Episode IV: Tribalism-The Destruction of the American Way of Life
I have friends that are from many different religious groups, Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, atheists and agnostics. Most all my friends are tolerant of each other’s beliefs in religion, but when the discussion turns to politics, the conversation suddenly gets tribal. Most of my friends are dogmatic in their political commitments. My politically active friends are likely to explain their affiliation in terms of deep moral commitments and high social stakes.
I have seen firsthand the effects of tribalism in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Religious, political, and moral tribalism between factions such as the Sunni, Shia, Christian, Hebrew, between Bedouin tribes amongst the Arabs, racial and ethnic tribalism in Afghanistan between the Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aymāq, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashai, Nuristani, Gujjar, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri and a few others. These tribal issues have been going on thousands of years, and is the main factor that keeps this part of the world at a boiling point and prevents stability in these regions.
The definition of tribalism is the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles. Some scholars postulate that human evolution has occurred in small groups, as opposed to mass societies, and that humans naturally maintain a social network. The American scholar Peter Killworth estimates that the median social network in the United States is 231 people. The social structure of a tribe usually involves a relatively undifferentiated role structure, with few significant political or economic distinctions between individuals.
Tribalism implies the possession of a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates one member of a group from the members of another group. Based on strong relations of proximity and kinship, members of a tribe tend to possess a strong feeling of identity. A few writers have postulated that the human brain is hard-wired towards tribalism by its evolutionary advantages. In today’s world the tribal effect is multiplied using social media.
Political and moral tribalism is creating a dangerous situation in America today. The lack of common ground and the ability to engage in proper discourse of different opinions, while retaining the desire to keep our country grounded in the values that enabled the USA to achieve great strides for its citizens and the world, is being lost due to tribalism.
The United States appears to be split more now than since our civil war. I believe there is very little concern for love of our country and the freedoms we possess. A love for freedom, family, community, and patriotic values seems to take a back seat to paranoia, and unacceptance of another’s opinion.
Our fore fathers created a republic, while flawed, (nothing is perfect), that was the shining beacon to those that wanted to improve themselves and their families. The promise of the American dream for prosperity, equality, and acceptance is the very foundation of the American dream. What happened? The constant attack of our constitution and its amendments is at an all-time high. The willingness to relinquish our freedoms brought on by the paranoia that tribalism fosters is reaching dangerous proportions, and threatens our very way of life.
The following is taken directly from Amy Chau’s book; Political Tribes Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
For the first time in US history, white Americans are faced with the prospect of becoming a minority in their “own country.” While many in our multicultural cities may well celebrate the “browning of America” as a welcome step away from “white supremacy”, it’s safe to say that large numbers of American whites are more anxious about this phenomenon, whether they admit it or not. Tellingly, a 2012 study showed that more than half of white Americans believe that “whites have replaced blacks as the ‘primary victims of discrimination’.”
Meanwhile, the coming demographic shift has done little to allay minority concerns about discrimination. A recent survey found that 43% of black Americans do not believe America will ever make the changes necessary to give blacks equal rights. Most disconcertingly, hate crimes have increased 20% in the wake of the 2016 election.
When groups feel threatened, they retreat into tribalism. When groups feel mistreated and disrespected, they close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.
In America today, every group feels this way to some extent. Whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, straight people and gay people, liberals and conservatives – all feel their groups are being attacked, bullied, persecuted, discriminated against.
Of course, one group’s claims to feeling threatened and voiceless are often met by another group’s derision because it discounts their own feelings of persecution – but such is political tribalism.
The 2016 elections brought the growing separation to light caused by political tribalism. Political tribalism in not new, but the growth of this phenomena has been exacerbated through the availability of connecting via the internet and social media. The political climate in the United States has always had conservative and liberals, war hawks and war doves, pessimists and optimists. The differences today are a lack of empathy, manners, morals, willingness to discuss our views, and the ability to reach a workable compromise. Today it seems like the middle ground has fallen into a void. America seems to be a runaway train, a wreck waiting to happen.
Our Declaration of Independence, one our most sacred documents, states in the second paragraph: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Political tribalism has created a violent situation, causing each group to engage in hateful criticism, outrage, and condemnation. The ability to share our different views, engage in a positive debate, and find a workable solution seems unachievable. The solution, I believe is in education, knowledge of our history, and fully understanding that the negativity that tribalism fosters prevents us as a society to be that shining beacon for hope, prosperity, and equality.