Have you noticed that almost every major headline in recent years seems to share one thing in common? They all demand that people take a side, in a seemingly deliberate attempt to polarise the country. It’s known as divide and rule — it’s the oldest trick in the book and the antithesis of sustainable thinking.
From Brexit to climate change, gender wars, fake news and conspiracy theories, celebrity scandals, and now mutant killer dogs, media headlines seem designed to stir division and discontent. Sadly, history is littered with examples of just how easy it is to turn brother against sister and neighbour against neighbour — and its inevitable consequences.
So, why do those in power seem so unable, or unwilling, to put a stop to such media sensationalism, which is clearly causing direct harm to the country? The answer is simple — divided people are weak people, because as long as we’re busy pointing the finger at each other and arguing about what amounts to little more than trivialities, we aren’t focused on what really matters, and are too divided to take meaningful action.
Do minor political differences really matter when so many of those who hold positions of power are getting away with blatant lies, corruption and shameless hypocrisy? Are salacious celebrity scandals worth so much attention when people are struggling to heat their homes and keep their families fed? Should so many newspaper columns be devoted to dangerous dogs when people are losing their lives in war? The simple fact is that if we continue to allow ourselves to be distracted by nonsense, we lose the will and the impetus to hold those in power to account.
Unfortunately, the 24-hour news cycle is designed to render our collective attention span to that of a concussed goldfish, with sensationalist headlines that are cynically contrived to provoke an immediate emotional reaction rather than a rational considered response. The problem with emotional reactions is that they tend to be short-lived. Our sense of anger and injustice falls away as quickly as it rises, but leaves us emotionally exhausted enough that we fail to take any action, until the next hyperbolic headline stirs the anger up again.
And whilst this relentless sapping of the public’s political will might be effective in the short-term at allowing those in power to dodge accountability for the current state of the country, in the long term, it simply isn’t sustainable. Because the issues of poverty, inequality, corruption and injustice underpin many of the societal problems that we now face, and as long as these issues continue to go unaddressed, the country as a whole will only get worse.
So, unless we wish to see the political, economical and moral landscape of our country deteriorate even further, then we must no longer allow ourselves to become polarised by imagined enemies, fabricated threats, petty culture wars, spurious claims, and alarmist reporting.
If we have any hope of working towards a more sustainable future, then we must learn to stand together on what we share in common, rather than fall upon our differences.
Because sustainable thinking has no room for division — sustainable thinking is united thinking. Not united as in all thinking the same way (because the last thing we need is more groupthink), but rather united in working towards the same goal — a fairer, healthier and happier planet, with opportunity for the many rather than the few.