[I wrote this post in December 2016 long before anyone really knew the full extent of Russian meddling in elections with phony facebook posts . . . Not bad, really ;-)]
Like most people, I am still wandering around in a dull state of shock after all the emotional hits of 2016.
Regular readers know I am always trying to figure out maps of human behavior in order to acquire some sense of control. And here is my latest: I call it Binary Tribalism.
Terms: “Binary” means there are only two; and
Tribes: We now have political tribes, not parties. Note that tribes are different. There were not 12 political parties of Israel, there were not Apache political parties. Tribes are extensions of family, they are much stronger bonds of belonging and shared beliefs. They demand strict adherence to dogma that may conflict with math or physics, and they invoke willingness, even eagerness, to defend the tribe to the death.
Again, referring to my general rules and maps, people seek power, and once they get it, they seek to consolidate it, and once they consolidate it, they seek to expand it.
To that end, it is my belief that the true power elite are seeking to expand their power over the rest of us even further, by using the ancient Roman policy of divide and conquer. This is why we now live in a world of binary tribalism. Individualism and independence are being crushed at every turn. This is why we are all so exhausted right now. Our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness has been alienated. This is not an accident.
“Nationalism” – single tribalism– worked for Nazi Germany, because they were a small state that needed to be united. France, England, Jews, and Communists were handy pre-existing opposing tribes to unite against. Of course, propaganda always misrepresents the members of the opposing tribe.
Without the USSR, America is now too big to be managed as a single tribe, it has to be broken up into two diametrically opposed groups. To that end, we have taken a few relatively minor social issues and blown them way out of proportion. We have also been loaded up with massive amounts of disinformation, in order to to be conditioned to fear and hate eachother. And that is what is being done to us, a nickel at a time. Death by a thousand sponsored posts. In a world of such evil, you are told again and again that you cannot survive or function individually; you must join a tribe. And again, binary tribalism, you are forced to choose between one or the other, and once you choose one, you must immediately disavow and detest anything that smacks of the other.
As I explained in my latest book, the need to belong is one of the most powerful human emotions. That need can be exploited for good or evil, and if you seek to divide and conquer, the easiest way to do it (and this has been done to humans since the dawn of civilization) is to create opposing tribes of near equal power. If a teeter totter is on perfect opposing balance, even if there are a thousand pounds on each side, it takes just a pinky finger to push it one way or the other. There is tremendous social and economic pressure on all of us to become members of one tribe or the other. Membership requires despising all members of the other tribe, and the power and malevolence of the opposing tribe is always exaggerated to create more and more need to join up.
Life is a complex predicament but we are forced into a simplistic binary system. You are either liberal or conservative, blue or red, republican or democrat, right or left. To not be in one tribe or the other is to be a nondescript barbarian with no rights at all. And whichever tribe you are in, it is all right and righteous, and the opposing tribe is all wrong, misguided, and evil, as are its leaders.
At the risk of being ostracized, I will conclude with this: Neither tribe is entirely good nor entirely evil. The word “sin” means “to fall short of one’s highest potential.” In that meaning, we are all sinners. The evil of the opposite side is often magnified to obscure or rationalize the evil of our own.
That said, there is a third tribe of sorts: It is a third-party malevolent force that seeks to drive us apart into warring tribes, enervating ourselves into an easily controlled mass. The history of the world is about two genetically identical groups being split into warring factions, thus giving power to a few. Seeing this requires a bit of calm objectivity about the self.
This onslaught of propaganda hits us all. But you have the power to say no. Freedom means having the choice to not bow to the dogma of the tribe. This choice is what so many Americans have fought and died for. A broader understanding of our susceptibility to tribal membership drives, and a broader consciousness of our freedom to make individual unique choices, just might make America truly great again.