America? It must be the white supremacists. No wait, it’s the gay community’s fault. No, it’s the Hondurans moving through Mexico toward the American border. It’s their fault.
But wait, what about Black Americans? Or Hispanics? Or Asians, Native Americans, athletes, college Republicans, the NRA, Catholics, right-to-lifers or the damn tree-huggers?
Maybe I’m going off the deep end, but that’s the point.
The first line of Frederick Douglass’ article The Color Line, published in The North American Review in 1881, stated, “Few evils are less accessible to the force of reason, or more tenacious of life and power, than a long standing prejudice.”
I’ve been alive for 61 years. I’ve been aware for 45e of them, watching California, the U.S. and the rest of the world. Other countries entertain their own prejudices, but in the U.S. we are particularly adept at blaming others.
This is not coincidental. Racism, sexism, ageism and every other -ism are tools brilliantly used by those in power to keep us at each other’s throats. They are weapons in the never-ending class war between the one percent who own nearly everything and the bulk of society who have next to nothing.
As a country, we embraced the ‘long standing prejudice’ Douglass described well before he penned his article. I fear the ‘tenacious life and power’ of our bigotries will live within us until the end of time. Nothing I’ve seen during my lifetime has convinced me otherwise.
Divide et impera, or divide and conquer, “is a policy of maintaining control over one’s subordinates or subjects by encouraging dissent between them.” This maxim has been used worldwide for centuries for one simple reason- it works.
In the last 50 years the owners of global capital have profited by keeping Americans busy warring against each other while they’ve consolidated control of the media, government, the military, industry, employment, education and a half dozen other essential elements of society. They’ve shredded the social contract while we’ve fought each other for the scraps.
Why are we such willing dupes? My students seem to know the score. Faculty and staff understand the macro and micro implications of divide and conquer. You don’t have to be a sociologist or political scientist to be well-read on the subject.
Everyone knows the wealthy run everything, and we seem to grasp the fact that as long as we continue to fight against each other, our focus will forever be misdirected. So why are we willing to do the same thing over and over again?
If we continue to do their bidding, in the not-too-distant future the wealthy will own everything. There won’t be a chance to change anything. Do we welcome that outcome so readily?
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