Note: This story originally appeared on DailyKos.

Left, centre, right: "us"
Us. No "them".

This is a part of my story of hope. Of removing divisions which create "us" and "them" dichotomies. A hope to create a single "us".

In this part, I'll go into what I perceive the challenge of division is, where it may come from, and hints of how it could be mitigated. Possible future parts may address causation specifics, more detail on circumstances and manifestations of division, and specific avenues, techniques, and ways of thinking about its removal. (I'm new to this type of participatory, communal process of addressing challenges of this scope, so am not sure how — or even if — this will evolve.)

I have been exploring internal and external language — the dialogue we use to engage ourselves and others. One of the things I encounter frequently is specific language used to invoke or evoke specific behaviours. Of late, this is most evident in the right-wing narrative and agenda in engendering divisiveness, in particular, their patronage of the "us vs them" paradigm. The right has been working on promulgating division for over 50 years. They are very good at it.

A couple of things to keep in mind while reading the following:

  • The "right" (Republicans, conservatives, et al) are human. We forget this at our peril, certainly at the peril of improving the human condition.
  • The division the right creates has no basis in fact. It is illusion — an artificial construct — created through carefully crafted rhetoric and actions.

The right's narrative is designed specifically to generate division. This starts by conflating views with the individuals who hold them. Once such conflation occurs, the person who has been conflated with a view becomes an object. Objectification allows hate. Once hate has been established, division can take root; every "side" can hate any other "side". The right's intent is to use rhetoric which appeals to some of the baser human instincts which are extremely difficult to resist. This attraction is strong enough so that a lot on the left buy into it. This can be seen here on Daily Kos, in heated fights between members who nominally share ideologies on how to progress the human condition, where there should be significantly more unity than disunity. Even in discussions of unity, fights erupt. This is precisely what the right wants; they want us to hate each other, hate ourselves, even if it means we hate them (a price they're willing to pay, apparently). The only factor which mitigates this to a debatable degree is that they are so good at it, they hate each other too. That they wind up hating each other disrupts their narrative's cohesion and somewhat limits the efficacy of their agenda of division.

My exploration is in how to mitigate divisiveness — how to create unity, inclusivity instead of division, exclusion. There are two keys to accomplishing this:

  1. recognition of everyone as human and worthy of compassion;
  2. being mindful of the language we use.

At least in our current environment, these two elements are inextricably entwined.

Before going any further, I'd like to say that those who cause harm are to be removed, by whatever means available and/or necessary. (Once removed, additional steps could be taken to see if they are willing to rejoin in efforts to live by rules set to advance the common well-being of everyone.)

If our goal is unity, recognizing everyone as human and worthy of compassion is not optional. The right is extremely good at objectifying groups — removing their humanity — with whom they disagree. They do this through using phrases like "hate", "anger", "fight", "us vs them" and others which evoke instinctual, self-defence responses and objectifies those at whom such sentiment is aimed. Once a person has been objectified, viewing them as human and as worthy of compassion is optional.

The right also creates false equivalencies such as "power and force = respect", "kindness = weakness", "money = win", and "social programs = communism". The only way to counter this is to diligently remain conscious of rhetoric that encourages instinctual responses and to clearly identify and call out false equivalencies. To further our own agenda of progressing the human condition, we must ensure our own equivalencies are correct; "power and force = fear", "kindness = strength", "money = corruption", and "social programs = human". (I'd be happy to add your suggestions to both the false and correct equivalencies lists.)

There are two concepts I've found which are incredibly powerful aids to create unity and encourage inclusivity: the golden rule, and karma. I've been around long enough to see that the golden rule operates because of — or through — karma; these two ideas are inextricably linked. While perhaps not provable as a "law" of anything, I've seen enough evidence of the effectiveness of this combination that I consider it a workable principle to guide all actions.

(Even though I emphasize the use of the golden rule to aid in creating unity and inclusivity, its corollary is just as potent and is exactly what the right is employing: if you engender hate and division, you wind up hated and alone.)

The golden rule with teeth:” I use the conventional definition of the golden rule; and I bend the definition of karma a little to imply that its "pay-back" can be more immediate than allowed for by most definitions. This allows for better integration of and immediacy for the “karma / the golden rule” partnership.

If we progressives (the "left", Democrats, liberals, etc.) intend to further our agenda of improving the human condition, we must resist falling for, buying into and using the right's narrative and agenda; we must set our own agenda — and that begins and ends with recognizing everyone as human and using language of unity and inclusion. We must remain vigilant in the language we use; specifically, the right has a strength in having others adopt their narrative. We must recognize this for the divisive force this presents and resist; create and use our own narrative, the narrative that supports our agenda instead of adopting theirs. If we stay mindful of the words and phraseology we use, we can subvert efforts to demoralize us AND them; we can engender unity and inclusion when we choose terms like "compassion", "unity", "inclusivity".

My endeavour is to morph the right's "us vs them" into "us and them" and ultimately to the recognition that there is just "us".

Of optimism is that division through fear has never endured. Division is antithetical to the human condition and violates too many basics of human nature to be sustainable. By all accounts, it appears to be inherently self-destructive.

NB There is a lot of detail missing in this story. For example, what is the specific rhetoric the right uses to create division; what are the left's ideologies and how do they differ from the right's; specific areas of interest and thought which are used by both the left and right to further their agendas; which are the commonalities around which we can unite the right and left; the role education plays (this is huge); and lots more. I don't know what form follow-ups may take or how timely their releases might be, but I look forward to engaging everyone on Daily Kos and elsewhere in addressing this fundamental challenge.

Supporting, related material

The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman (Nat Geo)
This is a must-see series for anyone interested in a highly digestible exploration into various aspects of the human condition and possible paths to improving it. Morgan Freeman is second-to-none in his curiosity about and compassionate handling of this.

How to like people you don't like (and why this is important) (DailyKos)
David Akadjian wrote this very poignant story outlining possible approaches to engendering communication — particularly opening lines of communication with those who are trying to objectify us and who we've possibly objectified.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
According to its developer, Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD: "Nonviolent Communication shows us a way of being very honest, without any criticism, insults, or put-downs, and without any intellectual diagnosis implying wrongness." Every aspect of my life has been transformed by NVC. Its fundamental premise of non-judgement — the removal of the human constructs of "right" and "wrong" — will utterly change your view of yourself and your fellow human beings. Its focus is on the well-being of self balanced with the well-being of the whole. It offers simple mechanisms which can be employed to eliminate — eliminate, not mitigate or lessen — discord while always respecting each other.

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (season 1 and season 2)
Leah Remini's exposition and exploration of her and others' experiences with Scientology eerily echo a lot of attributes the right exemplifies. From Scientology's de-emphasis of conventional education to its brainwashing techniques, parallels with the techniques of the right's agenda of division readily become apparent. (Comparing the right and Scientology could make a good story all on its own.)