Divide et impera
This post explores how meaning is negotiated and created. To do so, it examines a meme and includes at least one alternative interpretation. It also reflects on the cognitive bias that can affect how we generate and disseminate meaning in our own social networks.
This meme shows a medieval kingdom. The king and his servant are talking on the balcony, while people are in front of it rioting and holding pitchforks and torches.
The meme belongs to politics. Brief background: Divide et impera or divide and rule is the saying used mainly in politics or sociology. It is a way or a strategy of keeping yourself in a position of power by making the people under you disagree with each other so that they are unable to join together and remove you from your position.
The context of the meme refers to kings or people at power usually deceiving their subjects/people. They usually turn one side against the other while they are not harmed. We can safely say that this concept dates back to the time kings/queens ruled. Might we add, it did not stop.
What is the message? As the title says this is ‘eternal ruler’s guide’, proving that those in power want to turn people, who are fighting for the same goal, against each other, to convince both sides that the blame is in them and not in the authority. This way the king makes his people fight and kill each other, so he can rule over the survived who are too tortured to oppose him again. Divide et impera is the best description of this situation, which is also common in the modern world.
What ‘goes without saying’? In this particular meme the ruler is manipulative. He is really not interested in his people except as a vehicle to allow him to gain control so that they become unwilling participants in his plans. He distorts the truth, and may resort to lying if it serves his end. Instead of this, the ruler should be honest and courageous enough to be coherent with his thoughts and actions. People should trust the king implicitly, and look up to him as a person who is worth following.
How can its symbolic content be interpreted in a different way, through a different lens? This meme can take another point of view. What we see as the key term for the other view is suspicion. Don’t you just pause sometimes and ask yourself why is it that some people so easily manipulate others and how does suspicion enter one’s mind so vividly that one cannot find neither its beginning nor end? It is a dangerous and a powerful weapon to use somebody’s trust against them. Moreover, in order for someone to lose one’s faith, faith needs to exist, and both faith and trust are two sides of the same coin in the pocket of “the person of trust, or the idol”. These idols, people who are at a higher position than ourselves, either concerning their social status or based on our own perspective of them, can abuse one’s trust simply because of the power that is given to them. This invisible rule can be applied to any relationship that people form – family, friends, employers and employees, etc. In the end, it all boils down to Selimović’s famous quote:
“It is easier to persuade people into evil and hatred, than into goodness and love. Evil is atrractive and closer to human nature. For goodness and love one must grow, one must make an effort.”
The sour truth behind these words reveal that people are easily convinced to act in a badly manner simply because it is easier. Also, one has to have empathy to understand another human being, without prejudice or judgement. To listen carefully and observe cautiously everyone around him/her in order to make a clear and whole picture.
One of the other meanings of the meme can relate to the theory of “poisoning through words”. Namely, in one of William Shakespeare’s most famous works, the Othello, Iago, the villain, uses words to manipulate Othello and therefore sips the poison through his ears into his heart. All Othello’s dirty and dark deeds afterwards stem from Iago’s devilish intentions and words. Just as in the meme, one of the king’s consultant’s assures him to act in an immoral way, simply to protect his position and gain more power. Because power, above all, makes people be(come) so cruel and blind of others’ pain or difficulties.
Reflection on: Ciampaglia, G. L. & Menczer, F. (2018) Biases make people vulnerable to misinformation spread by social media
While reading the text, we were very impressed with the content. It was very helpful and well organized, and it made us think more about the subject. Surely, all of us came across certain infrormation that have not been true, thus we were reluctant to believe in them. Therefore, the revilation that our own brain makes decisions whether the information is reliable or not, was intriguing. Also, it was very helpful that the article gives different apps that can help us with incorrect information and fake news, thus we would like to try out the apps and see for ourselves if they are worth our while. Moreover,the fact that a plataeu of information can cause “information overload“ sparked our attention, hence we wanted to find more research about that topic. Consequently, we found an artcle that explains that by having or getting too much information from unwanted email can cause a person to be overwhelmed thus not differentiating between something useful and useless (we will leave the link to the site here, so our colleagues can read it too: https://hbr.org/2009/09/death-by-information-overload)
In conclusion, it is very difficult to decide what is correct and incorrect, especially when so many aspects are part of the problem. Thus people must be careful and try to take every information with a pinch of salt, for now, it is our only solution.