Politics 101: The Concept of Divide and Conquer

We’ve all heard the incessant arguments that make the majority of people avoid the topic of politics with a desperate sigh and an attempt to change the subject to something completely different; it’s always one party against the other, or one party ruling in favour of a particular policy (e.g.: Obamacare) and the other one ruling against it, or perhaps a referendum that divides a nation into two different camps whilst drawing the public’s attention away from other issues – it’s always the same concept.

Through state-owned media and national broadcasting services, it is presented to us as democracy at work, the ‘system’ presenting us with choices. Hope and a false feeling of power being given freely to the people is instilled, and a contained illusion of freedom is sparked in our minds. Yet, it is truly through this that we are most vulnerable; the easiest way to manipulate a human being is when they feel secure and in power and in complete control. But, if you think about it seriously and thoroughly, you will eventually at some point realise something’s really wrong with this situation, and it will be stuck in your head like a splinter in your finger.

If you haven’t drawn your own conclusion yet, allow me to nudge you in the right direction – it is the concept of ‘Divide and Conquer’ at work. The definition for the concept according to Wikipedia goes as follows: “In politics and sociology, divide and rule (or divide and conquer) is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures and prevents smaller power groups from linking up.” What you might be asking yourself now is this: “What does this have to do with democracy and the examples mentioned earlier?”

The answer to that question lies in whether one manages to assimilate the concept’s definition into how modern society’s power mechanisms work. Whenever there is a big issue, the public is immediately divided; ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ camps, ‘Conservative’ or ‘Liberal’, ‘Labour’ or ‘Nationalist’ (the two main political parties in Malta, the country I was born in) etc… The reason for this is because it establishes a defined, easy-to-target enemy that always manages to be the clear, definite ‘bad guy’. This divides us into factions, and conveniently satisfies our need to blame other people for what’s wrong in the world whilst being thoroughly convinced we are ‘on the right side of history’.

More importantly, what this whole notion does best is make us forget who the real antagonist is. It makes us forget that the real enemy isn’t the group of people on the other side of an issue, but it’s the people in power who do everything they can to abuse it, further the expanse of the gap between the rich and the poor and then get away with doing all that and getting filthily rich in the process. The real criminals and extremists aren’t the ones they tell you are; it’s the ones doing the telling that need to pay for their crimes.

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