Tribalism? Not my punch bowl!
I live in a world ruled by the tribes. I would say, it is a very ancient world. We’ve got lots of tribes here in Russia. First, we’ve got the Kremlin tribe that rules the country although it is by itself a pool of very different prides sometimes confronting each other in their fight for power. We’ve got the police tribe, the state bureaucracy tribe, the security services tribe, the Caucasian people tribes, we’ve got various digital tribes, etc., etc.
Sometimes I think that I should have belonged to some mighty tribe (which I’m not). Yes, you would have to play by the rules and obey some code but, from the material point of view, it would’ve been a very different life. I could have been some fat corrupt government bureaucrat wearing some dull suit and having nice property in fancy parts of the world instead. Sometimes I have to join the office tribe but hate every second of being there so hopefully I won’t end up like that in office misery staring at the window… I also wouldn’t serve in the military as I don’t like to obey any orders, not just stupid ones.
On my tomb stone there can be an epitaph:
A man of no tribe
Tribalism to me is something to which I organically don’t belong; it is the backbone of any society just like tens of thousands years ago at the dawn of humankind. It might be even beneficial in various ways to join one and have the right skin on yourself but in my case it just doesn’t work: I understand it perfectly well having made 43 circles on our Third Stone ‘round the Sun.
So I think I’m destined to continue my freelance surf through the waters of life.
Up the Arsenal!
I think it is a very strong feeling of absolute loyalty to a group, whether that group is political or social.
It is a sense of belonging, but also where logic can go right out of the window, as feelings and decisions are made based purely on loyalty. Where there is a clash of tribes, only one question is asked. Are you one of us, or are you one of them? We are right, you are wrong, end of.
Modern tribalism has become very toxic – at its worst, you get violence and even genocide; at its most annoying, you get two sides simply never agreeing on anything. Think Metropolitan elite ruling parties, and their opposition – think about the huge increase of far-right parties.
Of course, Tribalism is not only political, and I want to demonstrate a loyalty to a group that is purely social. It’s one with which I am very familiar: the football supporter (or as my American chum would say, suck-errrr supporter)
We are a most passionate, vocal, partisan, faithful but totally illogical bunch of people, who simply cannot see beyond the colours of our team. Every other team is ideologically beneath us and worthy only of our contempt and utter disgust. You see, our team have the best players, (rarely), our history is by far the most impressive, (arguable), our club reeks of pure class, (unlikely), and the rest simply pale into insignificance.
Even when another team is obviously better in terms of results, and more successful in winning trophies, it is still perfectly fine to subject its supporters, players and management to vile and abusive language and sentiments.
I can’t remember why I originally decided to support Arsenal – all I do recall is seeing my first professional match at the Valley in London between Charlton Athletic, and Arsenal, back in 1956, when I was four years old. I’ve been hooked on football, and Arsenal, ever since.
I remember my team not winning anything until I was 18 years old. Three years earlier, I had cried my eyes out because my team lost a cup final to an inferior tribe – I was 15, and acted like a spoilt 5-year-old…..
Fast forward 50 years, and I now have my very own “naughty chair” in my local pub where I watch most matches. It is placed in front of the tables, tables which I had regularly kicked and spilt countless drinks by getting over-excited watching my tribe. The screams and shouts I emit when they score a goal are legendary. When we win, I spend hours afterwards on all sorts of websites and social media looking for all the positive writings about my team. When we lose – well, let’s not go there.
Recently, within my team’s supporters, would you believe it, another two tribes emerged. During a few seasons of moderate to no success, and with a manager, Arsene Wenger, who had been with the club for almost two decades, you became either a “Wenger In” member or a “Wenger Out”. The vitriol from both sides on social media conformed to all the tribal idiosyncrasies I have already mentioned earlier.
Despite this fanaticism, the vast majority of all football supporters, away from their tribe, are honest, decent, hard-working likable people, who probably have no idea who they become when the games starts.
Whose Tribe are You On?
Tribalism is one of those awkward words: What it means depends on who you ask. Yes, it concerns native groups in far-off lands. Anything else?
I would say yes, we are all members of several tribes. Here is where the awkward part comes in. I’m not sure tribalism is a good word to describe all the groups we feel so strongly about. To call the Roman Catholic Church a tribe seems, well, off. The bestest word doesn’t exist. But the folks in the Church act like it is a tribe. For the devout, it’s more important than job, country, and for a few, even family.
My Mother used to talk about her favorite sports team in the second person. Do you ever say “We had the ball at mid-field and made a huge pass towards the goal”? We? WE were watching the game on TV!
Militaries around the world all instill tribalism into their solders. These men don’t fight for their flag, they fight for their brothers. They will die for the boys in their unit. This attitude is purposely drilled into the recruits from day one.
I will argue that tribalism would be one way of looking at people like Donald Trump. This entire class of politicians use aggrieved tribalism as a wedge to make certain groups feel as though they are under siege. “They” are stealing our futures! We must take our nation back! Brexit, Golden Door, pick the one of your choice, they are all copies made from the same tribal anger. As an aside, this is not to say that a few of their points are without validity, just that they are being manipulated for the benefit of the few… again.
Of course the most infamous form of tribalism is racism. I suppose most of us are more comfortable with people who look and sound like us. But this form of tribalism takes the idea to its extreme: if you don’t look like me you are inferior. Muslims rape German women and Mexicans rape American women. The best answer is to keep them all out! I don’t believe these folks are terribly concerned with facts.