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Last year, in Honors English, we watched the movie Lagan (Sp?).  And, as a result months later, and during the movie, I realized something.  Something about governments and tyrants and racism, and how there are differences between people.

Now the movie is about a region in India is suffering from a drought, and the local British rulers collect a tax based on an agriculture product that the Indian village is producing.  As a result of this drought, they may not have enough of this ‘Lagan’ in order to successfully pay the tax, so the British ruler of the piece (the antagonist) makes a deal with a local Indian, that if the locals beat the British in a game of cricket, they do not have to pay the tax for three years.  If the Indians lose, then they have to pay triple the tax, and this agreement is on the entire region.  So an increidbly cliched scenario if you ask me.   Well they play their game of Cricket, all the while dancing, and singing, and loving their way to victory.

I realized something about power that day, about what it can do, and how that aspect of it can be used to gain ever-increasing power over societies and people in general.

There is another old saying, I seem to be full of them lately, that you can divide and conquer.  This has everything to do with power, and the gaining of it as far as nation states and societies are concerned.

Dividing and Conquering, by placing everyone in their own individual groups.

Now in this movie there was a strong sense of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ or at least the mentality of that.  That there were British, and there were local Indians, masters and slaves, privileged and those struggling to get by.

This can only be done, in general, for those who take power over others.  By setting up differences; that I am special, you are not, you are my slave.  And that breads racism and sexism and tyranny all around, because we get it in our heads that you are different, unclean, and you resent what we are in the middle of doing.

Only power has the power to divide people up like this.  It has been shown, if everyone could treat each other like equals then there just might not be a lot of this going on at the societal levels.  Maybe at the individual level as well.

Because if we just let one another be there would be no need for this, we could all just go on our merry way without realizing any of the crucial difference.  But when you draw attention to it, and then use it to control people, either that I am different for I am better, or you are different because you are bad, that breads all of these feelings.  Hate, anger, violence, mistrust.

When this is coupled with people who are using this situation to their advantage, it can be used to separate and divide people even more, and to further widen that divide.

By pointing out those differences, constantly, then telling you that the ‘majority’ is against you, be it race or by class, and then saying that I am the only one that can help you.  I can get you what you are owed.

Thus they highlight those difference, and flesh them out into the open, dividing society only into a lot of diverse groups, when our differences should not matter in the least.  And then they use it for ‘vote for me’ and things of that nature, in order to convince the people that they are trying to represent that ‘I am one of you, I can get you what you need’.  Thus, society is drawn into a bunch of groups, no matter who they are, looking for their cut from other groups that they deem to be in charge, that they deem to have power.

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3 Comments

  1. nice insight as usual in all of your history lessons thus far….:-)

  2. Yeah so true…and speaking of Movies that demonstrate this….a great one is the old version of “12 Angry Men” Loved that movie and the powerful message it showed….and what power and prejudice does to the individual and how it can breed all the vile things in life. I truly does fracture a society…and I wish there was a magic pill to prevent this….or cure it…..sadly there is not…. hope we can find our way clear of it some day.

  3. You’re correct that there are those in our society who are using diversity as a means for gaining power over others. This is not surprising as rallying populist support by any and all means has been a tactic used by politicians in the past and will likely be used even more in the future.

    This issue of gaining power over others through diversity has its roots in something very insidious and deeply entrenched in the human psyche: Self-segregation. This really is, in my opinion, one of humanity’s greatest flaws. The sad truth is, we are ALL racist in one way or another. If we can all admit this, we can move forward. I would be the first to admit this because I have felt this myself and have been the victim of racism before–though the main perpetrators of the racism I’ve experienced have NOT been white (big surprise there).

    We all cling to what is familiar and consequently we will stick to only what we are comfortable with culturally. I’m one of the rare exceptions to this because I feel no affinity nor loyalty for culture/country of origin. I’ve been a big believer in who I am NOW is much more important than where I came from. My loyalty will always be to the United States. Consequently, I feel closeness and kinship to those people here who have similar interests and philosophies, regardless of ethnic background.

    Unfortunately, this is not a point-of-view shared by many people. To address this problem, people must be persuaded to venture outside their comfort zones. This cannot easily happen. I’ve always seen myself as the wolf who serves the Lion & the Lamb. It’s much easier to do that, I think, than for the panther to come away from its group and reach an understanding with the polar bear.


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