Thursday, April 21, 2022

First Paragraph

Tribalism: that's the term often used to characterize the extreme political polarization manifested every day in the United States and many other countries. In fact, to characterize tribalism as merely political would be an understatement. It is something much more comprehensive, reaching much deeper into our lives, as the phrase "culture wars" suggests. We see tribalism on the Left and tribalism on the Right - but not in the middle, because it's the nature of tribalism to create an unbridgeable, uninhabitable chasm between Us and Them. The tribalistic mentality sees things in black and white, good and evil - as a no-holds-barred, zero-sum conflict between Us and Them, for the highest stakes. Tribalism transforms disagreement into mutual hatred, mild condescension into utter contempt. 

- From Our Moral Fate: Evolution and the Escape from Tribalism by Allen Buchanan


Dan in Philly said...

I remember during a Bible study where I live in Pennsylvania where they were discussing a political situation in Alabama, where I'm from. They didn't understand why people in Alabama could support a certain politician who was being smeared. They speculated that the only thing that made sense was tribalism. Of course they didn't know I was from Alabama, and they certainly did not know that dirty tricks such as what was going on at the time against this candidate was a tactic that was very old and known in that state. People who follow Alabama politics closely would smell a rat.

That's when I realized that the term tribalism can be used as a way to dismiss that which they do not understand. These were good, intelligent, educated and open-minded men. But the sense that I got was that they used the term tribalism to belittle the sophistication and intelligence of people they did not know. I guess I'm trying to say that using the term tribalism itself can be a form of tribalism.

Michael Wade said...


I think that many of today's divisions are class-based. Being a native Arizonan, I well recall people from the northeastern states who seemed shocked that we were reasonably well-read.

The current trend of Ivy League grads marrying other Ivy League grads and then hiring tutors so their children will get into Ivy League schools and do the same is a new tribal ritual.

Those who use "tribalism" can be blind to their own tribe.