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Tribalism

Entry 1917, on 2018-06-11 at 19:50:12 (Rating 4, Politics)

It has become increasingly apparent to me in recent times that the human species is having trouble getting past its evolutionary and social past from thousands of years ago where its members lived in small tribes. Back then a person from another tribe was probably an enemy, or at least a competitor, and had to be treated with suspicion.

Now we live in far bigger groups (cities or states) and globalism makes even these less relevant, but tribalism seems to be making a comeback. Sometimes it takes the form of relatively harmless clusters, such as groups of supporters of a sports team. In most cases groups of fans can support their teams but still not want to kill each other. Yeah, I know there are exceptions where they do, but considering the number of potential venues for conflict around the world each year things aren't too bad.

But there are other areas where peaceful coexistence is far more difficult. For example, the gulf between the left and right in western politics (especially in the US and some European states) has become very exaggerated recently.

And the unthinking knee-jerk reactions I see to various issues today is deeply worrying. This happens fairly equally on the left and right, and it has what has forced me away from my previous allegiance to the left so that I am now more towards the center (although still well left of the true center).

In fact, I really don't identify too strongly with any political group. I don't belong to a political party; I don't automatically vote for any particular party; I don't belong to any group espousing a particular political, social, religious, or environmental view; and in discussion forums and debate situations I get attacked equally from the left and right.

It seems to me that I don't agree particularly closely with any person or group, and I think this is a really healthy place to be, because I honestly think I can predict exactly the way some people will react to an issue solely based on their politcal persuasion, and I know that they will react immediately without giving the issue any real thought or doing any real research.

In fact, in a couple of recent Facebook debates I had, a couple of far-left social justice warriors quoted exactly the same inane catch-phrase. Worse still, one of them didn't even typing the phrase in, they just linked to a pre-made quote page.

The phrase was "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression."

This is the sort of thing I often see when there is no real thinking going on. Instead of thinking, and treating the topic as a unique case worthy of individual consideration, it is like a simple, automatic reaction occurs. Something like: what is my tribes position on this, it is this, OK here is a standard reaction others in my tribe have used.

I've actually forgotten what the second subject was, but the first was whether "old white men" should stop participating in controversial debates. Any sensible person who really thinks about the subject should conclude that ruling out a group based on age, race, and sex is utterly abhorrent, but the SJWs just couldn't see that.

But maybe the phrase is true. Maybe if you really are accustomed to privilege, then equality feels like oppression. Well sure. But do you know another thing that feels like oppression? Actual oppression!

And in this case it is clearly that, because actually telling the members of a group chosen based on age, race, and sex that they should "pipe down" is ageist, racist, and sexist all at the same time. Even I don't usually get accused of more than one or two of those at a time by my opponents when they misuse them.

My final comment in the debate was something like "why don't we look at the quality and validity of the comment rather than who made it" and that's where the debate ended. Maybe the SJWs hadn't come across that particular angle before, so they didn't have a pre-packaged reaction. Or maybe I'm just kidding myself and they had just got bored.

The point is that I often surprise people with my reaction to certain topics. I guess I am often seen as some sort of far-right nutter by the left and a far-left nutter by the right. That means that I sometimes agree and disagree with each of their positions.

But when it comes to people who genuinely are in those far-left and far-right tribes I know exactly how they will react on a given subject before they even start. And the topic areas they have fixed views on aren't even related in any way. For example, people on the right are almost always against trying to reduce global warming and also against abortion.

Clearly those two topics aren't connected, so one doesn't lead to the other. So if the two are connected it must go back to the dogmatic beliefs of the tribe.

The other worrying trend I always see with these people is the total confidence they have in their own correctness. They never have any doubts. They never change their mind, even a small amount. Why? Because clearly their beliefs are a fixed part of their identity rather than a considered opinion based on facts.

It's almost like a religion where membership requires that certain fixed views must be maintained. And that is a quite valid comparison, because strong religious and political beliefs both involve similar levels of unthinking acceptance.

At least that's the way I see it. But what would I know? I'm an old white man. Some people don't even think I deserve the right to express an opinion!

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Comment 1 (4922) by Anonymous on 2018-07-19 at 16:36:26:

Everyone has an opinion but some opinions are less good than others. What right do you have to think yours is better than mine? Maybe old white guys really should shut up!

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Comment 2 (4926) by OJB on 2018-07-21 at 19:30:43:

Well, it's up to each person to evaluate how good my opinions are, just like it's up to me to evaluate their's. The point is that, before opinions and ideas can be evaluated, they must be made public. So I say, let's hear everyone's opinion but anyone making an opinion public should expect it to be critiqued.

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