Welcome back to Rockwater Reports,
DISCLAIMER: I am continuing to explore a mammoth subject that is impossible to cover completely (Please see To Tell the Truth About Tribalism, Part One).
Where I oversimplify (because it’s impossible to not), please know that is it my heart to fairly address the overarching truths, and it is not my intention to mischaracterize anything. If you 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 continue.
How Tribal Trouble Came to Be:
- Where does modern tribalism come from?
- If tribalism keeps us in perpetual conflict with each other, what is the merit of it?
As I mentioned at the end of To Tell the Truth About Tribalism, Part One, you might be surprised to know that the current American culture wars are the product of ideologies propagated by a lot of really smart white European guys a long time ago.
Are you thinking that this sounds counterintuitive? You might think so, since today the only sector of society that is not tribe-worthy are perhaps white men of European descent. It puts the truth to the adage, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
The root of modern tribalism in America got its start almost a century ago. American philosopher, classicist, and academician Allan Bloom wrote about it in detail in his book The Closing of the American Mind.
This book, by the way, prophesies our modern-day experience with alarming accuracy. I will attempt to flesh out the general ideas Bloom presents, but I will be using other sources to do it. This is my effort to substantiate that Bloom’s observations about the culture wars in America are independently verified by many other sources.
The Evolution of Tribalism:
In his book, Bloom explains that the influences that govern the mindset of higher education today come from the works of Nietzsche, Hegel, and Marx, and were introduced by European academics and professors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Evolution and Enlightenment were the paradigms that had championed a new Rationalism (all reason and no religion) which prevailed in philosophical thinking, particularly with how Rationalism-infused ideas might be applied to improve society as a whole.
Karl Marx saw this Rationalism worldview as a way to revolt against the oppressive monarchy-led government systems of Europe. His method was called Marxist socialism. Most of us anti-socialists who study this history see Marx and his adherents as lovers of class conflict and plenty of bloodshed. But in their minds at the time, their attempts at overthrowing monarchies and centralizing social and economic forms of government had a noble goal: to create the peaceful, conflict-free, classless society.
The rationale was, in order to get to that conflict-free and classless society, upheaval would be inevitable. Progress involves breaking a few eggs. In order to get the poor and disenfranchised people of Europe willing to let you turn them into the proverbial mass omelet capable of taking over their government, however, you must convince them that breaking the proverbial egg comes before they will be able collectively own the proverbial chicken. For Marx, he began his attempts to persuade with his Communist Manifesto. Academics read this, and then they distributed these ideas to the people.
The Power of Revolution:
From the late 18th Century and into the beginning of the 20th Century, unrest around Europe showed the value of class conflict and revolution to weaken or overthrow European monarchies. From the Reign of Terror in Paris in 1793 to Russia’s own horrendous Bloody Sunday in 1905, philosophers watched from their ivory towers, analyzing outcomes.
So what was their conclusion? That class warfare and the Marxist-Leninist approach as it was carried out in Russia was destructive, tyrannical, and inhumane. Therefore, they started theorizing some new corollaries, how the same ideas might be applied in different ways that would not end in so much destruction. They did not toss away the Marxism and Hegelian thinking, they just looked for how it may be used better.
(This is a chronic condition of socialism devotees – always thinking you can make socialism work out. It won’t.)
One of the premises they kept hold of was a key Marxist notion, “In bourgeois society… the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past.” (Communist Manifesto, Chapter 2 ) So these philosophers remained firm with the Marxist belief that the middle/upper class is somewhat stuck in its cycle of committing abuses against the lower class because “it’s always been that way,” and the key to breaking this cycle is by inciting revolution, thereby liberating the people and giving them a classless society.
Another premise they maintained was the idea that society will remain in a state of alienation until the ultimate goal of a conflict-free society can be achieved. What that means is that they expected any new avenue for redesigning society will still involve keeping score of past injustices.
Retribution is an important mechanism. It is needed to ensure that reprisal for past injustices will be meted out when society reaches its utopia. As well, class conflict is an important tool to spark that revolution.
In the early 1930’s, armed with these notions, a group of social scientists and philosophers in Germany became motivated to establish a new school at the University of Frankfurt. They called it the Institute of Social Research. Then something dramatic happened.
Social Engineering Education Moves to America:
After World War I, Germany was in particularly bad shape. The economic crisis caused by the war and the hyper-inflation produced by the Weimar Republic, combined with a fear of a Communist takeover, gave rise to another incarnation of socialism, called Fascism. The Institute of Social Research was brimming with people who were overtly Marxist-Communists, and Fascists were not friendly to Communists (these were competing socialist ideologies, and they could not share turf). Things were devolving fast due to the rise of Hitler and Naziism. As a result, all these Frankfurt academics felt the need to move their school. And so they did…to Columbia University in New York City, NY.
By 1935 these Frankfurt professors had relocated to Columbia. Have you wondered how it is that our hallowed halls of higher learning seem to be infected from sea to sea with socialist stinkin’ thinkin’? This is where it began. Columbia University is “Patient Zero” of socialism in American Education.
In truth, there were plenty of places in American society that got infected with socialist and communist ideology, from Washington DC to Hollywood. That is another chapter of social engineering history in America. But the socialist takeover of our higher learning institutions began in large part with the Frankfurt school, and the year they landed in America was 1935. The ideology has been propagating from college to college, university to university ever since, culminating in Communist (so called) Antifa (actually) Fascism infestations in the United States.
So now these academics were living in a Democratic Republic, and no longer in a European country ruled by a monarchy or a class system. Did they appreciate the opportunity to experience American social theories? Did they happily embrace a country defined by a constitution, one that guaranteed freedoms?
As far as the great American experiment was concerned, they completely disliked the civil structure of the USA. In particular, they did not like the autonomy that our democratic elections allowed the common man. “Modern democracy was,” Bloom observes, “the target of Nietzsche’s criticism. Its rationalism and its egalitarianism are the contrary of creativity. Its daily life is for him the civilized reanimalization of man.” Remember that Nietzsche’s Übermensch (overman) idea was behind everything that Hegel and Marx later developed.
“I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome…. What have you done to overcome him?
– Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Ultimately, the Nietzsche-Hegel-Marxist ideas all hinged on one fundamental thought: their utopian society was to be populated by a pliant mankind, one that could be moldable into a Nietzschean idea of an “overman.”
And guess who would get to do the molding? Also observe that their social experimenting had little to do with their concerns about misbehaving monarchies back in the Old Country, or because they feared a constitutional republic might be a flawed system and doomed to fail in their New Country.
It solely had to do with their desire to experiment, and a belief that they could figure out the perfect society. Social researchers want to experiment on society, and C.S. Lewis fleshes out the general mindset of these 20th Century socialist academics in his book That Hideous Strength.
Class Warfare Re-Imagined: Tribalism!
These academics regarded themselves, evolutionarily-speaking, ahead of the curve from the rest of us. With faith in their precepts, and confidence in their intellectual acumen, they sallied forth with ideas about how they could re-invent a society that would be better for a population that was, in their opinion, in need of their help.
Yet spreading these class-crashing ideas in America was not so easy.
And here is why: In America it was possible for a poor man to become a rich man.
In America, ‘class revolution’ was not an idea that really translated. The monarchy/gentry/underclass-sectioned society was the construct of Europe, not America. People in America had deliberately left Europe far behind, along with all its class problems. In America the revolution had already happened, and it had been largely a positive transformation. Yes, it came with a war and plenty of sacrifice, but it successfully broke free of a monarchy system without taking over England. Americans simply took ownership of the colonies that they had developed themselves, and turned it into a successful country by their own right.
The American government had been formed independently. It was a new system that prevented a ruling class, and it gave power to the people in an equitable way. Citizens got to vote, and leadership had limited powers. Economic freedom abounded: poor kids like J.D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie could grow up to become millionaires in America. Parents would inspire their children to do their schoolwork with the oft-recited cliché, “Someday, you could even be president, if you wanted to be. We live in America!” People were emigrating to America in droves because of these plentiful opportunities to achieve personal greatness. Bourgeois aspirations abounded, and that really dampened the objectives of these poor Marxist-socialist professors.
Likewise, Americans already had their own approach to individual identity. The “overman” concept was a hard sell; Americans already possessed the concept of “individualism.” Here, people got to mold themselves. A society where people already had the right to vote for their own leadership, make their own decisions about occupation and religion and so forth… it was a mentality that did not exactly cooperate with the Marxist-socialist ideas that these social engineers envisioned for society. I imagine that these German academics were rather smug, thinking that these poor, stupid, and uneducated citizens in the streets of New York City, many with limited education, were being entrusted with far too much responsibility by having the right to vote. Such decisions should not be made by just anyone. (How arrogant intellectuals regard the ‘deplorables’ of the world is not a new thing, after all.)
Whatever they thought of our constitutional rights and our democratic system, the notion of an economic underclass rising up to overthrow a ruling class was not an idea with much promise.
But then, there were some segments of Americans who, by the 1930’s, did not yet benefit from the American Dream. Black Americans were freed and finally given the right to vote in 1870, yet racism and segregation kept them oppressed and unable to get ahead. Women as well: Women’s Suffrage was finally satisfied in 1920. Yet there was still far to go before women would achieve equality with men.
As they recognized these segments of society who were underserved and marginalized, the Frankfurt School academics had a new take on class warfare: racism and sexism. They traded class warfare for culture warfare. Their departures from classic Marxist theory morphed naturally into the radical movements that eventually developed, and it took on the face of minorities.
In his book Allan Bloom even details this infection, which metastasized throughout our education system.
Culture Contentions by A Thousand Cuts:
The most sinister actions are always the ones that are disguised in the cloak of goodness and sincerity, but turn out to have been motivated by selfishness and a desire to use and exploit. That kind of betrayal is the deepest kind of cut.
Causes, like ending racism and sexism, are right and noble, and good people defend these causes in good faith. Feigning care for races and sexes because it facilitates social engineering objectives is horrific. Such practitioners are not wielding love, they are wielding knives. We can give these social engineers the benefit of the doubt, if you like, that they also harbor compassion. But I think that the way they conduct themselves should make us watch our backs.
By the 60’s and 70’s, the Marxists of academia, and the many students who were taught by them, pervaded through all colleges and universities in America. Minority studies and women’s studies took up whole departments. People were being trained to look at life through the lens of identity politics. This new angle of tribalism, that took the place of the previous European notion of class injustice, worked well for a while. Each identity (black, Hispanic, female, gay, etc.) fit their basic criteria: each had a past filled with injustice, and there was a score to keep. Eventually, the years of “socialist” studies in colleges created a whole army of people educated in the various minority social injustice histories, and they were ready to rise up. All these tribes were supposed to have their umbrage pitted against the Powers that Be: stereotypically, that turned out to be the white male.
But then, just like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, this tribalism experiment seems to have gone awry. Segments of society keep multiplying out of control. Gay rights has morphed into LGBTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual) and beyond.
There has been tribal scorekeeping that has crossed streams in unintentional and unfortunate ways, like women’s rights in athletics eclipsed by transgenders taking over their sports. And some tribes have become exclusive with ideological demands. A woman does not get to belong to the woman’s tribe if the woman is pro-life.
Heck, a woman cannot be ideologically welcome in the Democrat Party if she is pro-life, and the January 26, 2020 Town Hall with candidate Pete Buttigieg proved it. A black person cannot belong to the black tribe unless the black person votes Democrat. If you ever wondered how it is that the Democrat Party went from being the Party of the KKK to the party that thought it should have the exclusive right to the black vote, the progression of Marxist socialism I delineate above is exactly how that happened.
It is one of the reasons why the Democrats fell in love with the term ‘progressivism‘ in the first place. It sounds so fabulously forward-thinking, but what it really means is ‘ideological takeover via social reform.’ The ugly truth is that Marxist-socialism has taken over the party of Thomas Jefferson. It is vain to deny it.
The ultimate objective of those who ascribe to the Marxist-socialist ideology has never changed: evolving the society into one that looks to a socialist utopia is still the goal for many. We have Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders running loud and proud as a socialist, and all the millennials educated in our socialism-promoting universities are clamoring to support him. Until that socialist utopia is reached, there will be unrest, and they will incite it themselves if they must.
Notice, then, how utopia is never, ever reached.
Notice, also, that ‘utopia‘ is – literally! – a compound of two Greek words that, put together, means ‘no where.’
Utopia is a concept that never existed. Socialism was a lie from the start.
But socialists have been believing in and teaching about this nonexistent goal all these years. It’s many methods for reaching this false and unattainable idea of perfection now includes:
- Cancel Culture
- Mob Mentality
- Doxxing (victimizing and deplatforming a person by invading their personal life)
… and other forms of modern bullying that are intended to silence those with opposing viewpoints.
That is why people like Brandon Straka, a gay man who walked away from the Democrat party and the related LGBTQ tribal thinking, is anathema to this socialist construct. He has been made unwelcome at venues for his town halls.
That is why Saturday Night Live mocked Kanye West for visiting with President Trump. Being a black Trump fan can involve some serious ridicule!
That is why to be a National Organization for Women woman, you must approve of abortion, because (for some reason) your empowerment is wrapped up in your ability to be imprudent with your body in sexual relations, but master of your body to terminate any child conceived in it.
This is societal dysfunction, not paradise.
Shedding the Tribal Tripe:
Although this kind of socialism has been infecting America for many decades now, I am extremely encouraged that this malady will pass. It has grown up, become fully developed, it has born its fruit, and now that fruit is rotting.
In many surprising places and circumstances, people are waking up to the presence of the tribal attitudes and how they are destroying the prospect of a healthy society.
A black priest decides to no longer perform racial reconciliation services because he is awakened to the divisiveness of them, and their roots in socialist ideologies. Universities have become so insufferable with their “safe spaces” due to students so sensitized to racial/gender/social challenges that they cannot cope.
Even Harvard law students refuse to listen to arguments about sexual assault cases for fear of being offended. It is a situation caused by the extreme and radical tribal mentality and a refusal to engage people and ideas that might challenge a perceived micro-cultural territory. It is insane. Colleges are going to have to get control over it if they expect parents to send students to them in the future.
Tribalism turns on a weak center that certainly cannot hold. And if we want to expedite a return to social sanity, we must reject tribal mentality and behaviors. The sooner we come together as a hyphen-free family of Americans, the sooner we will be the peaceful society that the socialists say they want us to be.
In pursuit of truth, and truly yours,
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