My grade-school experience began in my home. My father was the consummate divide and conquer ruler of the household. He made the rules. He called us out on the rules. He was the judge, jury and executioner of punishment. Four daughters. No sons.
My father ran a full-circle, all services provided under one roof enterprise. His best ally was my mother who couldn’t afford to go against him. She was already a wounded warrior—not just because of polio and its aftermath, but because of her own childhood deprivations and humiliations.
We four daughters learned early to survive by way of dividing and conquering. All we had to do was join forces against one of us. It worked wonders. The other way we survived was by not talking to each other about what was going on in our family. It was against Daddy’s Rules. No secrets. No chatter at night after lights out. No comparing notes or comforting each other. No plans to go against Daddy’s Rules.
What happened in my grade school classroom was a version of what I already knew. Only this time it was in a setting I perceived as safe. So much for safety.
The tactics of divide and conquer are so familiar we scarcely perceive them. Whether consciously or not, they cause division and divert attention from what’s really going on. Thus the divider has things his or her way.
Without knowing it, the girls in my classroom were reinforcing values of the upper class. Clarifying the dividing line between us and them. That may sound simple, but the other side of divide and conquer isn’t all that complicated once we understand how people abuse power and to what ends.
I’ve also experienced this in churches and in academic settings. It happens everywhere, often in ways that seem innocuous or even praiseworthy.
In the USA today, I see this tactic as a deadly weapon of non-warfare. No one wields it so skillfully right now as POTUS—with the possible exception of Russia.
But the subject I care most about is women. Women of all colors and nationalities have experienced the tactics of divide and conquer in the home and in workplaces, churches, organizations, academia, the government, human trafficking, prisons, retirement homes, and any other setting in which women work or live.
This constant division serves the interests of white male supremacy, not the interests of women no matter how fancy the rhetoric sounds. It’s no accident that the USA is steadily falling behind other nations when it comes to women having access to all levels of government, healthcare, and other vital services.
It pays, it seems, to keep women in their place. Especially if we do this by promoting them. Feeding them a little of what they want and watching them fight over it, while withholding equal and proportional participation in deciding what that is.
Not every male is a white supremacist. However, without women banding together across significant divisions, all the men in the world with good and noble intentions will never save us. We must speak and act for and with each other.
©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2018
Cartoon found at mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.com