Division and Distraction

Since time immemorial, military strategists as well as malevolent siblings have used an extremely effective technique to avoid having their misdeeds scrutinized. That of the ever popular divide and conquer. The very familiar tactic is well known, and for good reason-because it works. Here in the United States, and to some extent worldwide, we are in the midst of a very successful campaign by the global ruling class who are utilizing this strategy.

For better or worse, there seems to be an ingrained tendency for people to form group affiliations. The motivation can be utilized to strengthen ties to those nearby, increasing group well-being or it can be used in a more malignant manner, that of simply creating distraction, mayhem, and eventually even violence. The foundation is being laid for division and hatred of this kind, and the outcome will be uncontrollable, even by the cynical politicians and billionaires who created the situation.

Convincing individuals that they are part of a distinct and superior group is the first step towards the process, and vilification of the “other” follows. We are seeing this done to great effect in places like Wisconsin where the working poor are having their angers stoked towards public employees. There is media emphasis being given to tales which cherry-pick unfair situations, such as retirement double dippers and those with non-representative and stratospheric pensions.

Mainstream media outlets have amplified the budget shortfall condition, without the same weight being placed on the causes of said shortfalls. In the case of Wisconsin, the fact that fresh corporate giveaways almost wondrously equal the looming deficits has not been as widely reported. The media coverage overwhelmingly has steered towards discussion that austerity is the remedy but it is not to be shouldered by corporate interests. This brazen stance would never be tolerated if the populace was not distracted by infighting with groups remarkably like themselves. The resulting hostility magically replaces the issue of corporate welfare in the public discourse.

The meat of the situation may be found in a little discussed time bomb tucked into the Wisconsin legislation. Provisions to allow for the sale of Wisconsin public utilities, on a no bid basis are tucked into the bill. Those that defend this aspect of the bill say that it is needless worry to consider that this could become an all out bonanza for industrial interests, such as comic book villainous characters, the Koch Brothers. Most know about their unfettered support for the current Wisconsin governor. These same interests have generously provided funds for media ads in his support during this crisis. The brothers have a major interest in the workings of this small state.

This public utility sale provision should be paramount in media coverage, but it has disturbingly been ignored. The no-bid context negates any argument that it is simply a precaution to allow for effective future state fund raising. We know about no-bid contracts. Common sense dictates that this is not in the best interest of anyone except large industrial entities in the wait.  If the argument hadn’t been successfully framed in terms of “unworthy, greedy public employees versus my few dollars” the groups could possibly realize they have quite a lot in common; namely, being the recipients of a “collective” screwing from individuals like the Kochs.

The working class, those who have to work, no matter what the specifics of their employment, are certainly not beneficiaries in the current divisive discourse. All manner of slicing and dicing is taking place in regard to the great mass of the population. “State employees versus private sector workers” is just one of the latest flavors. The last decade has been rife with this sort of thing, “liberal versus conservative” being the most popular. The common ideals have been systemically buried beneath the comic team affiliations. The one unifying theme is that the looting has continued unabated while juvenile squabbles became the norm in public discourse.

Extreme but instructive examples of this sort of distraction can be found in numerous historical antecedents. One glaring example would be the behavior of Belgian colonialists in the nation of Rwanda. The horror of the 90’s genocide is well known, but less realized is the historical precedent that helped create this frenzy of violence. The colonialists implemented bizarre practices amongst the native population. Mind you, these were individuals whose group membership was not necessarily clearly delineated. They shared language, religion, and intermarriage was common. For all practical purposes, the differences were slight.

The similarities did not stop the Belgians from categorizing the Hutu (Bantu) and Tutsi (Watusi). Measurements were taken of skulls, noses, and height until a determination was made that the Tutsi were essentially more “white”. They were given permission to lord over the Hutu and subsequent rage simmered. The Tutsi were put in an untenable situation, in essence told to act as middle management over the Hutu. The end result was a period of time in which common sense allies (the Hutu and Tutsi) did not merge in a collective effort to rid their homeland of the colonial menace.

This was an extreme example of elite manipulation of the masses, while thievery continued unhindered.

It’s instructive to view what can happen when these types of divisions are put in place. When the looting is complete and the global elites move on, the resentments and group affiliations can linger. The situation is no longer predictable and violence is a very real possibility. In the outrageous case of Rwanda, searing resentments continued, stoked by groups jockeying for leadership. Much of the bile was being peddled by hate radio. The world knows what happened next. At least 800,000 were murdered, often in the shadows of modern buildings in a time that this sort of thing was just not supposed to happen.

Thankfully our situation is not so dire, but the behavior of colonialist oppressors or modern day industrialist looters, are remarkably similar. That of division and diversion. The masses generally exhibit enormous gullible capacity for distraction and this is enough to advance the interests of the few. Brutality isn’t needed yet for their agendas to move forward.

Once the concept that a group is inherently different is ingrained, then all that needs to come next is a spark of violence. This spark is often difficult to ignite, maybe taking decades or more, but once the fire takes, the results are unmanageable and brutal. What was once theory and group mindset can becomes a very real desire for revenge once the first blood is shed. The cycle of escalation is in place and the instigators are generally far away and safe during from the mayhem they established.

Recent examples, even in the United States, indicate that a notion of the “other” can produce a propensity for violence, even in populations very similar to each other. The border skirmishes between Kansas and Missouri during, and prior, to the Civil War show an almost comical tribalism, the settlers having few distinctions amongst themselves. Hardly any settlers owned slaves and most were subsistence farmers. The distinctions were as laughable as the measuring of Hutu/Tutsi noses — but once the violence started, it grew with a life of its own as revenge took over as the prime motivator.

We have over a decade of heavy mainstream media coverage of “right and left” and now “state employee versus the private sector”. This has allowed for unparalleled thievery of our remaining resources as the noise effectively shuts out rational discourse.

We are undeniably at a crossroads. The notion of a civil war may be almost laughable at this point, but the seeds are there. Our imperative is to stop this slide towards factional hatreds that benefit only the industrial aristocracy.

This end game pillaging diverts many of the resources left that could be used to cushion the societal collapse that we seem to be careening towards. The possibility of finding successful replacement for untenable systems becomes unlikely when the scraps left over are simply to be used to solidify an upcoming feudal system. The class that advances these nightmarish scenarios probably won’t be around to be considered culpable for any social violence. They will most likely occupy gated realms in areas deemed safer and less polluted. We will be managed as far flung cattle ranches.

This is the time to take heed of prejudices we may have that enhance division. It’s time to clearly identify who is pulling strings and who benefits; namely; the looter class. Though individuals near us may not be wise to the history of the tactic, it should be our imperative to find common ground, and to try to temper the mounting insanity that surrounds us. This could be the most subversive stratagem available to us. We are not living in benign times; all of this will matter, if not tomorrow, soon.

Kathleen Wallace Peine welcomes reader response. She can be reached at: kathypeine@gmail.com. Read other articles by Kathleen.