News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

The descent into tribalism

I just listened to a politician whose ideas I agree with. But the way these ideas were communicated was, quite honestly, reprehensible. He condemned the individual testifying before the committee with a host of judgmental adjectives: “arrogant, prideful, vindictive, jealous, disingenuous, ignorant, hypocritical.” It was an all-out frontal attack on this man’s character and intelligence.

This “attack” was featured on YouTube and has been watched nearly a million times with some 6,000 comments about how marvelously he tore the other guy to shreds.

Why is it that people in our society can no longer love and respect someone they disagree with? Why does division, hatred, and anger almost always come into play when there is political and moral disagreement?

I think I know why. We have descended into tribalism. It has become “us” versus “them.” Facebook’s and YouTube’s algorithms send us only the stuff we agree with — our tribe’s opinions. We get no contrary opinions unless they are being demolished by those in our tribe. Every time someone in our tribe destroys and publically humiliates someone from the other tribe, we click “like.”

I had the privilege of working in South Sudan before it became a country, while they were still at war with the North. The 64 tribes were all united as one. Somehow, against all odds, they pushed their oppressor out, and proudly declared themselves the Republic of South Sudan. But the one value that had united them — mutual hatred for their Northern oppressor — was not a value big enough to build a new country upon, and tragically I watched as tribalism immediately took them over, with the tribal identity being placed paramount over their new national identity. It did not take long for the country to unravel into chaos.

I recently read of an academic assignment. The instructor asked all students to create an “identity map” listing their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics…and then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” Tribalism 101 at the university? Nope. Third grade math. It starts young.

Choose your tribe. It seems to be the latest “thing to do.” Identity politics. People have largely stopped thinking for themselves and they simply let the tribe think for them.

Oppressor or oppressed.

Victim or Victimizer.

Neutrality is not an option.

Silence is violence.

This simplistic thinking must sound really good, because so many are buying into it.

Not in the last 150 years has there been a greater divide in politics.

People are actually moving to states where their “tribe” or political party is in power.

It is amazing to me that things like vax/anti-vax, mask/anti-mask are tending to follow these tribal demarcations.

Whatever the other side is for – I am against.

It is “us” vs. “them.” This tribal mentality guarantees hate, bitterness, and resentment will rule — until our tribe wins office, and brings its hate, bitterness, and resentment with it, and forces its will upon the enemy.

With tribalism, hatred knows no bounds and has no end.

Winning an election simply means the other tribe is now the loser.

Overthrowing the oppressor simply means you have now become the oppressor.

Congratulations.

Tribalism kills.

So, what is the answer? Well, it starts with leadership. Leaders everywhere need to model love and respect for those who disagree. Ideas are ideas. There are some ideas that are vastly superior to others. Let the ideas speak for themselves. But people are people. We do not need to demean and devalue the person simply because we disagree with their ideas. In fact, the more I treat a person like dirt for disagreeing with me, the less likely I will ever influence their ideas.

People who resort to name-calling and those who try to “cancel” people are running with the most inferior of all ideas — that hate is the way to win. Tragically, this is modeled by our leaders. It is about destroying the “enemy.”

My son and I voted differently in the last election. I am closer to him today than ever before. We disagreed on vaccinations. I love him more than ever. And it is not because we ignore the issues — we talk about them, all the time, sometimes passionately. How can this be? Instead of living by the tribal values we are daily being fed, we hold tenaciously to values of a higher order — values like humility, love, forgiveness, patience, joy, peace, reconciliation, service, sacrifice, empathy, encouragement, listening, empowerment, kindness. These are the values that make a way forward and give us a future as a people.

 

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