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.

Feelings v Facts

News flash: feelings and facts are NOT the same thing. The earth is round (roundISH actually). That’s a fact. It just “is”. That I however insist, all evidence to the contrary, the earth is flat — that’s a feeling. Same goes for the sun rising in the east. I may, for some reason, get it in my head that I hate the sun rising in the east. That changes nothing: the sun will rise in the east regardless of whether I keep hating it for doing that or even if I adapt — and come to love the fact. My feelings and the facts are entirely unrelated to each other. Like most sensible people, I despise daylight savings time but, it remains a fact that, twice a year, we subject ourselves to a kind of jet lag when we move all our clocks forward and backwards for reasons we cannot tell you. It’s a fact that we adjust all our clocks. WHY we do that, ISN’T based on a fact, it’s based on a feeling someone once had — that someone else related to. The next thing you know, someone’s feeling becomes a “fact” in the sense that they went and forced everyone else to experience specifically what they were feeling.

Religion relies almost entirely on feelings, facts being inconvenient if not entirely detrimental. The scientific method is a way of thinking that tries to remove all feelings from the process. It wants only facts — both facts that are obvious and facts that must be inferred. Circumstantial evidence may be inferred evidence but it’s still evidence.

Another important facet of the scientific method is its refusal to ever grant anyone “final prophet” status. Islam’s neat trick was to proclaim Muhammed not just a prophet, but the last prophet — the final and ultimate word on what God wants. So what if it contradicts everything that went before it, it’s true now because the Koran says so. Only an infidel would question it. From a marketing point of view, it’s brilliant! You can’t contradict a teaching if it’s God’s final word on the subject. If Muhammed said or taught it, it simply “is”.

No scientist — Einstein, Dawkins and Hawking included — would ever declare themselves the final word on anything. That would contradict the scientific method itself. One is always obligated to show one’s work and accept it if someone can definitely prove us wrong. We are obligated to use new information and incorporate it into the larger narrative — to try our hardest to discern facts from feelings so as to get the truest picture of what is. How that true picture makes us feel — that’s something else entirely.

Christianity wants us to accept that knowledge isn’t something a human being can acquire, it must be “revealed” to us. The command is clear: stop thinking because thinking will get you nothing; everything you need to know will be GIVEN to you on a silver platter and all you have to do is insist as a matter of faith that it’s true. Show one’s work? No. “Trust me” is the final answer.

White supremacy isn’t based on any facts despite how strongly white people feel about their “supremacy” over everyone else. By the same token, a person who insists that God speaks to them and through them isn’t any closer to universal truth about anything. Unless they’ve got texts and emails between them and God, we’re going to assume all that happened in the believer’s mind. The reason no actual texts or emails passed back and forth is because they weren’t needed. The person speaking for God was the same person receiving God’s word. If you honestly think you’re special enough for the creator of everything in existence to use YOU as their mouthpiece, that’s not because you’re actually that special, it’s because YOU think YOU’RE “God”.

That’s the feeling most theists struggle with. On the one hand, they tell themselves that a great and powerful force wants them to do its bidding. On the other hand, there’s them — staring at themselves in a bathroom mirror — God looking into his own eyes and wondering why he keeps drinking so much when he always hates waking up like this.

Are There More Atheists Out There Than We Think?

Step One: define “atheist”. Step Two: since, one way or another, everyone can be seen by someone else as an atheist, “yes”. There are way more atheists in the world than we acknowledge. In fact, some of the most theistic people we all know, are, in their way, the most a-theistic, too. But there are plenty of people who don’t think much about God one way or the other. Granted, these people aren’t one-hundred-percenters. They’re more “agnostic” really where God is concerned. But, just as they’re not “faithful” atheists, neither are they full-fledged theists. I’m old enough to remember when being an atheist or claiming you were one put you into instant conflict with almost everyone you knew. The more theistic would look on me with pity — and a degree of scorn. I was told more than once that I “couldn’t be an atheist” — that it was “impossible” because a world filled with atheists — having no God to guide them — would surely destroy itself via violence. As if God hadn’t written the book on how to destroy the world via violence.

From a polytheist’s point of view, all monotheists are atheists. A Christian who believes that Yahweh (the character we call “God” has a name — “Yahweh”; “god” actually is his job description) is the only god, must first deny every god in the polytheist’s pantheon. Unless the polytheist also believes in Yahwheh, the denial of all his gods makes the monotheist an atheist. From the polytheist’s vantage point, a person who believes in Yahweh rejects the gods that exist and, instead, believes utter nonsense. In fact, Romans did consider Christians “atheists”.

As I said above, some of the most ardent theists are, in fact, the most atheistic people of all. Take televangelist Kenneth Copeland and his Kenneth Copeland Ministries. For reference, if you haven’t already (and even if you have), it’s good to let Brother Kenneth remind you himself how a “man of God” and a “total charlatan” can be one and the same person.

Every televangelist has a dirty, dirty secret. They share it with an awful lot of churchmen. The entire Catholic hierarchy is based on this notion — that no one actually believes IN God, they believe they ARE God. If God speaks through YOU and not some “ordinary” person because YOU “studied ‘his’ texts (never mind how those texts got to us and the editorial perspective they represent), it’s because YOU think you’re special in the eyes of God. When you look in the bathroom mirror — that is who you see staring back at you: God. You may look heavenward with your prayers, but the answer to your question always has your voice in your ears. Or a demagogue’s. Because the demagogue is speaking just like your God speaks.

If you dig deep enough into most every theist, at some point — as they parse their version of God from their neighbor’s (their neighbor is misinformed, you see — that’s why they go to a different church), you’ll have to confront one cold, hard fact: THEY think THEY have it right. God has made it clear to them that they hear God correctly. God is “love”, not the crazed, blood-lusting mania that other guy thinks God is. But, how do they know? The crazed, blood-lusting guy seems pretty convinced that the Voice of God in his ears is the Voice of God. How does any theist know for sure that their version of God is the version of God?

Unless they’re just guessing they’re right — and living with the uncertainty — they’ll have to take ownership of being the alpha and omega themselves. They are the actual source of the tree of knowledge, the actual piece of prohibited fruit and the serpent, Eden being a product of their imagination. Or some other human’s that they’ve adapted as their own. That’s how a church works. It imprints its version of God onto yours, conforming yours to theirs. Either accept their version of God or risk being called a heretic (with all the fun that comes with it).

In a sense, any version of God (“Yahweh” or otherwise) that conflicts with another risks being atheistic because of what it’s denying. A white supremacist’s version of God cannot co-exist with the magnificent creature leaping and dancing inside the head of a choir member at any AME church. Those Yahweh’s do not look the same. They don’t “think” the same either.

The good news for all those theists about to confront their own atheism? They’ll find way, way more sympathy for them than if they were traveling in the other direction. Atheists live dogma-free lives (at least where religion is concerned). They may trip themselves up in myriad other ways dogmatically, but they won’t hobble themselves over Yahweh. They’ve heard “the good news” and the good news is they ain’t buying. Believe anything you like. It’s not bringing you back from the dead. It just isn’t.

The problem, as always, is less the religions people invent than it is the religionistas who practice those religions. Even a message as simple, elegant and (most importantly) DO-ABLE as “Do unto others” couldn’t survive churchification. Paul certainly didn’t think much of “Do unto others”. He may have used that to open the sales pitch but he closed the deal with “…and if you accept MY version of Jesus then you, too, can defeat death!” The history of the Christian Church (from the point of view of those outside it) hinges on “accept MY version…”.

Jesus’s core message doesn’t require an ounce of dogma to follow: “Do Unto Others”. That’s probably why Paul and the early church fathers rejected it. But then, Paul and the early church fathers also rejected Jesus’s teaching that no one NEEDS a church. The only church one needs, said Jesus, is Jesus. Temples and their priests are all corrupt. Skip em — and go directly to the Divine Source. Skip the dogma, too. If you’d just do that one thing — unto others — you’d be the perfect student and follower of Jesus.

Or has that never been the point?

Even a simple atheist can “Do unto others”. All things considered, as a guide to “how to live a better, happier, more successful life”, there isn’t any better advice. Ah, what atheists could teach Christians about how to be better Christians…

We Should Give Republicans & Conservatives The America They Want — But Only If We Put A Wall Around It First

As we watch our Democratic Republic slowly sink beneath the waves of corruption, let’s play a thought experiment. What if we could “give” Republicans & conservatives the country they want America to be? What if we could arrange so that if you want to live in Trump’s America, you go live in the south. Want to be a Confederacy again? Go ahead.

We’ll even give the Republicans & Conservatives a “satellite” territory — Wyoming and Idaho. We’ll throw in the remotest parts of Nevada too — so all the multiple-marriage-loving Mormons in the FLDS church can feel at home in this their new country. The Trumpian States Of America.

One caveat though — the whole thing must be walled off. I bet they’d insist, too, because the last thing they’d want is all that nasty diversity outside the wall (that set them off to begin with) infiltrating their lovely White Christian Male Kingdom.

Meanwhile, outside the wall, the Real America will go on. We’ll continue to innovate and research and problem solve using every tool available to us — including the wide knowledge base that comes from so much diversity. Diversity, after all, is what makes America exceptional. Nowhere before in the world’s history had one country become a blending palette for all the world’s cultures. It took a thousand years for the various tribes scattered around France to become French. Same goes for all the tribes scattered around Britain to become British or the German tribes to become German et cetera et cetera.

If European pathogens hadn’t wiped out most of the Native American population before Europeans arrived en masse (they found an empty continent mostly because their germs — having preceded them via the first explorers — had already wiped out literally millions of people), our story might be very different. But diseases did kill the native populations so efficiently that more or less seizing their land became easy.

That newly vacated territory filled with a new-fangled thing called “Americans”.

The Trumpian States Of America will be a very, very, VERY white place. It will celebrate whiteness and being white and staying white forever. It will point to its pure whiteness as proof of its superiority — regardless of the fact that, white as it is, it’s failing horribly in every possible way. Most people of color will flee because who wants to live in a place where you are clearly a second class citizen at best.

Every white person with a double digit IQ will be right behind them.

The white people who stay — who proudly call themselves citizens of this place — won’t be America’s best or brightest. They won’t be our most talented or our best problem solvers. They’ll be sheep — doing what they’re Amertold to do — spouting the shit they’e told to spout. For a while, things will seem normal. The trains won’t run on time because white people don’t need trains. They all have trucks. But the trucks will get to drive wherever the hell they want. Same difference in a Trumpian’s mind.

But then things will start to break down. Mechanical things at first. Good thing lots of good mechanical minds stayed behind in Trump’s America. So the status quo can be maintained — for a while. But Trump’s America won’t play well with others. They’ll pitch obnoxious trade deals that make them a pariah. Because America doesn’t manufacture much anymore, the Trumpian States Of America will have to rely on the rest of America — or foreign countries like China — to get equipment. Being as the Trumpian States of America have little to offer anyone, they’ll be in the typical Trumpian negotiating position — a horrible one.

In time, people outside the wall will simply give up on dealing with the Trumpians. It’s not like they ever pay their bills anyway, right?

Mechanical breakdown is eventually in Trump’s America. I give the electrical grid 5 years max. That’s assuming no one hacks into it and shuts it down before it breaks down. It’s a fact — the Trumpian States Of America will end up living in the dark the exact same way most of North Korea does.

Funny irony? It’ll be Kim Jong-On building North Korean hotel-spas on the shores of Trump’s America rather than the other way around.

Trump’s followers may be dim-witted but they still need their creature comforts. Remember — they’re a jealous lot. They live by their grievances. When the quality of their lives dips below standards even trailer trash demand — they will take to the streets with pitchforks and torches.

Unable to solve its own problems, unable to do anything other than slowly sink into the cess pit they created for themselves, the leadership of Trumplandia will appeal to the rest of us: Help! Give us money! Fix us fast!

Of course, being Trumpanistas, they’ll blame US for THEIR problems.

That’s why we’ll tell them to go screw themselves. Them AND their country. I hope all those Trumpanistas understand. Screw em if they don’t.