“If it divides us, then it is wrong.” – Stephen Mapstone
To divide and conquer has been a common principle in politics for thousands of years. Though the phrase may be first attributed to Phillip II of Macedon, the principle has been in use far longer. An early example of this was when Gabinius parted the Jewish nation into five conventions. The strategy is a perfect one as a divided foe is far easier to conquer than a large united front. The movie Braveheart perfectly exemplified this as well when, even though William Wallace was hugely successful in fighting against the English, the Scottish clans would not unite under one king in order to gain their freedom. King Edward successfully kept the clans divided by providing money, lands, and nobility to the chieftains. Today there are many examples of division across the world and especially within our own country. These divisions prevent us from finding unity. In being prevented from unity we are denied peace. Being denied peace we are slaves.
The United States, a misnomer if ever there was one, leads the world in dividing policies and practices. We are constantly divided by politics, religion, race, class, sexuality, gender, abortion, and even sports. The division has created gaps so large that rather than engaging in intelligent discussion on any of the above topics we instead engage in name-calling or flat out running away. The picture becomes incredibly clear around election time when social media becomes filled with rants pointing towards the strength of a potential candidate versus the outright weakness of another candidate.
The clash between Liberalism and Conservatism has become almost violent. In many cases if a topic is engaged from a point of view perceived to belong to the opposing faction accusations then accusations will be made that you belong to that faction. I’ll use myself as an example. I feel that marijuana should be legalized. I don’t smoke it. I don’t like it. Inherently I feel that marijuana is less trouble than cigarettes and thus should be just as legal. Conservatives immediately assume I am liberal despite my arguments against it. I do not believe there should be a ban on guns. I do not personally enjoy guns and I also believe that there are a lot of people who misuse guns, however the outlawing of guns does not keep them out of the hands of criminals. This statement would lead liberals to declare me a conservative. I reject both labels and choose instead to look at issues as they arise and resolve the issues in the most logical way possible.
Originally political parties were created in order to unify candidates in all branches of government according to a particular platform. This meant that Republican candidates were largely for smaller government and Democrats were for larger governments. As division continued to be added over the years the two parties came to represent platforms that had less to do with the size of government and spending practices and more on social issues that are best left out of government. This evolution brought about greater polarization within the people.
Religion is another terrific divider. Religion is defined as “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.” The very definition requires human interpretation of spiritual matters that are not only agreed upon but can then be manipulated to create further division. When disagreements arise further division is created and extreme sects are formed. We can see examples of this in the Westboro Baptists, Wahhabists of Sunni Islam, the Irgun and the Lehi of Judaism, and the extreme Buddhists of Myanmar. Each group commits acts of violence against those who oppose their way and thus defile the image of their faith as a whole. When the majority remains silent and the minority becomes so vocal and visible as these groups then people end up misinterpreting the faith as a whole. My own feeling is that all faiths are beautiful and each faith has elements of Truth. Extremism drives people from this beauty and creates division.
I had a conversation once in social media where I had stated my belief that if it divides us, then it is wrong. As above I mentioned religion. The one who argued with me is a good Christian guy. He disagreed with me. This is fine as disagreements point out areas of potential learning for both parties. At the mention of religion he quoted a particular passage in the bible that I knew someone would quote:
Matthew 10:34-38 “34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”
This passage is an interesting one as I have debated since childhood with one of my closest friends what this particular passage could mean. However this writing does not include that interpretation in its scope. Instead I would like to draw attention to the origins of this passage as having been written circa 70 CE during the Flavian dynasty and could have been written around the time of the Jewish rebellion as a means to incite rebellion against the Romans using religion to stir ardour. The passage certainly conflicts with other materials from the bible that include the books of Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Titus which all essentially say that “a divided house falls.”
Some division insidiously uses grains of truth in order to create further divides. The gender, race, and social class gaps are all strong examples of this. It is true that in America there has long been a gap in gender and race. However equality cannot be achieved by swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction. Men holding themselves accountable for how women are treated and providing salaries based upon merit does a lot more for equality than does promoting shame in men. Watch any Nickelodeon or Disney kids TV program and you will see examples of either missing or bumbling fathers. In recent years I have never seen a strong and proud father figure on either one of these networks. How about the woman who specifically chooses to be a stay at home mother because she loves to embrace the nurturing side of her nature? Her female peers are as likely to shame her for this choice as they are for the husband choosing to be the breadwinner of the family. The important thing here isn’t who has the right to earn, it’s that we are free to be the thing we want to be free of shame.
The racial divide follows a similar track as the gender gap. Unity is easy when we see that all races and cultures have something beautiful to offer one another in their diversity. In fact that diversity creates beauty whereas homogeneity destroys it. Again we see where accountability for our current actions goes much further than shaming the white for being white. It would be antagonistic and antithetical to shame people of color for their skin color. Thus we shouldn’t shame anyone for their color, religion, political views, etc.
Too much energy is focused on division. This essay is proof enough of that as I have much more that I could say on the topics discussed and those not discussed. Thus we must divert our energies towards unity, that ideal that seems so distant and yet is so vast in its power. In unity we can heal our world and create peace through the power of the vast majority. It is important to state that unity is based on Truth. In a previous article entitled “The Will, the Truth, and the Work” I describe the Truth as pure and simple fact. This is juxtaposed against the truth which is malleable and can be interpreted many different ways. As an example of Truth I provide you with the following statement, “Shame does more harm than good.” This is both verifiably true and inarguable. Therefore by avoiding activities that shame we are already promoting unity. Religious, cultural, political, and gender shame (among with all others) are the tool of division.
Truth, with a capital “T”, is undeniable and inarguable. It is free of bias and objectivity. When we switch our focus from viewing our own personal truth to viewing the universal Truth we begin to see that there is no reason to remain divided against our brothers and sisters. The difference between the two requires an example. Imagine a woman who is married. The marriage has been in trouble for a wrong time. She meets someone new who makes her feel complete and loved again. She falls in love with him. This is a great situation to look at potential conflicts for division versus unity. In this scenario you will typically have several things happening at once — the woman lies to her husband to avoid him learning the truth, the lover pushes her constantly to leave her husband and even creates ultimatums, the husband who learns of the affair grows angry and either demands that the activity stops or leaves the marriage. Here we have an excellent opportunity to explore falsehood, truth, and Truth.
In the above example we have several falsehoods to examine immediately. First there is the fact that two people are clinging to a marriage that is falling apart. There are many excuses for why people will do this that include vows, children, God, etc. Secondly there are the falsehoods that the wife uses to hide her activities. Thirdly there are the falsehoods the husband tells to himself in order to keep the marriage going. Finally there are the falsehoods that the lover engages in in order to absolve himself of guilt or shame. In all three cases falsehoods are creating divisions within the three parties.
What are the truths involved? The wife is cheating and now feels shame as she labels herself a cheater. The husband didn’t do anything wrong and his wife is the only family that he has. The lover got in over his head. These truths are matters of perspective that are based on personal, religious, cultural, and societal norms. If, in a foreign culture, the woman was free to choose whatever mate she wanted when she wanted then her truth would not be that she was a cheater. While one could argue that that isn’t the society we live in I would argue that it isn’t about the norms and mores of our culture but rather the Truth and Love that matter above all else. The husband may perceive his own truth as this is the only family he has, but what is preventing them from remaining a family if the marriage were to resolve? What keeps him from being family to his closest friends? In my own life my closest friends are often more brothers to me than my own flesh and blood. In fact after my own divorce I was able to become closer to my children as our time became more precious and filled with adventure.
What is the ultimate Truth? The marriage was built like a house on sand. It did not have the proper foundation to stand amidst the hurricane. The wife fell out of love with the husband. The wife fell in love with another man. The husband did not do enough to continually build his relationship with his wife. The lover gave in to his heart without paying attention to mind. Time moves forward and as it does all wounds will heal. That is the Truth and does not need further explanation.
Love is another tool used in unity whereas its opposite, hate, creates division. When we have love for our enemies we come closer to unification. The bible quotes this Truth in Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” In the Pirkei Avot, a book of the Mishnah, Judaism states that the universe depends on three things — the Law, service to God, and acts of loving kindness. This directly relates to my own philosophy of Truth, the Will, and the Work. In my article “I Am Enough” I put forth that each person is akin to his own universe. In this way we each depend on the same three principles, or pillars if you will, and living in contradiction to these will cause our “house” to crumble in upon itself. In Aleister Crowley’s Law of Thelema it is stated that “Love is the Law; Love under Will.”
Through acts of loving kindness division is impossible. When we act out of love for our friends do we turn them away? No. We bring them closer. We feel a stronger desire to return love to those who give love to us. This is unity. Certainly some may say that people turn away love given on a regular basis. We can list people in our lives who do so. Yet I say that they do not turn away love because of it, rather they turn away because of fear. In “Fear is the Mind-Killer” I wrote about how fear impacts everything we do and how fear, which typically activates a fight-or-flight response, can instead be used as a diagnostic tool. I have seen, many times, how the giving of loving kindness has prompted negative results. The object of the love has engaged her fight-or-flight instincts not because she is loved, but because she is deeply afraid of what to do with that love or what she would be with the absence of it. It is her fear that brought her “house” down and not the love.
We no longer need to be divided by religion, politics, race, and all the rest. Love one another. Be mindful of the Truth. Listen to the Will. When we have at last done this we can unite against those who would keep us divided and conquered. We can truly be free. We can finally be a true community.