The World Is Against Us (And You Will Do As I Tell You To)

Scorched earth strategies are far stronger than the leaders who brandish them

Marti Purull


Photo by Jehyun Sung

Old Strategy, Modern Leader

Some leaders spur their troops by convincing them that the world has it in for them. By claiming that everyone outside their team is against them, the leader can achieve fierce and fervent cohesion. Nothing unites people faster than a common enemy advancing towards them. It runs deep in our genes: live together or die alone. Whether the threat is real or not is irrelevant once the leader has convinced the team. I believe this is one of the reasons this strategy is so effective in our post-truth world. However, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking this is a modern strategy: it is as old as any. It simply fits our current reality.

Offensively Refined

These days, some leaders have refined the strategy to a degree where it can be used on the offence too rather than exclusively as a defensive plan. As long as the team is one unit, homogeneously positive that the world is against them, the leader will be in charge of soldiers who will do their bidding. Nobody will question the ultimate goal because everybody is certain there is only one reason behind all they do: to stay afloat in a hostile environment. This is a devious and treacherous way to have others do your dirty work without their realising the work is dirty at all.

Defence Against What?

Effectively, such leaders play the victim’s role to subjugate the real victims of their nefarious plans. I suspect you are thinking of political leaders, but sadly this isn’t only a political manoeuvre: business leaders, sports leaders, community leaders of any sort are known to have used such unscrupulous means to advance their ambitions. By making everyone feel threatened, everyone’s tolerance of questionable acts rises, and moral standards get relegated to secondary roles. Attack is the best defence, they’ll tell us, and we’ll be too focused on defending ourselves to even question whether there’s a need for us to do so.

Step One

For me, the question is whether we can defend ourselves against this deceitful rhetoric. It will be an arduous task, but I…



Marti Purull

I’m a musician, but I think every day. So I write every day. Thoughts. Reflections. Life.