Saturday, June 28, 2008

Reflections: Divide and Conquer - Two Game Plans

Over at my home-away-from-home, Ragged Thots, in the comments section under the title: Government at work (6/18/08 edition), a strange bird named Golub mused thusly:

Lastly, I am always baffled by the fact that Red States should be Blue States and Blue should be Red - in terms of taxation and in the support for more government spending.

NY absolutely should be AGAINST taxes and FOR localized government and rural states should be FOR more taxes and FOR more government spending.

Edited to fit this post, my response to that was, in part, as follows:

[W}here the logic of that fails is that rural folk tend to vote on cultural issues, rather than on economic ones. Therefore, the GOP is able to keep them Red based on issues loosely defined and lumped together as "gays, guns, and God."

[Below are some excerpts from George] Orwell's “The Road to Wigan Pier"… that describe these political forces as they pertained to middle- vs. working-class Brits in the years prior to WWII. The issue that was analogous to Red vs. Blue (rural vs. urban) in contemporary America, was Socialism vs. Fascism (working-class vs. middle-class) in pre-war Great Britain. In both cases, the negative pressure [giving rise to these opposing impulses] is applied by capitalism. But the antagonism between the two social groupings keeps them seeing each other as the enemy, rather than seeing the real enemy, who successfully divides and conquers.

So, Orwell:

Obviously the Socialist movement has got to capture the exploited middle class before it is too late; above all it must capture the office workers, who are so numerous and, if they knew how to combine, so powerful. …The people who have got to act together are all those who cringe to the boss and all those who shudder when they think of the rent. This means the small-holder has got to ally himself with the factory-hand, the typist with the coal-miner, the schoolmaster with the garage mechanic. There is some hope of getting them to do so if they can be made to understand where their interest lies. But this will not happen if their social prejudices, which in some of them are at least as strong as any economic consideration, are needlessly irritated.

…Economically, I am in the same boat with the miner, the navvy and the farm-hand; remind me of that I will fight at their side. But culturally I am different from the miner, the navvy and the farm-hand; lay the emphasis on that and you may arm me against them. [i.e., “turn me into a Fascist”]

…The weakness of the middle class hitherto has lain in the fact that they have never learned to combine; but if you frighten them into combining against you, you may find that you have raised up a devil.

[To stave off Fascism] all that is needed is to hammer two facts home into the public consciousness. One, that the interests of all exploited people are the same; the other, that Socialism is compatible with common decency.

The historical situations change superficially; but the mechanisms and machinations of politics and human nature remain virtually identical.