“The enemy!” If you passed through the town near my home on a recent weekend you might have seen about two hundred Harleys parked around the local tavern and café. Black leather clad riders lounged among the bikes. You might even have felt your body stiffen as you pegged them as an enemy and your mind told you, “Look at all those dangerous bikers! Who will they attack next?If you felt that way, you probably wouldn’t have stopped to exchange a few friendly words with any of them. You might not have noticed that many had gray or white hair. That’s long past the age at which violence is common. You might never have learned that participants had to pay a fee to join the ride, with proceeds donated to a local charity. And since you saw the picture in your mind instead of the reality behind it, your thoughts and feelings about that gathering probably remained unchanged—and wrong.
That’s one small example of an everyday phenomenon. Many fixed mental, emotional, and body reactions shrink the amount of your mind that is open, receptive, and able to tell what’s going on. Taking advantage of that pattern, a very old manipulative tactic is to create an “enemy” to unite against. An enemy is not just an opponent, since you and a competitor can still be friends. Rather, an enemy is seen as someone irrevocably opposed to you and yours. Your enemy is out to do bad things to you. It’s someone toward whom you feel ill will, animosity, or even hate. Once you’ve classified people as enemies, you can easily be tricked into doing terrible things to them. You may even condone truly evil acts carried out against them by those on “your side.” So for example, presidents, premiers, prime ministers and legislators stir up wars that benefit them or the corporations that line their pockets with campaign contributions. They spend your taxes on weapons and send other people’s children (very seldom their own) to fight and get wounded or die. Several intriguing socila psychological studies have shed light on why and how it can be easy to do that.
In the U.S.. the escalated antagonism associated with the most recent presidential election and its aftermath could not please the plutocracy more. As long as black and whites and latinos are hostile to each other, our attention is distracted from the people and tactics in the power elite who are the ones who are really screwing us. We need to step out those old antagonisms and unite to take back the country for the working class and most of the rest of the people. White vs. Black plays right into the hands of the great manipulators. Pretty much the same as political parties. Now we have a president who ran as a “defender of the people” who has turned out to be a defender of he fossil fuel billionaires.
For more information see the experiments by Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif.