TOM EATON: Unity is strength until you are outside looking in
'It can be moving. It can force progressive change. But ultimately it is an idea wielded as a weapon by old, entrenched, hegemonic power'
When I read that we need to unite against this or that social scourge, or unite to save South Africa, or unite to support some or other sports team, I try to remember that such exhortations are thousands of years old. The alleged benefits of unity – safety, strength in numbers, belonging, utopia, heaven – have been dangled by powerful and cynical men in front or frightened people since Babylon. Come inside the walls and be cared far. Serve the king and be fed. Submit to the empire and be safe. Pray to the one god and find love.
The basic problem with unity, of course, is that it doesn’t mean unity. It certainly doesn’t mean a common humanity, or genuine compassion, or an attempt to understand the human condition. All it means is picking teams. Unity, by definition, implies the existence of people living outside the wall. After all, if there were nobody outside the wall you wouldn’t be unified, you’d just be.