“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half” – Jay Gould.
The strategy of “divide and conquer” is as old as warfare itself. When attacking a larger and more powerful enemy, separate that enemy into smaller groups, then eliminate them one at a time. Never engage the enemy in its entirety.
Never allow that enemy to unite.
This tactic was centuries old long before railroad tycoon Jay Gould said the quiet part out loud in the 1890s, and it is still the wealth class’s game plan today. Seek out the enemy’s differences, exploit them, drive the enemy apart, then gobble up the wealth left behind on the battlefield. Rinse, then repeat. It’s not complex, but it’s a strategy with a perfect historical batting average. Every time the rich swing it, it connects. So, every time we hear about the latest success story – on the economy, or jobs, or the return of US manufacturing – the right responds with scary sounding terms like “Critical Race Theory” or anti-vaxxer hysteria or some other such nonsense. Anything to make you hate your neighbor because hate is all they ever have to offer. Rage candy force fed to scared people who are usually wondering how they’re going to pay for prescriptions or daycare or college – and often all of these at once. The fear never doesn’t work.
And while the rich have been playing this game for centuries, the current state of division in America is not entirely their fault. They are certainly exposing our weaknesses to drive us apart, but we don’t exactly make this difficult. I mean, while there are entire television and social media networks built and maintained solely for the purpose of dividing America for profit, we watch those networks, share those memes, and dive headlong into the fray every time we are invited to do so. And no matter how clever or well-intentioned we are, we almost always make these divisions larger. It’s time to stop. It’s time to unite under a banner that exposes the real problem and the core sickness at the heart of the American experiment. That sickness is greed, and solidarity is the cure.
The “divide and conquer” strategy used by the rich for centuries exposes its own weakness in its very definition by admitting that it is almost always used to defeat a superior force. Whether it’s the union busters at Amazon or Starbucks, the executives at Fox News, or the CEO of any Fortune 500 company, all are aware that the working class is the most powerful political force in America, and should we ever recognize that simple fact, all of America will change immediately after. This is why Jay Gould felt the need to hire half of us to kill the other half, and it’s why the cowards at Fox and Facebook spend so much time and effort slicing and dicing us by race, gender, religion, etc. It’s the only thing that can keep us from holding them accountable for generations of thievery. And their success in doing so is why Jeff Bezos can launch a penis rocket into space, thank his poverty-adjacent workers for paying for it, and not be tarred and feathered for his stunning arrogance.
That said, the situation is far from hopeless, and workers are showing us the way. All over America, working people of all backgrounds are coming together to reshape America one small piece at a time by democratizing one workplace after another. In almost every instance, people from all the sliced and diced groups set aside our differences and fight together for better wages, hours, and conditions, and in doing so, we are seeing the very beginnings of our immense power. We are beginning to understand why they fight so hard to divide us; it’s because we are, first and foremost, a Union.
Brett Pransky is a writer, an English professor, and the Executive Producer of The Rick Smith Show. When not in the classroom, Brett uses his graduate degrees in Rhetoric and Business to help people understand the dangers associated with increasing corporate control over the levers of government and how to confront the deception used by those who profit from that control. Brett calls Columbus, Ohio home, and he hates writing about himself in the third person. He would also like everyone in America to download The Rick Smith Show podcast HERE.