Division. The separating into parts.
This general idea appears a lot in Wendell Berry’s essays.
I offer these quotes as illustration:
In 2017, the political and/or cultural meanings of division are familiar to us.
For instance, here CNN separates us into Trump voters and non-Trump voters.
I know watching this kind of stuff is voyeuristic. I don’t have anyone in my life who supports or defends Trump regularly. Using people the media provides me to stand-in for a real person is risky. I know nothing about these people except what CNN shows me, and they have been introduced to me as separate (No, I didn’t vote for Trump.) so I’m already biased against them and am incapable of judging their overall character. Does this kind of stuff help? What sort of standards should the media hold itself to when presenting this kind of stuff?
Unfortunately we can’t talk about us people with any kind of specificity or accuracy without dividing us into smaller groups. The inescapable trap. We can either divide us into groups or we cannot talk about us.
Does acknowledging separation actually reinforce division? We all rely on media to give us information that then shapes our worldview. If media highlights division, these divisions start to settle into us. Here we have a group of mostly men who voted for Trump. They’ve been divided out from a larger group of people who voted for Trump and are supposed to representative. Are they? It’s hard to say.
Here’s are a few ways media divides us in order to talk about us:
- political affiliation
- economic status
- work status
Which of these divisions are real and which are created by the media?
Answering this question is the first step. If a division is real, it is worth discussing. Then, if it is worth discussing, all of the groups involved must be examined.
Berry does address division on a macro level, but somehow he manages to avoid talking about people. He gives due attention to all the instances where we find it easy to publicly pick sides, to ally ourselves with one side or another. He talks about the reasons for and the implications of persistently separating women and men, dark-skinned folks and light-skinned folks, city dwellers and farmers, etc.
He doesn’t stop there though and neither should we. He also looks at division through the MICROSCOPE. He writes about division at the cellular level, the level of the body, divisions inside the household and in the local community.
Why? Because apparently Berry’s opinion is that the divisions which we clearly draw up in our public lives, actually begin in the murky underwater of our private lives. That what is OURS is definitely related to what is MINE.
I agree with him.
P.S. I know this feels sufficiently obtuse for many who want action, but direct action without principle is pissing in the wind and we all know in order to satisfactorily resolve a disagreement, we have to be able to utilize different tools at different times.