Have you ever tried to break a broom, to fracture it with one sudden and decisive move? I guess you tried in vain… if you ever tried… You can’t break it actually. Even if the material from which is made is quite soft and the separate fibers are easy to break, when several fibers are gathered together, you can’t break the entire object. The only way is to separate it in pieces. I guess this is not particularly informative for you, as it’s common-sense and everybody knows it. As simple as it gets, few people actually learn something from this.
When I worked in the psychiatric hospital in Romania, the situation was potentially explosive all the time. There were 2 nurses managing around 70 patients in the locked unit and it almost never happened that the patients took the power, even if the caregivers were and still are outnumbered. This happens partly because of the sedative drugs being used, but also because of the attitude of the caregivers and the fact that escaping is not an easy option given the fact that the police works closely with the hospital if needed be. However, one very dangerous situation can occur when several violent and impulsive patients gather in a hierarchy and a leader emerges from them. When this happens, the nurses try to separate them in several rooms, or seek ways to beak the group. It is known: a hierarchic group of psychiatric patients, with a strong and charismatic leader, is the worst case scenario in a psy unit. Here in France this rarely happens, because there are several nurses, but I see the same pattern: when there are too many friendships and too many impulsive patients spending time together, the nurses come to the doctors and alert them, trying to prevent a change in the force balance. They know it instinctively that they are in danger.
These 2 practical examples highlight an ancient concept, a concept originating thousands of years ago, a concept that has been employed many times throughout history – divide & rule or divide & conquer. It is quoted especially in Latin and I know you heard it at least once. Sadly, you most likely failed to learn something from it, and even if it is highly used nowadays everywhere around you, you fail to notice it. For this reason, the present article aims to raise your awareness.
Divide & Impera means gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy, while preventing the smaller power groups from linking up, causing rivalries and nurturing discord among the people.
There are 2 actions involved: dividing and ruling. And there are several common elements that are found in the situations where this technique is used:
– creating or encouraging divisions among the people to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign;
– aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign;
– fostering distrust and enmity between the smaller rulers;
– encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the resources available for the smaller rulers.
Romania is a country where you can learn this technique at a historic scale. The Romanian people was always formed by several groups, several provinces, several interests, several local power centers, and this comes from ancient times. The first ever king to be recorded by history – King Burebista of the ancient Dacians, before the Roman invasion – had difficult times to form the first Dacian empire, using a mixture of diplomacy and military campaigns. Even during those times, the early Romanian people (in fact the early inhabitants before the formation of the Romanian nation) had these traits of not being able to come together easily. This is a main national vulnerability and it’s a trait that continues until nowadays. What happens now? Well… following the steps previously evoked, the nation was divided by encouraging division (several political parties, several interests, using sabotage), by financially helping the group breakers (new political parties emerging from old parties, new parties that are smaller and have no political power but can deflect the focus on them, bribing the civic society and the syndical leaders or the worker’s union leaders to comply with the ruling parties instead of protecting the rights of the workers), by creating distrust and suspicion among people, and finally, by wasting the country’s money on useless programs and projects (useless feasibility studies, highways that remain only on paper, investments in areas with little or no potential while letting down areas or cities that might actually bring revenues from tourism for instance). Then came the ruling, using fear; fear of being left alone in the face of adversity, fear of losing one’s job, fear of the state institutions being used against oneself. In fact, you don’t have to be intelligent to rule by Divide et Impera; you only have to have patience and apply this simple technique. Nothing more. And the results are catastrophic.
Ironically, I left Romania to escape Divide et Impera and got in a place where this technique is in full bloom. You know what happened in France: the political spectrum has been pulverized by the French nation, and a new party, 2 years old, was promoted to be in charge of reforms. In fact, it’s the same thing. The French nation was divided – all traditional parties lost the election and the power, they couldn’t form coalitions, they quarreled with each other, some ancient party members were attracted by the new ruling party and are now in charge, the ancient parties can’t find their identity and people to represent them even today. Then came the ruling, and this touches people deeply, as there is a tendency to centralize control and integrate the regions more, while imposing laws and rules that have nothing to do with the specific of the local communities.
To be more precise, when I first came to France some years ago, the Alsace region was rich and the living standard was one of the highest in the country. The strong German influence made the region flourish using order and discipline mixed with rational spending, under local rulers. When you were crossing the border of the region, you were struck by the contrast between it and the Paris region or the nearby Lorraine. People were happy. Then, in order to break the region, it was integrated in a larger region called Grand Est. Local leaders suddenly lost power while Paris grew stronger. Decisions are now imposed by Paris. Money carefully saved and stored in the region for bad times began to be spent elsewhere, in impoverished regions far away from Alsace. The local rulers had the reflex to get together and fight but individual vanities were skillfully stimulated and, as a result, the local leaders took decisions against the interest of the region, ceding more power to Paris. Fratricide wars erupted. Then, in order to divide people more, the reforms that came from Paris forced the region to organize differently, taking power from some people and giving it to other people that served Paris’s interests better. Specifically, in healthcare, self-governing rich hospitals were forced to come together with badly-managed bigger hospitals, and this resulted into a hemorrhage of money from the rich hospitals to the badly-managed hospitals, resulting in a loss for everyone. Consequently, this impacted the caregivers and, obviously, the patients, by reducing the number of beds and reducing the number of healthcare providers, hence decreasing the quality of the medical service. All this because of one simple and ancient technique – Divide et Impera.
It took me less than a week to understand what is going on. It’s chaos. It’s leadership by fear. And there is only one solution: raising awareness of the phenomenon and then getting together again… and sticking together like the fibers of the broom… Taking in consideration the psychological problems of the common folk – pride/overt narcissism, inferiority complexes that fuel the desire to be important and have a transient power, the lack of projects in the future combined with the excessive living in the present moment – fighting Divide et Impera is very hard, if not impossible. It requires skillful leadership and combining decisive action (being an example to be followed) with charisma (being seductive) and with diplomacy (giving the sense of importance to those in power who badly need it and seem to not being able to live without it). It also requires the desire and the determination of the people to stick together…