Tribalism leads to Racism

Tribalism is deeply set in our lives and the more insular our lives have been and the less alternative cultural experiences we have been involved in the greater the danger we see our tribe as being right about everything and other tribes as being wrong, or even a threat.

But what’s tribalism like in Britain in 2020? A community, a football team, a religion, a political party? Well all of those and more. Just think of the casual everyday remarks Liverpool and Manchester people for example make about each other with the aim of demonstrating one is superior/less worthy than the other. On one level this is often harmless yet it is a product of underlying tribalism.

Problems arise when perceived cultural differences are raised in an irrational way as can be seen from the unfortunate history of football supporters fighting in the streets just because they back differing football teams; again this is tribalism and it can lead to hatred.

Religions have fought for centuries and countless deaths have flowed from religious tribalism despite the vast majority of religions saying they espouse peace! But it’s nothing but tribalism.

Tribalism at it’s most basic is ‘what my tribe does is right what your tribe does is wrong’ or ‘what your tribe thinks I fear, what my tribe thinks comforts me’. Of course tribal leaders need to keep their disciples on side and loyal so they invent and distort stories about other tribes which disgust or frighten their own followers making them want to defend their territory from ‘the others’, ‘the outsiders’, ‘the enemy’……

Racism sadly flows directly from tribalism – Antisemitism, Islamophobia etc. But what really helps tribalism stay ingrained in our fractured society and feeds irrational racism is when people look or sound different to those in ‘our tribe’. The colour of skin and the language spoken can and is seen as a threat to other cultures, even the food eaten can be rejected because it belongs to that of other cultures, tribes etc…..

Political tribalism can be rough and political parties can change their beliefs quite considerably but the devoted followers/members will often back those changes even if they condemned them when they had been favoured by another political tribe! They will gladly slag off a previous policy of their own party as though it had never been supported at all even if it was one they actually campaigned for.

A good way of keep your tribe on side is to tell them they are being done down. What’s more the allegation does not even have to be true in any way at all; all you need is for your tribal loyalists to want to believe it and to enthusiastically pass it on as being true. So if I’m a racist who wants white folk to think they are being swamped by immigrants with different coloured skin and/or who speak a different language I start with two distinct advantages. Firstly, the ‘others’ look different and they sound different. My tribe are already wary but if I then say something like – the government gives more benefits/money to the other folks whilst taking it out of the taxes you’ve paid throughout your working life – I’m hoping to get my tribe angry and I will probably succeed.

You see my tribe won’t check out what I’ve said because they are loyal to their leaders and what their leaders say must be true. And even if they did their social media friends will usually be of similar beliefs and will be passing on the same fake news/lies/misinformation – If Joe or Jane believes it then it must be true. But, I’ve also conditioned my loyalists to both expect such messages and to want to hear them!

But what are my own tribal instincts? How about where I was born? Surely I must be loyal to that Nottinghamshire mining town and maybe I should have a key ring with ‘I Love Kirkby In Ashfield’ on it and a union flag too to announce my nationalism. I don’t but you can buy them for any town quite easily. Yes I’m interested in the place of my birth but why on earth would I want to be loyal to it, whatever ‘it’ is? How about the football club I support or the cricket team I back? Yes they are both from the same part of my once East Midlands world but I’d never fight for them in the street after a skinful just because I’m a part of their tribe. And yes as a football supporter I probably fall for the near universal dislike (amongst other supporters) of Manchester United and I admit to having a similar dislike of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. BUT I know these childlike likes and dislikes are nothing more than that. Yes I’ll be over the moon if the Stags win (that’s a rare thing) and crying in my beer when they lose, which is regularly. I’ll even wear football or cricket shirts to show the tribes I belong too but I don’t take my tribalism too seriously.

Tribalism > Prejudice > Racism they are all linked by ignorance and fear & they are exploited by those wanting to divide and rule our society

Tribalism – I’m in the tribe so everything the tribal leaders do is OK by me

Politics is full of tribalism and the Labour Party wears its tribal loyalty like a badge of pride as an obvious example. I don’t think I will ever forget MP Andy Burnham making it clear that his party came first in a Labour Leadership hustings interview, only to be shouted down by one of his own (MP Liz Kendal) saying ‘Country first’.

But here in the UK we have always had a sneaking admiration for those who at face value are a part of tribe but who are actually mavericks with a mind of their own. MP Ken Clarke is an obvious non-tribal Tory who will kick out when he thinks his party is in the wrong. Of course Jeremy Corbyn MP made a name for himself by not supporting the Labour Leader of the day when he was a back bencher. It’s ironic that he’s now whipped Labour Remain MP’s to vote for Brexit and that the vast majority of them actually followed him down a Brexit road they do not believe in! That’s taking tribal loyalty far to far in my book.

As a Liberal I take the view that if my Lib Dem party tries to push me a certain way then by instinct my reaction can easily be to refuse. Liberals are by their very nature very hard to whip as they are free thinking individuals who coalesce around a common broad agenda.

But with the advent of Trump and his supporters we start to see a whole new and hugely troubling tribalistic agenda that his supports are fully signed up to. They don’t check whether what he says is right or wrong, they simply back it. They don’t actually care if it is right or wrong/truth or lie, if he says something/anything they want to hear. They will seemingly follow him anywhere he goes like the unthinking have followed despots across the world before. This is of course the road to fascism!

We all like to belong to groups that think like us but we do ourselves a great disservice by blindly following the crowd or the tribe and we believe/support everything our chosen or given leaders tell us.

You can’t be a a Liberal without questioning most things you come across, its a burden at times when siting back and repeating the propaganda of a leader is a lot easier.

Just look at this way who does trump rant against? The media, immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans etc. Who does he put in power? The powerful, the wealthy. people who disrespect our world environment, people who think like him.

Any leader who surrounds themselves with too many like thinking people is facing trouble as leaders need to be challenged by advisors not told they are wonderful.

As for Trump’s attacks on the media, yes of course some media outlets are utterly irresponsible. We saw it in the UK over Brexit – There was nothing some media outlets would not stop at to fuel prejudices that they had implanted in the minds of their readers over generations even though their ‘truth’ was obviously lies to anyone who looked behind the ranting headlines. BUT we are supposed to live in a free society with a free press. That means that the press can say things that are not true but they can be challenged by those who know the truth is being distorted. Trump only wants his ‘truth’ to be heard/printed not the ‘truth’ and that’s another step towards fascism.

Give tribalism the boot, it leads to despotism and fascism.