How To Beat Tribalism? Be Even MORE “Tribal”

Humans are tribal by nature; it’s a survival instinct. Since reproduction is one of our key “primal directives”, our genome has built into it behaviors that give our personal DNA every chance to create a next version of “us”. After our own precious ass, our family’s ass comes next in the pecking order. Then our extended family. Or, for some people, their friend circle. The block they live on. Their neighborhood. The school district they live in. The PTAs at their kids’ schools. The social issues that matter to them. Their city. The football or basketball or soccer or baseball team they love — and every other fan of that team. If you think about it, we form tribes with anything and everything we can — because we’re social creatures and this is what social creatures do.

White supremacists are no more tribal than anyone else. They just seem that way because they put all their emphasis on being in a limited number of tribes rather than as many as possible. “Jews will not replace us” — the rallying cry and tribal grievance of the Charlottesville Fascists Club — represents a particularly odd bit of tribalism. The whole “replacement culture” thing is bizarre because it assumes that those with the grievance are “replaceable” to begin with. Replaceable how exactly? In their jobs? In their marriages? In their lives? Being replaceable by “others” to whom you are supposedly “superior” is a strange way to think of yourself and your tribe. If your tribe excelled at something then that fact would make your tribe irreplaceable. Why don’t these “white supremacists” excel at anything other than having grievances? Why do THEY think THEY are replaceable?

In a competitive job market — in a competitive, capitalistic system — one MUST compete in order to stay in the game. Every group arriving here (aside from white people) have accepted that fact and worked their asses off to achieve some degree of success (and they’ve had to do that in the face of relentless white resistance). In that sense, EVERYONE is “replaceable” if they don’t continue to contribute to the group’s effort or hold up their end of the social bargain. Ah, but that’s where white privilege asserts itself. White people have gotten it into their heads that, since white men got together and wrote the Constitution – and framed it entirely to their advantage (as the “men” who were created equal”) – that this is set in concrete. That’s the whole point of “originalism” — to falsely assert that the flawed thinking of a group of (French) enlightened racists and misogynists is America’s bottom line. The country can only be exactly how the framers framed it.

Bullshit. The men who imagined this democratic republic made it changeable. They understood that this bold idea would need plenty of room around it to expand. They seemed to grasp, on some level, the incompleteness of their ideation — that “all men” was a bigger tribe than just white men. Congress approved of “E pluribus unum” as America’s motto (they put it on our Great Seal) in 1782. Out of many, one.

Out of many tribes, ONE TRIBE.

White supremacists can’t abide that. They think their TRIBE is replaceable. That, right there, is the problem.

I’m not sure there is a solution to white supremacy. Centuries of thinking one way about themselves versus everyone else has convinced white Europeans that their whiteness makes them superior. No, white people, it does not. White people are a minority of people on earth. If not for the greater lethality of the pathogens that evolved inside white Europeans over a thousand or so years (versus the pathogens evolving inside other human groups scattered across the globe), perhaps even their guns and steel would have faltered when they went exploring. A big piece of white people even thinking they’re “superior” comes from the relative ease with which white Europeans seized the Americas. The European colonizers told themselves their Christian faith — their god Yahweh — made them superior. Again, NO! Smallpox, measles and influenza — introduced into the Americas by European explorers — wiped out 90% OF NATIVE AMERICANS. If not for fleas — which carried the bubonic plague from China to Europe, bubonic plague might not have wiped out half of Europe in the fourteenth century. If not for Europeans and THEIR bugs, Europeans would have faced far more resistance when they landed on these shores.

How do we defeat tribalism? We don’t deny it; we can’t. It’s just too hard-wired into us. Why do you think there are soccer riots? Instead, we go at it, full bore. We make everyone “hyper-tribal” but not in that they see their exclusivity as a tribe. Rather, like two people who love the same song, they forget all their other potential differences and begin with that thing they have in common. Building from there (something as simple as a song), I bet those two people will surprise themselves with all their commonalities. Yes — there are differences. But, now there’s context for the differences.

Those two people might come to blows all the same; they just don’t like each other. But once you start talking together about how and why a song touches you, you will unlock pieces of your soul (such as it is) to that other person.

It’s a lot harder to feel tribally defensive toward someone whose soul you understand.

If I Were “Benevolent Dictator”, Here’s How It Would Be…

No one sees it coming, least of all me. Just like that — political leaders across the world & spectrum get the fates they deserve. The World’s eyes (getting REALLY desperate) turn to me of all people.

“Dude,” the World says, “We’re totally screwed. The ball’s yours if you want. Got anything?”

“Okay,” I say after a long, thoughtful beat. Here’s the deal I want:

  1. My job title: “Benevolent Dictator”. It’s not up for discussion. Now here’s the thing — no one has to call me this. In fact, I’d rather they didn’t. It’s a little OTT. I just need the World to understand that, until my work is finished, that’s who & what I am.
  2. My pay — zero. It ain’t about the money. If I do MY job correctly, money will land in my pocket through a thousand different streams (all of them 100% legit).
  3. What I Want — The End of CRONY CAPITALISM. That’s another non-negotiable point. We need to rethink almost everything about our culture. More exactly, we need to start SEEING our culture for what it is, for what it must be and for what it can never be again. Money is not our problem, GREED is. Greed undermines capitalism more than an army of communists and socialists. Take THAT to the bank.
  4. What I Want (continued) — A return to HUMAN DECENCY as the basis for how we view one another — and more importantly how we treat one another. For starters, we bury the ludicrous notion that America is “a Christian country”. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are larded with Humanist thought born of the French Enlightenment. There’s far more Jean-Jacques Rousseau in our foundational docs than there is Jeremiah. To that end, we recognize religious texts as literature, not history and definitely not a basis for morality. We have science to cover the “nuts & bolts” of how we got here and CRITICAL THINKING to cover the rest.
  5. What I Want (Continued) — We put every fact we have about Donald Trump & the Republican Party on the table. We admit to ourselves what the Republican Party tried to do to us — install permanent minority rule; even though they hated Donald Trump, they cynically hitched their shit-wagon to him despite knowing he was bought & paid for by Russia — because THEY, too, were bought & paid for by Russia. And Saudi Arabia & the UAE & Israel (and who the hell knows who else).
  6. What I Want (Continued One Last Time) — We retrain our news media as far away from Both Sides Do It journalism as possible. We make selling False Equivalences career suicide. We return critical thinking & especially PERSPECTIVE to all journalism school curriculum.
  7. What I REALLY Want — As quickly as I can, I will remove as many men as possible from positions of power. Those that remain will have to demonstrate that they really do know how to play well with others. That means no unilateral “I alone can fix it” toxic male thinking. Deal breaker. I insist that we hand as much governmental power as they want over to women (African American women especially — if not for them, this Democratic Republic would have been toast years ago). I’m not saying women are perfect — though, as Benevolent Dictator I could — I’m just saying they cannot possibly do worse than men. And to make sure men don’t ruin what women try to do with their unhelpful suggestions — I want to give women the purest shot we can. Once women are ready to rock ‘n roll? I’m handing over the reins of power.

That’s my deal. I’m ready to sign — and get to work — whenever YOU are, World…

How About If, Today, We Declare Independence From BULLSHIT!

It seems a natural thing to want to be INDEPENDENT from — BULLSHIT.

Yet, look around you and ‘witness’ all those who are SLAVES to BULLSHIT — especially their own.

Turns out we all carry around our own bullshit like it was a box of LPs from College that we know we should get rid of but don’t.  Fer Pete’s sake — we don’t even own a record player any more!

Our Nation is deep in the throes of a Bullshit Addiction.  It came upon us so suddenly we didn’t even realize we’d become addicted.  Hell — we didn’t even know the stuff we were eating WAS Bullshit — and that it was so addictive.  I bet that was because it was our Bullshit.

But it’s not ‘The Nation” as a whole that has this problem — it’s a segment — the one that’s White, Christian and Male.  They’re the ones who’ve become so intent on shoving THEIR Bullshit down the rest of the country’s throat. They believe that their culture — White, Christian & Male — is such a superior culture that it transcends even REALITY.  They believe that their extreme, Jesus-hating brand of Christianity — IS Christianity.  And they believe it is their purpose to impose that abomination on a country (ironically) founded on principles that specifically opposed what these Christians are doing.

America — conceptually — is a product of The French Enlightenment — of a period of explosive intellectual thought, all of it reveling in the idea that Man is, in fact, not bound by some Man Creature In The Sky.  The Founders of our country saw the promise (and peril) in giving the citizens of this new nation previously unimaginable freedoms — just for being ‘who’ they are:  Americans.

Part of the process of becoming a Great Nation is ‘mythologizing’ your origins and your original players to the point where they become abstractions that shorthand who you are as a nation.  George Washington is equal parts real human and abstraction.  The abstraction has become our Foundation Myth.

While White, Christian, Males of English Descent held the reins of power at the Nation’s founding, they did not represent the makeup of the population.  The idea that America is ‘A White, Christian Male Nation’ run by White Christian Males was never the Truth. It started as bullshit and caused us to undermine the Greatness of our own Concept:  We instilled SLAVERY in our Constitution.  One of the greatest human documents ever produced was compromised by a BULLSHIT belief that some humans are, in fact, NOT equal.

That, of course, is BULLSHIT.

Time has come to call it what it is — to call ALL OF OUR BULLSHIT out for ‘being’ BULLSHIT — and vow, as a Nation — to do everything in our power to see it for what it is.

On this Independence Day — I hope you’ll all join me (the Americans anyway) to vow to remove BULLSHIT from our diet.  To refuse to allow it at our tables.  To ‘conveniently forget’ to invite them to pool parties.

Let’s put a moratorium on Bullshit and promise each other to refuse, going forward, to get suckered in by ANYTHING that comes flying in from that homicidal, hopped up on hatred folks who call themselves ‘Right’ Wing.

Never has a word been more painfully ironic…