It is interesting to consider how an unwillingness to forgive can be a cultural trait that is learned, as if it were a custom, and then passed on from generation to generation. As an example of this occurrence, an attitude of un-forgiveness may be used as a sort of political tool, in order to achieve (what seems to be counterintuitive), social unity and social control. This is the technique, that is, an attitude of un-forgiveness is the technique that our founding fathers used to gain social support in order to usurp the power away from those in authority in England and willingly give it to the new group of social elites that were forming in the American colonies.
Thomas Paine used an attitude of unwillingness to forgive as a revolutionary slogan in his propaganda pamphlet, Common Sense (The Writings of Thomas Paine, n.d., pp. 67-101.). As one very strong example of this occurance, he stated that the colonies alliance with Great Britain “tends to directly involve this Continent in European wars and quarrels, and set us at variance at nations who would otherwise seek our friendship (The Writings of Thomas Paine, n.d. p. 88.).” Paine’s reasoning, he claimed was simple enough for even a common man to understand, was that the Colonies should revolt and go to war with Great Britain in order to avoid wars. Pain precluded this provocative piece of writing with the suggestion that “a long Habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right (The Writings of Thomas Paine, n.d., p. 67).” That clever premise apparently distracted the common folks from accurately reasoning that the way to peace is not by means of violence and warfare. Throughout the Common Sense pamphlet, Thomas Paine rebuked the British Crown for its heavy-handed oppression (excessive taxation and crushing authority) over the American colonists even as he was applying his own style of heavy-handed oppression.
Paine’s propaganda was in support of removing the control of the British Crown from the American colonies and placing that power in the hands of a new group of elites that had formed and were growing in both wealth and power. According to a sometimes very controversial perspective offered by historian Howard Zinn, in chapter four, Tyranny is Tyranny, of his text, A People’s History of the United States, (2005) asserted that the colonists had been rebelling against the heavy-handed oppression of the new and growing elite class in the American Colonies for some time. The technique that Paine used was to funnel the energy of those who continued to rebel away from the new and rising elites in the American colonies and direct this dissenting energy instead against the King of England (pp. 59-75). The technique was effective.
The Declaration of Independence (ushistory.org., n.d.). listed twenty-nine oppressions that the colonists endured under the domination of the British Crown. In doing so, it gain the support of those people in the colonies who were feeling oppressed. Little did they know that the oppression would continue, just under the control of different hands and in a more duplicitous manner. This technique has been very effective and is still in use in recent history.
A recent example of this sort of deflecting technique is when actor/president Ronald Reagan directed attention at single women with children who were living in poverty and using public assistance (who came to be known as ‘welfare queens’) and away from the major corporations who were positioning themselves to collect a stream of government financial support on a much, much, much larger scale.
These examples illustrate how creating and maintaining and attitude of conflict (perhaps though an unwillingness to forgive) can be used to control the masses of people and direct their attention away from what is to be hidden and funnel it toward a particular group who becomes a sort of scapegoat. This sort of attitude and technique has become such a cultural norm, that for the most part, many of us hardly even notice it.
Paine, T. (n.d.). Common sense. The writings of Thomas Paine. Retrieved from Google: http://www.calhum.org/files/uploads/program_related/TD-Thomas-Paine-Common-Sense.pdf
ushistory.org. (n.d.). The Declaration of Independence. [Web page] Retrieved from http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document
Zinn, H. (2005). A people’s history of the United States. New York: Harperperennial
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