Sectarianism: United We Stand, Divided We Fall

O.T. Paynter-Wells
3 min readNov 26, 2020
Photo by Chris Karidis on Unsplash

We are living in increasingly sectarian and divided times. No time in living memory has the population been so ravaged by division, so ignited by differences in political and ethical ideologies. We are experiencing what may be regarded as the precursor to civil war, a quasi-civil war of ideology, battles are not yet fought with guns (apart from in extreme and unfortunate instances) but with slanders and insults, the warring factions are not organised armies but mobs who, indoctrinated by the principles of tribalism, fiercely oppose all those who do not subscribe to the tenets of their respective group. It seems all notions of a ‘common ground’ where some commonality could be discovered between the opposing factions has all but dissipated. There exists now only a binary structure: left or right, blue or red, right or wrong, such an unyielding and sectional paradigm can only ever give rise to conflict and if we as a society perpetuate it, all links to a common cause, a common identity, which have hitherto been the foundation of society, will crumble into dissolution- undoubtedly with dire consequences.

It is my argument that, at it’s root, this is an issue born out of a lowly recess in our ‘reptilian-brain’ -the tendency toward tribalism. We humans have an unfortunate propensity to draw dividing lines, choose sides and vilify the ‘other’ , all of which compound to erode any possibility of true social and political unity. What we would undoubtedly benefit from, is the transcendence from this basal impulse into a more rational and productive neutrality (not to infer that we should remain apathetic or not show support for given causes),neutrality in the sense that we would not identify ourselves with any political ideology or group — at least not primarily — in the knowledge that our one true allegiance would be to the community and our one absolute and commonly held end — it’s tranquillity. The longer we persist with our tendency to identify with a given side or ideology, the farther the already fractured social fabric is pushed apart. When one makes the decision to identify with group A and their maxims, they feel personally attacked when someone from group B (or just someone who agrees with one or more of the tenets group B advocates) expresses their opposing view, they regard them an enemy, an other, to be defeated for the preservation of the team they represent.

It is the means to this defeat which are increasingly of concern at this time. In place of open and productive debate, there are slanders, smears and insults. In place of the freedom of speech, there is censorship, silencing and de-platforming. In place of evidence and accurate information, we have politicised jargon and disinformation. It appears we will stop at nothing until all semblance of mature and productive discourse has been eradicated from our culture. In its stead, will lay a barren and decayed ‘no man’s land’ littered with the bodies of the few who sought to find threads of commonality between the two polarised factions, who — ever more blinded by the veneers of tribal-identification — will be destined to destroy one another.

A civilisation needs to rethink it’s structure if a large portion of it’s members identify, not as a member of said civilisation, but to isolated sections of it. Sections whose principles often stand antithetical to those of the society which harbours them, sections whose principle enemies are not alien, not the pathologies of the collective psyche, but domestic enemies — section vs section, neighbour vs neighbour. A concerted effort should be made by all individuals to do-away with labels, spectrums and ideological dogma, to identify oneself, not as blue or red, left or right, white or black, but as a member of one cohesive team whose absolute prerogative is the safety and tranquillity of the community and thus the propagation of the values and principles it represents.

“ A house divided against itself cannot stand”- Abraham Lincoln