It seems that if we are not carefully attuned to the tribes we choose, to the team we belong to, we have a good chance of getting burned pretty bad. Of course, this was always true to an extent, but it seems in the age of echo chambers and trolls and the ability for a thousand people to charge you at once if you don’t fit their agenda, fitting into your tribe is more important than ever.
That way, when the thousand people bum-rush you, you need not worry: they are on the other team, and so it simply doesn’t hurt as much. Not to mention, you have an army of people ready to go fight for you as well.
So much of the world is built this way, especially in tribal, primitive countries in places like the Middle East. It’s just that we’ve gone back to our tribal ways thanks to the internet.
And the problem in any overly-tribal land, virtual or physical, is that the worst act a person can do is to go against the tribe.
What better example than the last election, when, if someone decided they were against a demagogic, race-baiting, pussy-grabbing, Saddam Hussein-admiring, psychopath running for president the immediate response, the knee-jerk freakout from the reactionists was, “So you support Hillary?!”
Conservatives such as Bret Stephens, Bill Kristol, and Ben Shapiro who had spent their lives fighting for conservative ideals were suddenly branded “liberals” and trolled mercilessly by the tribe they had supposedly defected from.
In other words, the ideals of conservatism no longer mattered when it came to who you were or what you believed: all that mattered was which team you went to bat for. Even if you were supporting a man who went against your ideals or who, in your mind, represented a threat to democracy, if you fought against him you were now labeled as the enemy and thrown to the wolves.
The list of brave conservatives that stood up to Trump, endangering their safety and security to stand up to the dangerous road their tribe had taken, represent the best of the world: the people who understand that true loyalty, true commitment, means knowing when to fight against your own. If a tribe doesn’t stand for its own ideals, then it is only a tribe, as opposed to something higher that can meld with and uplift the rest of the world.
This is the world we’ve entered, the world that the internet has devolved us into: tribal territories being fought for mercilessly, with no thought of a higher truth. Only in conquering the enemy. Consequences be damned, this is about taking over the world, and until the enemy is totally subjugated then all bets are off. In a time of war, when the tribe matters more than truth, nothing is off limits, whether it’s internment camps, or internment camps used as precedent to argue for registering people of a religion.
Of course, this is about so much more than Trump, although Trump’s sickening embrace of this tribal ideology, of “America First”, is the most pure example of it all.
As a writer, I see it everywhere I look, and anyone who has been on social media knows it all too well.
When I’m pro-Israel I’m a conservative nutjob.
When I’m anti-Trump I’m a weak-kneed liberal.
When I criticize the orthodox Jewish world, I’m going “off the derech” (letting go of orthodoxy).
When I proudly support it, I’m an oppressive religious fanatic.
These are the actual comments, of course, that my pieces receive, and the nice ones at that. Especially as I do things like strongly stand for Israel and then turn around and fight Trump, the people in their tribes think of my act as a betrayal; their animalistic, territory-grabbing urges activated when a member of their tribe turns against them.
To exist only for your tribe, then, is to be against truth. It is to be living only for a surface reality, one in which we live only for the territory we conquer instead of for ideals.
A tribe is fixed, it is understandable, it is something that is easy for us to fight for and lay claim to.
Our ideals are far more fungible. They transform in our minds if we allow them to. They belong to one tribe one day then another tribe another day. They can be true one day in one situation and no longer true in another place or time. This is how the spiritual world works, it is beyond us as humans, and why grasping onto it can seem like a hassle or not worth the effort when we see that our world is in danger.
An animal thinks only of tribes. An angel thinks only of ideals.
A human, though, is meant to bring ideals into the tribe he belongs to and then use that tribe’s power to spread the truth of his ideal to the rest of the world, while also being open and thoughtful about the ideals of the world outside. He understands that tribes matter only when they elevate humanity and the planet humanity has been charged with caring for.
It is these truths that can helps us make it through this new age. The problems we face are not new, quite the opposite. It is simply that new technology has forced us to face our oldest demons, our most animalistic urges.
This is why “fake news,” “media bias,” and “post-truth reality” have entered the lexicon: it is not only Facebook’s fault. It is our lowest urges’ faults. The truth is there, but people have decided to ignore it. Their tribe is literally more important than truth to them, and so if the truth is conflict with their tribe they either ignore it or reshape it to fit their mood.
This is no different than any totalitarian thinking, whether we’re talking about China’s censorship, Nazi propaganda, or the twisting of religion to serve self-interested leaders since the dawn of man. All that technology did was respark this dark side inside of us by using animalistic urges to get us to click on their apps like drug-addicts and stay “engaged” instead of elevated.
We are being manipulated. By our bodies. By those who exploit the body’s weakness. By tribal leaders who think power is an end to itself.
And so there is only one answer: to rebel. To rebel against our tribes. To fight them. To prove them wrong. To show them that they don’t exist for themselves, they exist for the world.
A tribe that is no longer invested in humanity is an enemy of humanity. It is the collective version of the human’s lizard-brain, a self-gorging abomination that must be reformed or put down.
There is no other answer. There is no other solution.
To fight our tribes, to speak out against them, is to be loyal to them. It is to elevate them.
The only way, in other words, to be loyal to your tribe these days is by being its enemy.