Sowing Seeds of Division in 3 Easy Steps
Updated: Aug 4
After the racial unrest and division of 2020, perhaps that title is jarring to your eyes. Or perhaps it resonates so closely, you could write this. For me, 2020 and into the winter of 2021 was a time when my worst fears for our nation looked like they were about to be fulfilled. From the riots, looting and pillaging of the summer, to the divisiveness and political rancor of the election season, to the culmination in the storming of the capital in January, 2021, I watched in horror as my country walked the path of division. And why not? Unity, compromise and reconciliation are just so stinkin’ hard. They take effort. On the other hand, division, suspicion and bias seem to be the path of least resistance.
In crafting the world of Divided, one of the forefront ideas in my mind was that the division within our hearts would eventually express itself not only in our words, but through our actions, our reactions, and our alliances. Eventually, hatred harbored within our souls expresses itself. It is the law of sowing and reaping. Sow hatred, reap violence. Sow peace, reap unity.
But what were the steps my fictional world took to end up with ethnicities locked behind walls, divided up into their ethnic buckets, controlled by a cruel dictator, forever prevented from mingling and interacting like normal human beings?
1. The Seed of Suspicion
When we are disconnected from people who don’t think, act, or live like us, then we will have trouble seeing the world through their eyes. Our thinking will be reduced to an “us vs. them” mentality, in which we blame the other people group for the ills of society.
And before you say this could never happen in the US, were you on Facebook last summer?? I saw a lot of “those people need to just do (insert whatever “those people needed to do”)” or even better, “if only ‘they’ would appreciate the freedoms we have.” I was saddened, but not particularly shocked, by the kinds of posts I read.
And further, I’ve noticed an alarming trend.
It sells ad time on news networks (pick your flavor). It sells newspaper and online news ad space. It sells clicks on websites. Suspicion also fuels voter turnout.
Are we doing this to ourselves? At some point, we, as the people of America, will need to decide if our need for unity is greater than our need to be right, protected, prosperous, and privileged. It will be only then that we come out of our echo chambers and refuse to go back in.
If I wanted to be a dictator in a nation like the US (or were crafting a dystopian world in which one seizes power), I would almost certainly sow seeds of suspicion. And I would fuel the flame of suspicion whenever I had the opportunity.
2. The Seed of Insecurity
Following closely on the heels of suspicion is the notion of security - or trying to cover up / fix our insecurity. When our way of life is threatened, insecurity is one of the first emotions that will crop up.
Anyone remember what life was like in the fall of 2020? We didn’t know what was going to happen in a week, let alone a month. Were schools going to be in-person, hybrid or virtual? Would restaurant workers and hair stylists and cruise ship workers be allowed to return to their jobs all over the nation (some of them still can't)? Would anyone ever be able to travel to or do anything in California (we’re still waiting on the answer to that one)?
Uncertainty was the only certainty. And there was a near epidemic of anxiety, depression and anger. It erupted all over social media. We’ve all seen the “I can’t stay quiet any longer” posts that are mostly rant about the “other” side, whatever that “other” is.
Even the “happy place” on the internet, Instagram, began to show signs of the insecurity bleeding into creativity. I don’t know about you, but my feed on Instagram was schizophrenic during this time. Maskers, anti-maskers; republicans, democrats; conspiracy theorists, activists. Everyone was fighting for security - and still is, imho. If I can shout the loudest about my viewpoint, then people will understand and stop threatening me. Right? Maybe not, if everyone else is also shouting out of a fear that their position will be relegated to the side.
Why is Insecurity so threatening to our great nation?
Because when we answer insecurity with anything other than a resolute decision to face the situation in honest dialogue, open-minded listening and genuine cooperation, we will end up being aggressively defensive when anyone challenges the status quo (thus the yelling on my beloved Instagram last fall - don’t get me started on Twitter).
Insecurity will drives us into our echo chambers, refusing to listen to each other and seeing others as “them” instead of “us.” It is the second seed sown by the savvy future dictator.
3. The Seed of Safety
Safety is a good thing, right?
“Safety” in our current vernacular assumes the complete absence of threats, danger or risk.
Which is impossible.
Life, by its very essence, has risks. Every time you get behind a wheel of a car, you are accepting a certain degree of threat, danger AND risk. Let me say, being safe from physical harm or being respected for your opinion aren't, in themselves, bad.
So why is “safety” as an end goal of society so dangerous?
The idea of “safety” is rooted in the maintenance of our current situation - either our health / financial stability, the political status quo or the racial makeup of your neighborhood. All of these things, when elevated to the item of most importance, will lead us into division because in order to maintain safety, we must compromise on other things - notions and goals like social justice, equal treatment under the law, an individual’s rights versus the collective’s needs, or freedom of speech / religion / right to bear arms, you know Bill of Rights type stuff.
When conflict breaks out, many people will want to retreat into a safe place, avoiding conflict at all costs. Will those people hand th
e keys of the nation to the loudest dictator who can guarantee their “safety” and the continuation of life as they know it? What would these people give up to be safe - personal liberty, religious freedom, freedom of speech, their right to vote?
The elevation of safety above all things is the third seed sown by the smart future dictator, looking to control the masses with the opiate of safety.
And, so you see, how easy it would be for the seeds of division to be sown, ready and waiting for the nation to erupt into full-out conflict. We would then be entrenched in our own echo chambers, fighting for what we saw as right, disregarding any other viewpoint, all in the name of creating a world where our children could grow up in a “safe place” away from "them."
America is not so far from this picture, if you take some time to examine our situation now. It’s why my Divided Series is so timely.