While physics recognises opposing centrifugal and centripetal forces, we humans also feel opposing energies that pull us towards one another and drive us apart.

Social engineering is a social science that studies the planning and engineering of behaviour of people in society by manipulating different forces.

The bonds of exclusivity are all around us. We associate with an exclusive group, a family, a tribe, a profession. We identify with a town, nation, race, colour, belief system, socio-economic class. It is a natural force within us. But so is the other force that breaks the limiting binds of groups.

Just look at children playing in a kindergarten school with kids from different groupings. They do not distinguish between colour or economic class. The bonds they begin to form are on a deeper human level, based more on character similarities and human affinity. Martin Luther King’s dream was about seeing people judging others ‘not by the colour of their skin, but the content of their character’.

The tendency to bond with groups is natural. However, a bond that brings a group of people together may also create a bind, a restriction that leads to confrontation and bigotry, setting them in conflict with other groups.

A ship ties to an anchor or mooring for safety. But the same rope used could lead to crippling restrictions if the anchor is stuck, or the ship needs to sail out of harbour.

Conflict arises from social divides, which are various. They could be national, gender-related, religious, political as well as economic. The struggle is not so much between one group and another, but between the force that unites these groups and the force that drives them apart. Both forces are so often exploited by social engineers, to form and shape our society and public opinion.

The centrifugal force latent in the human race is gaining dominance. As long as we follow official narratives built around exclusiveness, we will never come together on this planet, but will be driven further apart.

Divide and rule: this has been a ploy throughout the ages by those who gain power, and seek to hang on to it, to the detriment of others. Dividing people, nations and regions keeps these weak.  Healthy rivalry is one thing, it helps to push our boundaries. An unhealthy one limits them. It creates friction which exhausts and ultimately burns out both sides.

We seek comfort and refuge in a new tribe. It could be a Lamborghini or Porsche club, a billionaires’ club, an exclusive golf club. It could be a more modest one, a bikers’ or football club, a party or professional club. On some psychological level it makes some feel supported, others feel superior.

In my piece ‘Love over War’ (March 13), I had written about the opposing forces of love and the various forms of conflict, political, economic, financial and military. I said that the heart energy is our guiding force to attempt to steer away from conflict.

Rather than uniting people, religions have so often been used as divisive social engineering tools

However, on a practical level, it is our ability to understand the importance of strengthening the inner tendency to inclusion, rather than that of exclusion, that holds the secret to world harmony, as opposed to strife.

If we feed the force of inclusion, whatis to stop people of different religious denominations, for example, who gather in prayer, from doing so in a mix of Christian churches, mosques, Hindu temples and synagogues?

If monotheists subscribe to the notion of one God, why are temples treated as exclusive to specific denominations or sub groupings? Rather than uniting people, religions have so often been used as divisive social engineering tools. Even Christian churches are divided into Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and so forth. Mosques too are divided into Shiite and Sunni. Division even trickles down to parishes.

Most churchgoers in the town of Nadur would never think of attending Mass in Xagħra, and vice versa. In the same way a thirsty nazzjonalist, who needs to urgently wet his whistle, would not consider entering a Labour Party club just to buy a drink. The same goes for a laburist who would not enter a Nationalist Party club. But in truth, both only need to quench their thirst at the nearest outlet and opportunity.

Fundamentalism has been on the rise for over 20 years. It is the ultimate negative bi-product of the bond of exclusivity, which then manifests as exclusion. It leads to intolerance, whether it takes the form of extreme religious ideology, white or other racial supremacism, or far left and right along the political divide.

However, it would be wrong to think that the problem lies only with those persons pushing their boundaries to an extreme end of a particular grouping, political, religious or otherwise. The seeds of division in fact lie within us all, every time we submit to the force of exclusion rather than strengthen that of inclusion.

Subsequently, we succumb to arguments in favour of economic sanctions, military confrontations, arms build-up, foreign interference and intervention in another nation’s affairs, or demonising the ‘other side’.

 We fall for debates trying to justify massive disparities in the world’s economic wealth, be it on an individual or national level, on some vague principle of ‘free market’ economics, which is usually anything but free, and dominated by cartels, mega mergers and powerful commercial lobbies.

Whenever we do so, we would be failing to strengthen policies of inclusion. We would be feeding that centrifugal force driving societies apart.

We might only be creating tiny ripples on an individual or national level. But a multiplicity of these ripples eventually forms a tidal wave of destruction. 

We need to learn the art of forming bonds that bring people together across grouping divides, rather than fuel tribal behaviour that leads to clash and conflict.

Once we start to practice this art, we must then make our voices heard loud and clear. We need to shout from the mountain tops and in the ears of our representatives that exclusion, division and confrontation are not the name of the game. They are in fact a game breaker.

If we fail to do this, we would be guilty of complicity in fomenting strife and conflict through acquiescence, passivity and a stubborn refusal to free our minds. We need to free our minds from the manufacturing of consent, and from surreptitious social engineering that polarises people.

This engineered consent and the sowing of division are the most insidious types of manipulation. Unknowingly, they allow rulers to divide and continue to rule in our names, for their own benefit, and for the benefit of the very few whom they serve, at the expense of global harmony.

Rodolfo Ragonesi is a lawyer and researcher in history and international affairs.   

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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