Wednesday, October 03, 2018
Andrew Sullivan opines on tribalism in NYMag: "America Wasn't Built for Humans"
Andrew Sullivan has a searing booklet-length piece in New York Magazine Sept 18, 2018 (not “The New Yorker), “America Wasn’t Built for Humans”. His byline is “Tribalism was an urge the Founding Fathers assumed we could overcome. And so it has become out greatest vulnerability”.
The link is here.
Once again, we’re confronted with the fact that most of us are genetically hardwired for tribal preferences. Rooting for a favorite sports team is at least mild tribal behavior. (Yes, the Cubs lost last night, at home.) It does seem that lot of this discussion started with Amy Chua.
I’d like to think that the smartest among us overcome tribalism, and in setting our own goals, some of us do – the more unbalanced personalities in Rosenfels polarity theories. But that generates some of the problem: the winner-take-all economy expressed by extreme capitalism, especially as it developed, surprisingly, post 9/11 (but had started during Reagan) simply leaves most people behind to scrabble now with the no-benefits “sharing” economy.
That’s one reason why I’ve paid so much attention to morality on an “individual” basis – the “pay your dues” idea (2004). Now that seems to miss “the point”.
Sullivan is particularly chilling as he explains how tribalism has infected a lot of academia, and how the idea of “hate speech” has expanded to incorporate crime. Even my speech, because of its gratuitous funding, could be reviewed as indirect “hate speech” by some – this gets into the area of “implicit content” that I have described.
He also gives the story of journalist Chadwick Moore, who was sacked by the gay mainstream after showing intellectually balanced appreciation for Milo Yiannopoulos. In fact, if you actually read Milo’s book (“Dangerous”), it is not as extreme as everyone thinks.
Likewise, he sympathizes with James Damore – whose work I have mixed feelings about. The comments on Sullivan’s article are not sympathetic.
The problem is that for many people, they have to stick together and live in solidarity with one another to survive – so they must become combative, and not tolerate any insults to “the group”. That explains the malignant growth of “hate speech” as a concept.
Sullivan describes two mega-tribes: the urban-coastal (globalist and intellectually elite), vs. the rural (local and socially driven). He notes that the end of conscription after the Vietnam war helped keep the tribes apart (and like me, Sullivan made this point in the 1990s during the debate over gays in the military).
I have to admit that I snicker with some degree of personal contempt when I hear people chanting “lock her up” at Trump rallies, as if they were Manchurian zombies who had abandoned their own personhoods.
But tribal social orientation – and the capacity to put the local group above the self, and regard outsiders as enemies (even if that feeds racism) probably got hardwired into the genes of most people in pre-modern generations. Some of us seem to have fewer of these genes, stand out, and find ourselves watching our backs.
Sullivan recommends “individuality” as opposed to individualism (in 2004, people were just starting to talk about hyperindividualism -- Ayn Rand style – as the opposite of solidarity). And he recommends forgiveness.