Mike Brooks suggests that the tribalism of our contemporary politics is rooted in humans’ evolutionary past. He points out that, until very recently in the sweep of history, humans lived in tribal groups of up to a couple of hundred persons. Even when persons were absorbed in the realms of empires and kingdoms, day-to-day transactions were confined to villages with few inhabitants. He suggests that Donald Trump’s desire for a border wall both symbolizes is fed in part by a toxic hyper-tribalism. A snippet:
There is a certain level of absurdity to our tribalism when we think more deeply about it. When it comes down to it, we are much more similar than we are different. Most of our differences, such as what language we speak the color of our skin, whether we are male or female, what foods we like, and even how and to whom we pray, were determined by factors beyond our control. After all, none of us had any influence over when and where we were born, who our parents were, the color of our skin, and the era of our existence. Somehow, each of our consciousnesses are in their own particular bodies at a certain place and time, and we have had no control over this.
In one sense, it can be okay to take some pride in this affiliation (e.g., “I’m proud to be an American,” “I love my university”). However, it’s easy to slip into tribal, us vs. them mentality when we start saying versions of “me and my group are better than you and your group.” Arguably, this is how patriotism (e.g., “I love my country”) can turn into a more tribal nationalism (e.g., “my country is the best/greatest”). A look back through history (e.g., Nazi concentration camps, genocides, slavery, ethnic cleansing) offers hard lessons about what can happen when hyper-tribalism runs amok.
I commend the entire article to your attention.