Welcome Back to Rockwater Reports,
DISCLAIMER: I am about to undertake a mammoth subject that is something similar to the mythological hecatoncheires in both size and number of heads and limbs. As I tackle this monster subject, if you think I oversimplify (because it’s impossible to not), please know that it is my heart to fairly address the overarching truths, and it is not my intention to mischaracterize anything. If you really feel that I have been unfair because I failed to take into account something important, that’s what the comment section is for. If you present to me a substantive objection, I will do my utmost to respond.
Now let’s get started with this new installment of To Tell the Truth About How We Got Here: …About Tribalism, Part 1.
Let’s start with a definition.
Tribalism n. tribal organization, culture, loyalty, etc.
Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary. Dorset & Baber, 1983.
Used in a sentence: Psychology suggests that team spirit has its roots in tribalism.
To wit: Tribalism can give a person a sense of belonging and camaraderie with a group of like-minded people. It provides a social haven for shared enjoyment in an occupation, game, or any of a number of healthy and wholesome things. But tribalism also has a very dark side that I wish to explore and understand. That dark side is tribalism as it is used to develop social identity groups.
To do this, I would like to observe a collection of historical moments:
A Timeline That Tracks a Few Important Events:
It is easy to assume that the emergence of race and gender identity groups, and all the various political subsets of them (like the Proud Boys and Antifa) just developed naturally over time. The progression, it is assumed, goes something like this:
- Something terrible happened to a demographic.
(EX: Women were being generally mistreated and disregarded by men.)
- Socio-economic forces came to a head, and the status quo of inequality could no longer be sustained or tolerated.
(EX: There came a rise of women entering the workforce in the 50’s and 60’s, and no decline of the responsibilities of their duties on the home front. Couple that with a serious rash of husbands leaving wives for secretaries. Enough was enough.)
- Those victimized by the prejudice, bigotry, oppression, or suffering from lack of opportunity finally band together out of necessity, and find they create an invincible force as a group, able to tear down walls of oppression.
(EX: It follows, then, that women’s issues would eventually coagulate into a tribal identity. The women’s liberation movement was born. Helen Reddy even gave them a tribal chant, “I am woman, hear me roar.”)
This progression could be applied to other demographics. The severe and overt oppression and segregation of the African American community in the 50’s, I think, is by far the biggest and most horrific of the 20th Century. Martin Luther King, Jr. was truly a man for his time, calling for Black America to stand up and assert their absolute equality, long overdue considering that the Civil War was fought and won a century before.
Except for an important difference: MLK, Jr. was not seeking to start an identity group. He was seeking a world where people were regarded not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
That’s the world he said he wanted for his four little children.
Social Injustice Gone Wild:
But instead, his four children are now growing old in a country caught up in identity politics of all stripes.
A great swath of our population seems to believe that remaining in conflict with other tribes is somehow the only way to achieve strength within one’s own tribe.
In America 2020, it seems we have not elevated to the place of appreciating all humanity with sincerity:
- Some still perceive barriers to black success.
- There are women who feel they are oppressed if they do not have the right to an abortion in the 8th month of pregnancy.
- Members of practically every minority demographic feel there is some civil right of theirs in jeopardy or some complaint to make. The only couple of segments of society who might be exempt from the right to complain are perhaps straight white males and straight oriental males. For everyone else there is something out there that oppresses them or leaves them at a disadvantage.
At least, this is how the never ending narrative goes.
So with our woman’s movement example, the progress over the past 50 years has brought us to this: Women taking a week off work to travel to DC and participate in a demonstration on the mall, while wearing an obscene pink crocheted hat, believes it somehow inspires strength in femininity and makes a statement against all who would dare oppose a woman’s right to have an abortion. In other words, a women’s tribe has evolved to require an attachment to a specific political ideology. And, in spite of advancements in medicine that make the genetic individuality of the unborn clear , they refuse to recognize human rights for another demographic, unborn babies. They can’t recognize the validity of the unborn on the grounds that it inhibits a woman’s right to choose to terminate them. Simply being a woman is no longer enough; women who regard abortion as murder need not apply to this girls’ group.
This is not progress; this is regress.
How about the guys? It seems everyone demands we label males as the most evil tribe of all. Even companies in the business of selling razor blades to men make ads that demonstrate the evils of men being men. They are, apparently, the only segment of society capable of being bullies. Mean girls must be a myth. He is the bigot. He is embodies selfish interest. He alone crushes the others to serve the objective of personal promotion.
The common enemy of the culture war is the white male. As a collective, He is the present-day American culture war scapegoat, loaded with the sins committed against all the other tribes. He is socially cast away into the wilderness. No country for white men.
Since the middle of the 20th Century, each demographic has been increasingly treated as a monolith. Yet the individual, in sharp contrast, is ever encouraged to stylize the self. Don’t want to be a he? Then be a she. Or a xi. Or hey, be another animal altogether. Become a cat!
It gets even more confusing than that.
The liberation of the transgender tribe has become the new pinnacle of wokeness to tribal sensitivity, much to the chagrin of women athletes everywhere. Gender is no longer determined by objective science, but by subjective self-identity creation. Pretty soon, women who actually possess XX chromosomes will never win a medal in any sport ever again. I Am Woman, Watch Me Lose.
And although all of us are called to take on a whole new list of pronouns and go through all sorts of contortions in conversation to figure out if you are talking with a preferred she, he, or xi, for some reason you CAN be completely insensitive to anyone who is… Jewish. Anti-Semitism in America has never been so severe.
Limping Along, with Its Tail Between Its Teeth:
Yet tribalism is not consistently exercised. Our world has to have some tribe-free zones to actually function. And here is my observation on that.
In my experience, it is hard for me to find a successful business that does not have a fair mixture of colors, genders, religions, and so forth, among its employees. Where I work, we all get along fine, and we are a fantastic mix of races, colors, religions, and cultures. Minorities own businesses these days (shocker?); my boss would be counted as a double-minority: a Hispanic female. All those ‘dominant’ white guys in her employ have no issue with it. Ours is a very healthy and respectful work environment.
We are decidedly non-tribal in the way we appreciate each other’s distinctive cultural attributes. What’s more, we appreciate the skills we bring to the job that make us successful together. Truly, the guy most outspoken about his heritage is the Canadian. Don’t get him started on the wonders of maple syrup. We all put in our orders and pony up our contributions when one of our young Hispanic techs tells us his mother is making a mess of tamales for us. Other than that, the small universe that makes up our office we are just one race: the human race.
We enjoy each other’s individuality, talents, personalities, and it works because we all share the character of mutual respect. It would seem we have aspired toward, and have achieved, MLK, Jr.’s vision about regarding each other by our character. We are, on the job, his Dream come true.
The greater society also seems to be capable of that: Interracial couples are very common. I have a large number of friends and coworkers who are either 1) in an interracial marriage, 2) used to be in an interracial relationship, or 3) are born out of an interracial relationship. No. Big. Deal.
This is in sharp contrast with what you see covered in the media. This inability for different races, colors or creeds to congregate with mutual respect is clearly a problem in places where there are populations supercharged with tribal ideation. Protesters for Black Lives Matter scream at cops who they claim are unfair to black communities. You go to another news source only to find it running a story about cops having water and milk thrown at them, while the cops exercise complete restraint as they are being attacked. Blue Lives Matter: the tribe of cops reacting to a surging violence against them, banding together in like manner as a social survival tactic.
The news stories and opposing tribes are incongruous to to my experience in workaday life. The story tellers (aka journalists) seem to ignore salient factoids. For instance, there are a lot of black cops. Are they prejudiced against black civilians in the commission of their job duties? Are blacks really more at risk than other segments of society in dealing with overzealous cops who abuse their authority? Questions go unasked, and unanswered, that might challenge the tribal claims.
It’s as if someone is orchestrating this craziness. But clearly, there are pockets of people out there supercharged with tribal ideation, insisting that other tribes mean them harm. Is there some entity conjuring this outrage? Is it happening naturally? Is it both?
Making Sense out of Compounding Nonsense:
First, I do not want to make light of real societal wrongs, past or present. From my point of view, all human beings were made in the image of God. No one should be harmed based on race, color, creed, income, physical or mental capability, or whether they reside inside or outside of a womb. Issues regarding real wrongs get diluted by people being offended over trivial complaints cited from a growing list of hyper-sensitive issues. Our society has gotten so incredibly mixed up, and it seems impossible to completely sort out how to deal with the problem. I can’t untie this Gordian Knot by myself, but I suggest that this problem became a problem because of specific actors who sought to leverage real societal ills to meet a ‘masterplan’ societal goal. I think it is worth getting to know how this crazy tribal system came to be, how it has been sustained over the years, and how we might be able to rid ourselves of this, which I consider to be a blight on our society.
In Part 2 of Truth about Tribalism, I plan on introducing the actors who are said to be responsible for all this tribal tribulation. I’ll give you a hint: the culture wars did not begin by black or brown people, not women, and not the nonbinary.
It was inspired by a bunch of white men.
In pursuit of truth, and truly yours,
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