All of us are worried about what appears to be the unprecedented polarization of our societies and are looking to our governments to overcome these divisions.
What we tend to forget is that throughout history it was the governments themselves that were mainly responsible for creating an ‘us’ and demonizing the ‘thems.’
Think of the most egregious examples. Despite the abolition of slavery in 1865 by US Constitutional amendment and the passage of federal legislation supposedly protecting civil rights, ‘Jim Crow’ laws passed on the state and local level mandated the segregation of schools, public transportation, restaurants, restrooms and even drinking fountains between blacks and white.
African-Americans were largely deprived of their right to vote, thanks to a few measures requiring them to take literacy tests or provide required papers proving, for instance, proof of residence.
In Russia, after the Revolution of 1917-8, in order to expropriate privately owned land and agriculture for the Bolsheviks, Lenin labeled as ‘bloodsuckers’ small, prosperous farmers – some with only five or six acres – and decreed that these ‘kulaks’ should be hung without trial.
Later, Josef Stalin, having fanned the opposition by poorer peasants by demonizing these better off farmers, announced that the kulaks be deprived of certain privileges, such as the use of land, or the right to hire people or even use equipment.
‘The kulaks are the furious enemies of socialism,’ he announced. ‘We must repulse the kulak ideology.’
The media – then Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist Party – participated in the demonization of the farmers, claiming that they dominated the wealthy countryside, hoarded food and were attempting to infiltrate Communist Party cells.
Under Stalin’s plan of ‘dekulakization,’ millions of small farmers and their families were murdered or deported to Siberia to work in hard labor camps.
And of course, the most infamous modern example is Germany when Adolf Hitler beguiled many Germans into believing that the enemy of Germany, responsible for German impoverishment after the First World War, was the Jew.
From 1933, national legislation deprived the vast majority of Jews of steady employment and even the right to vote. And after war was declared in 1939, Jews were no longer allowed to enter particular areas of cities. There were strict limits on when Jews could purchase food or supplies, they had limited access to certain stores, and they received smaller rations than their non-Jewish peers.
By 1941, Jews were not allowed to use public transportation. Anyone older than 6 had to wear a yellow Jewish star sewn onto their clothes. By 1943, Jews no longer had the protection of German law.
We all know where all this eventually led to: denial of rights, government seizure of property, concentration camps, mass extermination.
Each of these tragic examples began with a particular government agenda that institutionalized, via state and federal law, certain methods to keep the ‘thems’ apart from the ‘us’s.’
The US, German and Russian governments all used the ‘thems’ as scapegoats, blaming the African-Americans, the Jews and the Kulaks, respectively, for whatever ills their societies were suffering.
Each government enshrined in law curtailment of ordinary freedoms for the ‘thems,’ whether to travel, to purchase things available to other citizens or to have the ‘inalienable’ rights enshrined in that country’s constitution.
In each instance, governments used the media as an instrument to foment more hatred and prejudice among the other members of the population toward the ‘thems,’ condemning them for views and ideologies that threatened the health and prosperity of the nation.
Each government signposted the ‘thems’ with some sort of identification, whether registration cards or yellow stars to keep them apart, inferior and less equal.
Compare that with what is going on today, where countries and cities around the world are launching vaccine passports. The purpose of these passports is to favor one sector of society and to limit the rights of others to travel to certain places, enter particular venues and possibly gain employment. Some politicians even noted that the unvaccinated shouldn’t be able to walk into a store to buy food.
Please understand: this emphatically is not a comparison between the fate of the unvaccinated and the horrific fate of the Jews during the Holocaust or the plight of African-Americans, which has gone on for centuries and continues today.
It is also not an argument for or against Covid vaccination, although it should be pointed out that overwhelming evidence now shows that each type of Covid vaccine only protects the individual at risk. It does not stop transmission of the virus. Your getting a vaccine will not protect me – only potentially you, and only for three to six months, according to the latest evidence from Israel. There is no herd protection, only private protection (should you be at risk from dying), which means that the decision has to be individual.
But, as I say, this isn’t about the merits or not of the vaccine.
It’s a warning about where the necessity of carrying a card saying whether you are an ‘us’ or a ‘them’ can lead.
Or when the media is able to get away with spouting a government line without questioning it. The official Communist state newspaper Pravda referred to the Kulaks as ‘hesitant allies’ of the state, and so less committed or patriotic, just as the media has labeled people ‘vaccine hesitant’ for asking perfectly reasonable questions about a brand-new and largely untested gene technology.
In announcing the development of an emergency regulation that would require companies with 100 employees or more to require staff to be vaccinated or tested weekly, President Joe Biden spoke to the 25 percent of Americans who refuse that they were ‘costing all of us,’ and ‘blocking public health.’
Discrimination doesn’t require conflict or indeed much besides the flimsiest designation of otherness. As American psychologist Henri Taifel demonstrated in a study, when a batch of adolescent boys were told that certain others had scored the same score as they had on a computer task, they began to band together and discriminate against those who hadn’t achieved the same score.
Difference of any sort that gets emphasized is enough to create a “minimal group” and, consequently, an out group (Scientific American, 1970; 223: 96-102). All it takes is any kind of a wall, no matter how insubstantial.
Or any kind of passport.
Whether you are pro- or anti-Covid vaccine, whether you have been vaccinated or not, let's stand together against vaccine passports. We already have too many ‘thems’ in our world.
Sign up and receive FREE GIFTS including The Power of Eight® handbook and a special video from Lynne!