I had a delightful and stimulating conversation with one of my readers last night. She had several questions about my book, Philosophical Lighthouse. On page 72 I write, Tribal mentality or xenophobia, the “fear or dislike of people who are culturally different from oneself”, is directly related to ignorance. Although she agreed that xenophobia was bad, she argued that tribal mentality was actually a good phenomenon because it gives people a sense of belonging. We enjoy being surrounded by people who are like us and share similar values. It validates our philosophy because, “if all these people agree with me, I must be right”. Birds of a feather flock together, but so do humans.
This is perfectly understandable. There is a comforting sense of brotherhood and fellowship when we are part of a large group. It is one of the primary reasons so many people go to church on Sunday. It confirms and validates our membership in the community. As an extreme extrovert, I love people. I get despondent when I am alone for very long. However, I avoid tribal mentality the way many people are trying to avoid the Corona virus. Here’s why.
In early human history, being part of a tribe increased your chances of survival. A large group can find food more successfully than a single individual. The tribe would often punish violators of the culture by exiling them from the group. If you were unwelcome in the tribe, you would slowly starve to death alone. Hundreds of centuries of conditioning has embedded this firmly into our unconscious mind. Not only do we enjoy the company of the tribe, but we equate membership in the tribe with survival.
This is very strong motivation to conform to the values expressed by others in the tribe. In our modern world this is called being politically correct. Society has determined that it is unacceptable to ridicule anyone for any reason. We are ostracized if we classify someone as fat. We are encouraged to say that someone is “weight challenged” or “big boned”. It is heresy to suggest that someone is stupid. Instead we must pretend that they have a learning disability, or that their interests lie elsewhere. I’m sorry. If you are unable to give change even after the electronic cash register tells you how much change to give, you don’t have a learning disability. You are stupid. (Notice your personal discomfort when you read this.)
The two biggest “tribes” in the United States right now are the Republicans and Democrats. Your tribe is right in all things, whereas the other tribe is hell-bent on the destruction of America. (Just to be clear, politicians of both parties regularly violate the Constitution and should be tried for treason.) There are those who think that President Trump is the savior of America, and others who believe that he is the spawn of Satan. Tribal mentality is the only thing that can explain such extreme, opposite conclusions. When you are part of the tribe, you lose the ability to think logically for yourself.
Horses, cows, and sheep are herd animals. They huddle together for security, and they panic the moment they are singled out of the herd. Fish swim in schools because their large numbers can confuse predators, and it greatly reduces the probability that you will be one of the fish eaten during this attack. Humans watch CNN and Fox News because they are afraid to have an opinion that differs even slightly from what other people think. The main stream media gives us the “official story” and the vast majority of Americans adopt that nonsense as “the truth”.
Tribal mentality is dangerous to our survival, even though it gives us a “warm, fuzzy feeling” in the beginning. If you want to restore freedom in this country, start by being independent of cultural tribes.