“The source of every crime, is some defect of the understanding; or some error in reasoning; or some sudden force of the passions.” ― Thomas Hobbes
I’m going to ask my readers to bear with me on this one, because this post will feel as though I’m traveling down various rabbit holes and dragging you along with me. It’s going to be longer than normal – even my normal – but I hope you understand where I’m coming from in the end. You’ll get a glimpse of the mess that is my brain, but I’m doing so to provide a broad picture of how our tribe mentality has evolved. The good, the bad, and the ugly, all wrapped up in one post.
My post about why I’m supporting Evan McMullin (read here) made mention of the term “Tribalism,” and I received a good deal of feedback in regards to that particular label. I found myself explaining – repetitively – why I blame tribalism for the vast majority of our issues today, and why it’s at the core of my refusal to support either leading candidate. After having the conversations, I’m more convinced now than ever that it’s an important topic we need to discuss more often. Why?
Tribalism often overrides reason.
Tribalism often overrides decency.
Tribalism often overrides morality.
Tribalism often overrides God.
Tribalism often overrides survival.
I was introduced to tribalism at a young age. Growing up I was incredibly close to my Grandpa, who was inducted into the Minor League Hall of Fame with the Browns, had offers to play for the Giants and, if not for injuries sustained while in the Navy, would have had a promising career in baseball. I’d sit on my Grandpa’s lap while he told me story after story. He loved the sport, and he taught his entire family to love the sport. Before we could read, my Grandpa was telling us about four-seam fastballs, Stan Musial, and the inherent evil of the designated hitter.
If we couldn’t watch the game, we’d listen to the Cardinals on the radio, and were taught an expected level of dedication. If a hint of defeat flashed across our faces during a game, “Has the last ball been thrown?” he’d sternly ask, and if we took a loss he’d always remind us that “real fans stick with their teams through the good and the bad. If you want to celebrate in their wins, you need to celebrate in their efforts.” Generation after generation this “love of the game” has been a part of our family.
If someone talks negatively about my team or their players, I’m quick to quip – I will drop baseball stats like Eminem drops lyrics.
My house is filled with photos of the greats from every team, and if a man said, “I love Stan Musial and Christy Mathewson,” I’d consider it a proposal.
I. Love. Baseball.
I love watching baseball, I love the rush of the bases loaded and a pitcher’s count, and I love how it ties me to those I love most through so many priceless memories. Some might say that my family takes part in a form of tribalism, and they’d be right. I admit to a delusional level of admiration for the team and sport as a whole. It’s beneficial to be a part of something bigger, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Actually, tribalism is essential. However, when Mark McGwire was caught using steroids, my Grandpa wanted him gone. It was damaging to the team’s image to harbor such an individual. “But he’s on our team?!” we’d ask him. “He’s hurting our team,” he’d reply. In that moment my Grandpa taught me a valuable lessen: Dedication to the tribe is one thing, sacrificing your morals for the tribe is another.
Unfortunately, sometimes the tribes we attach ourselves to become overrun with toxic mascots, dangerous leaders, and the end result is most often destructive – sometimes deadly. If we allow that tribal mentality to override our morality, we’ve already lost that which was worth preserving.
Such tribalism must be shattered.
There are so many seemingly innocent cases that, when compiled, bring us to the issues we’re facing today. I’ve had a rude awaking throughout this election, and it has forced me to stand back and really take a look at the big picture.
Last year I wrote various posts praising and defending Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio. A lot of my readers were appreciative of my brutal honesty towards other politicians until both men endorsed Donald Trump, or – for those who nitpick – at least agreed to vote for him, and I spoke out against their decisions.
“You’re not doing any good by talking bad about them!”
“Focus instead on all the good they’ve done!”
“I thought you were smart, guess I was wrong.”
“I guess you don’t care about the future of our country and good leaders.”
“You don’t cannibalize your own!”
Now, despite the fact that I made note, various times, that I would still vote for and support these men, the fact that I spoke out against members of “my tribe” at all was an unforgivable act. I found that if I shared a funny Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart video I’d have comments about betrayal and treachery instead of the run-of-the-mill “go die” comments. No, these were specific to my back-stabbery ways. It became a game with close friends, and we’d make bets about how long it would take before a member of “my tribe” would correct my wayward actions. Just this last Tuesday evening I posted a video of someone refuting an obnoxious conservative commentator and was told that I’m “normally better than this,” and “how dare I side with him and not her.” While I don’t always agree with this commentator, he was right this time, and I don’t regret saying as such. On the other side of the aisle I witnessed a liberal friend who referred to Lena Dunham as a “child molester” face similar vitriol from her own “tribe.”
Behavior like this has driven us to where we are: a place where the tribe comes before the truth. Our shift – as a country – back to this mentality has never been more prevalent. The melting pot was built as a place where the tribes were melted away under the common interest of freedom and objective law – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We now have every tool available to be an informed populous, with all of the historical warnings we would ever need at our fingertips, yet collectivism and irrational ideals are taking root and growing stronger. Historically, when a nation devolves into extreme tribalism, people accept more and more government control.
Of course, the extremely obvious cases of toxic tribalism are easy to oppose. For example, the Nazis attempted to wipe out the other tribe for the sake of preserving their own. Their story is by no means an aberration, it’s just the most well known case. Genocides are always driven by the overwhelming and unchecked instincts at the core of animalistic preservation of ones own people. However, they don’t begin as “obvious” as they end. I refuse to support Trump and I’m constantly told that “He hasn’t done anything really bad yet.” To the families he threatens, I’m sure “yet” is a rather devastatingly heavy word. Of course, I’m not saying that all cases of toxic tribalism end in genocide, many end in socialism, communism, and the crumbling of our freedoms. In its most diluted political form it’s divisive, in it’s most concentrated it’s deadly; the vast chasm in between is rife with repellent options a disturbing number of people find acceptable – nay, necessary.
“That won’t happen to us,” we claim. We look to our own people and respond with scornful derision over the idea that we could ever become such mindless lemmings and, at the risk of violating Godwin’s Law, such good Germans. Yet suddenly we find ourselves falling into the traps without even knowing. The nefarious and intellectual leaders begin by spreading paranoia, triggering a defense mechanism among the tribe that all too often overrides basic reasoning skills.
“These particular guns – and their owners – are a threat to our children!”
“Mexico is sending rapists!”
“All Muslims want to behead you!”
“Rich people keep you from your dreams!”
“These people over here want you dead!”
“If you help these children we’ll be overrun by terrorists!”
To those disconnected from reality already, such fear mongering is instantly absorbed and people become convinced that the individual is powerless, and allegiance with a group – any group, regardless of instinctive misgivings – gives them the power they lack. The seed of paranoia is planted within all of our deepest fears; loss and alienation. Then they give you an unreasonable solution to protect your tribe, ergo your life and worth:
“Confiscate these guns, and your tribe will be safe.”
“Send them back over the border, and your women will be safe.”
“Purge them from society and your heads will remain intact.”
“Take their money and your dreams will come true!”
“Wipe them all out – including the women and children – and you’ll eliminate the problem!”
“Don’t help those children and you’ll save your own!”
Freedom and decency be damned, your tribe comes first. I think we’d be surprised by the sheer volume of individuals who can be manipulated into supporting – and sometimes doing – abhorrent acts, driven blindly and recklessly by pervasive rhetoric and what they wrongfully assume is guaranteed protection. We’d like to think that we don’t have people willing to commit such atrocities in America, but if this election has revealed anything at all, it’s revealed that we do.
To match that hateful rhetoric we also have those who truly believe they’re doing the right thing who are ready to pull the trigger, as well. “Less guns will keep my children safe!” becomes a cry that just puts more children in danger – even their own. Now, individuals like Shannon Watts, Bloomberg, and the Everytown campaign know this, but most of their blind followers do not. The ignorant masses unknowingly spread misinformation like the plague under the assumption that they’re doing what’s right for the tribe. Their leaders have fudged the data for the sake of the agenda, and the good little foot soldiers feel like heroes as they paint their picket signs.
Then we have the new Feminists and the Alt-right working as two sides of the same coin, thrusting identity politics to the forefront. Giving the ignorant a reason to exist, and a torch to carry. The result is the belittlement of women, overwhelming objectification, the undoing of so much female progress, the alienation of minorities, legitimate fear, and separatism. In the wake of such strengthened and irrational movements, new tribes of angry outcasts and hurt individuals arise from the fallout.
As you can see – and noted above, as well – some results of tribalism are worse than others, but you get the point. All of this toxicity lends a hand to those who thrive on division. They plant the seeds, but we do the harvesting for them. How did this all spiral out of control? Where did all of this recent tribalism come from? I have my theory. Here it is:
Those born after the 1960s experienced very few historically defining moments, and those that were historically defining had very little personal impact on them. Sure, we had issues here and there, battles that needed to be fought and economic hiccups, but nothing truly devastating for the country as a whole. Nothing that shook our core, and popped the bubble we were convinced existed around our country. Advocacy had replaced political engagement because they lived in the time of relative peace and prosperity, and very little real and substantial interaction with the intricacies in the political world was necessary. While many still voted (though that dropped, as well), the personal investment in information and legitimate news dwindled because the necessity dwindled, and people became disengaged. Celebrity politicians gained an advantage because people wanted to be romanced as opposed to reasoned with, and in the 90s talk radio began to fill the information void. Instead of understanding the facts behind an issue, the populous had their news passionately delivered by opinionated talking heads. Their words carried weight, and for many these – “brilliant” – newly crowned gods became the only necessary source. As they say, in a world without suffering there is no need for God. Well, in a country without suffering there is no need for knowledge; forgetting of course that knowledge is the key to retaining that peace and prosperity.
Then on the morning of September 11th, 2001 four planes were hijacked, thrusting us into one of the most devastating and substantial historically defining moments our country had ever experienced. Answers were sought without respect for America’s fundamental values, because so many had been disengaged from those values. “We will keep you safe,” they whispered from both sides of the aisle as the people – desperate for reassurance – looked to their leaders. First we came together to mourn, then we came together to fight, then suddenly in the wake of our exposed ignorance the fault lines widened between the masses, and so many were no longer just ignorant, they were ignorant and persistent in their ignorant stances. The basic instinct of protecting their tribe solidified, and now America has found her freedoms in more jeopardy than ever before. So many of our destroyed values began to surface, finally bleeding through the bandages. There are various examples that I could give regarding this phenomenon, but I’m not writing a book, so I’ll give the most – in my humble opinion – detrimental cases.
Months after 9/11, the sexual abuse scandals that were protected by the Catholic church were exposed. Most of you probably cringed simply reading that sentence, but the fact remains: In a moment when so many in our country were seeking God, it was exposed (and rightfully so) that thousands of pedophiles were knowingly protected by supposed “men and women of God” – many of whom were high ranking in the church – while countless children and adults suffered all for the sake of the tribe. Families so perilously dedicated to altruism – desperate for confirmation – helped to sweep the abuse of their own children under the rug.
Just look at Cardinal Law: After it was proven that he ignored abuse – dare I say assisted in the abuse of over 1000 children (at minimum)? – he was still appointed as Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The journalists behind the story not only faced opposition from the church in their quest to reveal the truth, but also from a justice system that is supposed to be blind. So much so that a movie (which I’d highly recommend) was made about the entire ordeal. To this day, case after case – decades of sheltered pedophiles – continues to unravel.
Many are probably offended by the fact that I brought up this particularly sensitive issue and, ironically, they’re proving my point about tribal mentality.
The simplest reply to those who believe this is an untouchable subject: Society as a whole has an issue with child abuse, but those who abuse while acting as the “hands and feet of God” are among the most abhorrent, and those who forfeit the safety of vulnerable children for image sake are right there with them.
But the most important message for the country as a whole is, however, more in depth. Many have argued, and I agree to a point, that our flee from religion within recent years has been key to fueling a dangerous tribal mentality. However, an atheist by the name of Ayn Rand outlined the basic needs in a free society: Individual rights and objective law. The case of sexual abuse in the Catholic church, and decades of government cover-up, was a direct assault on America’s fundamental concepts, exposed at our most vulnerable time. It was an attack on everything that separates our tribe as a whole from everyone else. Worse yet, it was perpetrated by those who served in government, and by those who served God. As we slept in our peace and prosperity, two of the largest institutions in our nation were directly assisting in the attack on the most important American concepts. Justice wasn’t blind, and rights were left unprotected. This was just another wave making it’s way to the shore, with so many to follow.
“The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges everyone, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions; for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not one another’s pleasure…
And being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of Nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses.” – John Locke on fundamental principles in his Second Treatise on Government
Of course we’ve had our issues throughout history, it’s just that now those issues are enhanced by technology. Now instead of hearing through the grapevine about abuse taking place, more and more people are pulled into the circle of deceit. It is no longer a group of deceptive outliers, but instead entire institutions working against us exposed. Instead of hearing about injustice, we see it on a video, then we see perpetrators protected. Then our tribes are forcing us to take sides. This is happening throughout the United States, and instead of us coming together to hash out our differences, we’re allowing the government, talk radio, and the media to tear us apart. We’re allowing the ignorant in society to drive the repulsive narratives. Generations X, Y, and Z will go down in history as the reactionary fools who all soiled the bed and refused to accept responsibility (Timehop has proven to be a brutal reminder that I’m guilty, as well).
One of the largest examples of this can be found in both the #BlueLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter groups.
Many in the former group refuse to recognize a long standing issue: There are problems within the law enforcement community. Period. The vitriolic conservative commentators have no reasoning skills, and instead question the patriotism of those who simply pause to listen to what the other side is saying.
“I have officers in my family, go to hell!”
“I have pride in my country, where’s yours?!”
“Next time you need a cop, call a thug instead since you’re defending them!”
Those are real comments I received when I simply said I was horrified by Eric Garner’s death. Flag backdrops, eagle GIFs, and the occupations of your family members become the real test of patriotism instead of how much you actually understand, value, and respect the freedoms and values this country supposedly stands for. Screw due process and objective law, I love America because I’ve got a cop in the family.
While the vast majority of officers are good and decent individuals, those who aren’t have been protected for decades. No-knock raids, civil asset forfeiture, the drug war, and paranoia have gotten out of hand. The warrior cop mentality has destroyed relationships between the police and their communities, and work needs to be done to fix this issue. The #BlueLivesMatter group think that saying as such is an attack on all police officers, yet fail to see that their obnoxious stance is actually an attack on the majority of officers who are good. They’re defending the bad apple’s right to stay and ruin the reputation of the rest.
On the other side we find that many in the #BlackLivesMatter group have legitimate concerns that should be attended to, but so many have gone off the rails. The movement has served as a form of protection for criminals who most likely care very little for the real victims who deserved a proper “movement” in their name. I tend to believe that Martin Luther King would see the need for advocacy, but would be ashamed of how they haven’t used their legitimate concerns to create a culture of change that people like myself – who openly recognize the issue – could be on board with.
You see, both sides have decided that change doesn’t matter, protecting the tribe matters more. They’ve retreated behind their hashtags and have left us to simply shake our heads in disgust.
“The police deserved it! #BlackLivesMatter”
“Thugs want war? We’ll give them war! #BlueLivesMatter”
“I blame people on social media with their hatred towards police.”
“The very people those protesters were protesting against sacrificed their lives for them. Think about it.”
“You ferals kill each other. I can’t stop you. I care about decent people. Not #BlackLivesMatter thugs.”
“Maybe the police should stop killing innocent black people, then maybe our people will stop killing them. #BlackLivesMatter”
“If you preach against police militarization after cops are hunted down like animals, delete me. #BlueLivesMatter”
“Thanks a lot, Obama! #BlueLivesMatter”
So. Much. Hatred.
The lines have been drawn: from professors saying that capitalists can’t respect minorities, to individuals who assume you own a Guy Fawkes mask because you recognize a problem. The people drawing these lines and making such outrageous arguments are consumed – absolutely overtaken and drained of reason – by emotionally driven identity politics that are designed to fuel the war. Both sides disregard the worth of a life for the sake of their narrative. As the bodies fall, they’re rushing to their talking points while families are burying their dead. They’re not generalizing the other side, they’re generalizing themselves.
But they don’t represent rational America, do they? And if rational America doesn’t rise up and command the microphone, this vicious cycle is bound to continue. I believe that the majority of individuals want a resolution, we just need to be fearless in our break from the tribe, and we need to come out from behind our hashtags.
After the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore, I took some negativity for my comments – mainly because they didn’t fit in either camp. I didn’t rush to judgement against the police, but I also noted that after researching the Baltimore PD, Chicago PD, and NYPD, that peaceful protests have been needed for years. I noted that while various high-profile police involved deaths of black men may be deemed cases of reasonable self-defense, the outrage isn’t just surrounding those deaths, it’s the culmination of ignored tragedies, corruption, and the breakdown of relationships between police departments and the communities they serve. We’ve suffered a breakdown between large institutions – designed to work for the people – and the people.
Chicago alone had nearly twenty-nine thousand complaints of police misconduct within a four year span, 40 percent of those allegations were never investigated, and white individuals were far more likely to receive closure on the two – TWO – percent of cases that result in punishment, despite the fact that the vast majority were filed by blacks. Baltimore has a history of corruption, including the bullying of officers who cooperate with investigators when they admit to witnessing their fellow officers commit acts of brutality. The city has paid out millions of dollars to victims of brutality every year, and “rough rides” and kickback schemes are not a rare occurrence.
Throughout the country there have been stories brushed under the rug. A 7 year-old girl is killed during a no-knock raid here, an innocent man has his money stolen in the name of “asset forfeiture” there, or an innocent man is gunned down in his own home when officers invade the wrong apartment.
There’s an issue, but tribalism has suffocated our ability to address this issue. Tribalism has blinded us from even having the courage to recognize this issue. Those that do are berated and attacked, and their love for the black community or law enforcement officers is thrown into the court of public opinion. The sane have been drowned out by hashtags.
A Black Lives Matter supporter made a poignant and reasonable case for his side, while also showing support for upstanding members in the law enforcement community.
“At a point in my life, I sold drugs,” he said. “And the honest truth is that the mercy that was extended to me wasn’t by other drug dealers, it wasn’t by African-American men. But it was by two Anglo-American officers that found me with drugs and they extended me mercy. And from there I was able to be a husband. I was able to be a father. I’m a pastor and a preacher now. And at the same time, when I’m in a three-piece suit, from the police I’m treated worse than when I was a thug.”
“So it proves to me that everybody’s not bad,” he continued. “That everybody wearing a badge is not bad. That every African-American is not bad. But we have to change our concepts. We have to change our ideology in this country. We’re so segregated in everything. We’re segregated in our schools still. We’re segregated in our religion. We’re segregated in churches. And it destroys us.”
Then we see people like Jay Cobb, a conservative, who wrote a fantastic piece for The Buckley Club that you can find here:
There are other solutions to these problems. Sensitivity training. Racial tolerance training. Dash cams, body cams. All of these are good ideas. But we conservatives need to speak up and come up with these ideas. We have a stronger standing, as the law and order party, to propose reforms. And if you value law and order, you’ll recognize that lawlessness by law enforcement is not law and order. Something needs to change.
A piece that appeared in The Buckley Club yesterday made yet another incredible point:
Conservatism is about trying to show understanding and compassion without requiring the Government to force us to. It is about lifting people up, not lowering the bar so that they can get over it. Finally and most importantly, it is about judging people as individuals, not as a part of a collective. I think it’s about time we started listening to the tenets of our ideology.
But what trends instead of pieces like the above? The vitriolic word vomit demonstrated here.
Imagine what kind of change we could make if we had more people like those who wrote the articles above (or Leon Wolf, or Matt Lewis, etc.) rejecting the expected ideals of their tribes? Imagine if more people began stepping outside of their boundaries, memes, and hashtags?
In a world that grows more and more cold every single day, we have to stop and realize what we’ve done, and be mindful of how we move forward. Somewhere along the way we began purchasing tribal dedication at the cost of basic human compassion. Whether it be the man from Harlem who has grown tired of being targeted, or the hero who puts on a badge every morning and truly wants to keep the peace, why can’t we search for answers that protect them both? Because we no longer find our value in our ability to come together for the good of others, we find it in the hashtags and one-liners that boost us into mascot status for our team.
“This viral video obliterates #BlueLivesMatter.”
“Listen to this black man verbally eviscerate #BlackLivesMatter.”
It’s not just these few issues, it’s the selfish mentality as a whole causing our compassion to slowly dissipate over the last few years while our dedication to the tribe has grown.
“But she’s an illegal!”
“But he’s probably just another dirty cop!”
“But he’s just another thug.”
“But there could be terrorists hiding in the refugees!”
“But they’re not my kids.”
“But they’re just Muslims.”
“But they signed up to willingly go to Benghazi!”
“I say we make that country into a parking lot.”
Maybe it’s the 17 year-old girl who goes to apply for college only to find out that she’s an illegal immigrant, or the christian bullied for their faith, or the peaceful Muslim citizen being threatened by individuals we have placed on pedestals. From the Americans killed in Benghazi, to the child killed for her nationality in Israel, or the Syrian children being slaughtered, en masse, and the refugees who have lost it all. We have created an environment where a shrug is sufficient when the other “team” takes a loss, where we remain silent if speaking out about the truth goes against the set agenda of our tribal leaders. Or worse, excusing that which is blatantly wrong has not only become the norm, it’s become easier as we welcome dehumanizing images and delusions about those we don’t agree with.
When you begin to play apologist for such toxic ideals within your tribe, you become a magnet for those who embrace their proclivities, because you give them shelter. The Catholic church was a safe place for pedophiles, BLM is a safe place for anarchists, the unwritten Blue Wall of Silence rule has created a safe place for bad cops, the Democrat party is a safe place for those who think dismembering infants in pie plates is acceptable, and if the Republican Party accepts the Alt-right, it will become a safe place for neo-nazis and racists.
The truth is that those who hide behind their hashtags, their promises of walls and deportation, and those who close down dialogue about real issues and real victims, are cowards. Those who wish to remove religious freedom from the other tribe are cowards. Those who wish to remove First Amendment rights from the other tribe are cowards. Those who sit by and watch the innocent suffer and say nothing are cowards. Those who wish to push their agenda of identity politics – be it the Feminists or the Alt-Right protagonists – are cowards. Those who refuse to say when something is so clearly wrong or right are cowards. Out of irrational fear of monsters they’ve become monsters themselves. They hide behind their tribe on both sides of the aisle, led into a never ending war with their talk radio gods, celebrities, and gross lack of evidence to support their positions. They exist in a world of faulty logic postulated on a constant rearrangement of prejudices, and they will be the death of the American ideals they claim to love.
I fear that if people do not awaken from their slumber and begin educating themselves on the issues we face – on both sides of the aisle – the spiral will continue. This us vs. them mentality is suffocating civilized society. Outlined incredibly well in this article, Hillary and Trump are merely the symptoms of the disease.
They represent throwbacks to the tribal and political collectivisms of bygone ages that the ideas of John Locke and the American Founding Fathers heralded the end to. All friends of freedom, therefore, are called upon to redouble their intellectual efforts to oppose and defeat the continuation of this reactionary return to the dark despotisms of the past.
We hold the cure, the question is if we have enough people in the United States willing to shed off their tribal allegiance, flee from their ignorance, and do what must be done to breathe life into the fundamental ideals that founded our country.