Friday, October 06, 2017

Why tribalism is unavoidable


David Brooks (the columnist who wants to teach us how to be good)  has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times, “The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism”, which maybe should read, “How to beat Trumpism”, link here. 

Brooks ascribes all the problems that lets Trump bully everyone to tribalism.  And he’s probably right.

People have a need to belong, and do belong somewhere whether they want to or not (Martin Fowler’s book in Aug. 2014). People can belong to nuclear and extended families, to communities of faith, to activist groups or newly defined identity groups.  On top of all of this the arbitrary idea of nationalism.


I can pause for a moment, a few hours before the Washington Nationals start the playoffs and finally prove that they, no “we”, can win a playoff series, what rooting for a professional sports team means.  It’s a kind of tribalism.

I could say there is one individualistic art form that bridges individualism and tribalism – and that’s music.  When my brain and soul learns a repertoire, it seems to join something, find a commonality with others that is beyond words.  But music also has a way of getting people to join in to things together.  It’s interesting to ponder how classical, spiritual (like in church) and rock or hip-hop all work.  I’ll come back to all that again.

The only thing that survives “me” is what is beyond myself (as well as the historical meta-fact of my life, which always exists in larger space-time).  That’s true for all of us.  So, at some point, we all have to “join in” to something for some meaningful existence to transcend us after we are gone.

So some kind of tribalism is necessary.  But it takes individual work to solve problems and make innovations.  There is always this moral tension between individualism and connectivity, between ego expression and moral equality, between innovation and stability.
  
But we do have to face the idea that sometimes, one has to take one for the team. 

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