Quelling the Lions and Demons

There’s so much more to be said about tribalism.  (For Part 1, refer to previous Blog on Tribalism.)  Superficially, it seems a good thing to be proud of one’s tribe, to own it as choice.  But there is hidden a cancer.  The pride that arises is at the expense of the mana of other tribes.  The greater the pride in one’s own, the more diminished the ‘other’.  Leading subconsciously and often overtly to excess.  The lionising of one’s own has the (sometimes unintended) effect of demonising the Other.

Tribalism is rarely quoted as a root cause of anything, war least of all.  It should be.  Because a crucial part of pre-war posturing and propaganda (and, indeed, of justifying aggression or provocation) is to demonise the other guys.  For they have said this, done this, they’re responsible for this … and therefore our tribe is going to … or, was justified in doing …  These are the usually identified causes of conflict, but they’re consequences.  Tribalism is at the root of them all.

Myanmar generals, for example, demonise the protesters in the streets; and the Rohingya.  China demonises the Uighur; and the Hong Kong protesters in the streets.  Iran demonises “the Great Satan” (America); Hitler (and Goebbels) demonised Jews; Israel and the Palestinians demonise each other; Houthi demonise established Yemeni leadership, and vice versa; Tutsi and Hutu demonised each other in Rwanda; as do various factions throughout Africa currently … and South America … and, indeed, throughout the world.

In the prevailing conspiracy theories and cultures, QAnon demonises “the Swamp” while lionising themselves; Trump lionises himself and demonises the media.  And endlessly so on.  Magnified infinitely on social media.

Even here in New Zealand we’re inclined to demonise the Other: conservatives liberals and vice versa; Greens and farmers; women and men … endlessly on and on.  All Blacks and Wallabies.

Within this madness hides a more subtle, less recognisable mindset, called naïve reality.  It’s the unspoken but fallacious notion that my ‘reality’ should be everyone’s reality.  “The … viewpoint that my perception of the external world is a direct copy of it”, according to Merriam-Webster. (My emphasis.)

Yes, everyone should see the sense and logic of my position.  It’s actual reality.  (This is naive realism.) Anyone not holding this reality is misguided, possibly delusional, and Other (than me), and therefore fair game for criticism, challenge and provocation, and (in extremes) doing battle.

The cure?  We acknowledge that all people are people.  Just like us.  There are no substantial differences between people.  Tribal divisions are artificial, even manufactured.  A refugee in the Balkans war in the nineties was quoted as saying, “It makes no sense.  We all want peace, but we’re killing each other.”  Everyone, whether part of my tribe or yours, desires peace, safety, love, respect, and a modest level of basic needs.  Everything else is magnified unduly.

Cultural differences, while not needing to be embraced, may be accommodated without demonisation.  Racism is non-existent in a climate of mutual respect and self-restraint.  If only we could all recognise this.

Because it takes two.  There’s no point one tribe recognising the tumour in tribal pride if the other guy doesn’t.  It’s like a contract or a covenant.  Let us both agree that we’re human beings, adrift in the same waka, and let us embrace and both benefit from our sameness.  Different, perhaps, but the same.  We bleed the same, hurt the same, need the same things; I am no better than you, nor you than me.  Let’s agree on that and move forward together.

This blog is too long, but, as I said, there’s so much more to be said about tribalism. 

Ken F

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