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Why Inciting Emotions and Playing Political ID Games are Counterproductive


Teodrose Fikre
21st Century Wire

I must say this from the outset, this article is not meant to, in any way, diminish the pains and suffering felt by marginalized groups throughout America and beyond. Neither is my aim to preach compliance in the face of injustice or to tell people to be silent given the pervasive iniquities of our time.

However, after observing the insidious brilliance of the establishment and how the status quo is preserved by splintering people into the rabbit holes of identities and ideologies, I’ve come to realize that the endless sectional movements that pop up on a regular basis are actually amplifying the very systems of racism, sexism and inequalities they are supposedly fighting against.

Demographic based movements are not trivial in terms of the underlying issues they bring to light, people who take part in them have very real frustrations and rightly feel outraged—they march and protest as a means of seeking redress. However, the very powers who purvey suffering around the globe and subjugate the masses with impunity have, time and again, co-opted the pains of marginalized people in order to fracture the oppressed.

It’s a playbook that is timeless, few are able to dominate many by segregating humanity into encampments. This simple scheme of dividing the public has evolved over time; what started with color, gender and religion has burgeoned into a paradigm of perpetual schisms where artificial constructs are created on a regular basis. It has gotten to the point where people say what they are for minutes before they say their names.

The creation of these imposed identities serves a purpose beyond just manufacturing differences. Each time a subgroup is generated, people in those subgroups are also convinced that their pains are not the same as the pains felt by others. Demagogues are then empowered by the establishment and given megaphones to whisper separable grievances and condition us to have antipathy towards others who don’t belong in our cliques. Supposed activists and advocates are propped up by mainstream media and given platforms to inject antipathy and incubate sectarianism.

Do you think that Twitter gave an emoji to Black Lives Matter because they actually care about “black folks” being brutalized by the police? Do you think that CNN, MSNBC and their peers in mainstream media are latching on to the Women’s March this weekend because they are concerned about sexism and are worried about how women are mistreated? Do you think Fox News gloms on to the latest news about a “white” girl getting killed in Iowa or embraced the Tea Party because they actually wanted to make our government more responsive to voters?

Every time opinion leaders and media personalities leech on to a sectional movement, it’s not out of concern but to further friction among the citizenry. They are playing all of us, by inciting our emotions and stirring us into discontent, they are taking our eyes off the sources of inequalities and making us focus on our dissimilarities. Sadly, too many of us fall for these shams as we keep viewing inequalities and human suffering through the lens of tribalism—they divide us, we conquer ourselves.

As I noted earlier, this is not to dismiss the horrific legacy of racism that has ruptured the lives of countless millions of “African-Americans” or to diminish the ways women, Latinos, Muslims, gays, and an a litany of out-groups have been relegated to the periphery of society throughout human existence. However, if we really do want to bend history towards the arc of justice, it is imperative that we understand the connective tissue that binds these various infringements.

Sadly, instead of focusing on the root causes of injustice, we have been thoroughly programmed to bicker over who has it worst. This is a most counterproductive approach, one that is heavy on tactics and lacking any semblance of strategy. People who could otherwise be allies and form a coalition that could truly take on the ruling class are nullified by identity politics. While the people chant and demand action, mercenaries who push these separatist causes are paid handsomely by the establishment.

What is worse is that people’s hardships and wounds are being subsumed by politicians and media personalities to advance hidden agendas. Remember how Flint, Michigan was receiving wall to wall coverage—the poisoning of Americans used as billboards to raise campaign funds and enhance television ratings. Breaking news, people in Flint are still unable to drink tap water, meanwhile Democrats took a lavish trip to Puerto Rico last week funded by lobbyists. Same thing happens on the right, the mob who were chanting Benghazi are all the sudden mum now that Trump is in the White House. Injustice hunting is a lucrative endeavor where the ordeals faced by the proletariat are leveraged by opinion leaders.

Here is what I know to be true, if we really want to make a difference and regain a sense of justice in this world, the change will come from the bottom and it will only materialize when we understand that we are all in this together. Though our travails might be different, our tribulations are interconnected. The farmer in Kansas who contemplates dark thoughts because he lost his land owes his plight to the same system of economic larceny that is bludgeoning the hopes of a working mother in New York—what deprives one takes from all.

If a woman suffers, I suffer too. If someone of a different complexion than me hurts, I hurt too. As the economic pie shrinks and opportunities lessen, more and more of us will continue to bear the brunt regardless of our external traits. Given this paradigm, it is in our interest to seek inclusive justice or else, one by one, all of us will be feel the heat of uncertainties. This demands that we listen as much as we speak, we can’t expect others to understand our burdens if we are indifferent to the plight of others endure.

All around America and throughout the world, people are being subsumed by a system of capital theft that nourishes the uber-wealthy while hollowing out the bottom 90%. The only reason why a mass movement of people against the corporate class has not come to fruition is because we are continually being medicated by sensationalism and, more importantly, being conditioned to fight each other based on our differences instead of uniting to defend our common interests.

It is easy to spot emotional manipulation when it is being done to others but a lot harder to realize when it is being done to us. This is why so many are flummoxed when people on the right fall for Trump’s feigned populism or why the “other side” shake their heads in disbelief when Democrats like Pelosi and Chuck Schumer pretend to be social justice warriors. Politicians and pundits are given every incentive to obscure the system, rage against the symptoms and finger point in order to displace blame.

All around the world, from the Yellow Vest revolt in France, to Brexit in the UK to popular uprisings taking root in countless nations, there is a sea of humanity that is taking on the geo-aristocracy. This is why the establishment are amplifying discontent while they manufacture outrage. In this way, Donald Trump is a perfect pawn of the status quo, by focusing on one personality and trafficking in his puerility, they derange society into impotence. For the record, the malfeasance of our government and the ills of our planet did not start on January 20th, 2017 nor will it end until we stop falling for the same old hoodwinks.

The very labels we accept, and the very ideologies we hold dear, are actually the foundation of discrimination. When we see ourselves as different than the whole of humanity, we give allowance to injustice. This is not to push uniformity; we can appreciate what makes us unique without disavowing others. If we are to take the next step, if we are to advance as a species, we must see that we are all interconnected as much as we value diversity. More importantly, if we don’t find a way to broaden our coalition and include all who yearn fairness and opportunity into the tent, we will render ourselves impotent no matter how much we scream and shout for justice.

I know this is a very sensitive topic to write about; for most of us, identities and labels are ways to find ourselves in a world that is steadily trying to erase our existence. I don’t mean to lecture people who already endure systematic exclusion and are made to feel invisible, however my hope is that people walk away from this article questioning narratives that are pushed from the top. Paternalism and feigned concern enable the existing power structure to imprison us behind the iron curtains of group-think. We must see past these tricks.

We must stop falling for the subterfuge of the gentry and refuse to let charlatans use our pains in order to ghettoize humanity. As tempting as it might be to fall for sectional movements and speak against injustices that only impact us, doing so only guarantees that we will continue to suffer apart. In my birth land Ethiopia, we have a saying: “a thousand spiders can tie up a lion”. On our own, we are helpless against the ruling class, however if a thousand groups unite as one, we can topple giants.

None are greater than the other, we are all the greater when we love and help one another

Author Teodrose Fikre is the founder and editor of the Ghion Journal, and a former defense consultant profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses.

An original version of this article was first published at The Ghion Journal.

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