The Problem With Tribalism

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Tribalism, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as “tribal consciousness or loyalty” with a secondary definition of the term being “strong in-group loyalty”.

The key word in both definitions is “loyalty”

Is everyone worthy of your loyalty?

Is loyalty freely given in undying, unyielding perpetuity just because the person or persons you are giving your loyalty to look like you or perceptually think like you or belong to a group or ideology that you subscribe to?

If you think this way, and far too many people do, then you are not thinking rationally. In fact, you are not thinking at all.

The problem with tribalism is that it breeds cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy. It compels people to overlook and even defend people and actions that they would not tolerate or accept from people outside of their “tribe”, even if those actions and behaviors reflect badly upon the tribe.

Case in point…

There are black Americans who defend Bill Cosby and how the court system “failed him” or how he is portrayed in the media (social and traditional) both pre and post-conviction for sexual assault. There are vast and intricate conspiracy theories on the internet that suggest Cosby was incarcerated because he was trying to buy a major television network or because his estate is sitting on a vast, untapped petroleum reserve (not kidding at all, look it up).

The black Americans defending Cosby do so in large part because he is black. However, these same people overlook the dark, hidden history of Cosby’s sexual exploits that were overlooked by the Hollywood elite for decades because he was making a lot of people wealthy.

These same black Americans also overlook the fact that Cosby has the wealth to get the best legal defense team money can buy, yet he was still convicted. His trial was likely more fair than any trial a person of considerably lesser means could ever hope to have and he was still found guilty.

At some point, one has to concede that Cosby is in fact guilty of the crime for which he which he was convicted and is exactly where needs to be. However, tribalism implores a significant number of black Americans to defend him.

Bill Cosby is just one example of the problem with tribalism because this sort of thinking does not end with him.

We as Americans defend the questionable and reprehensible actions of certain politicians just because they belong to our party or subscribe to our chosen political ideology. We defend religious leaders who should be in prison rather than in the pulpit just because they are the leaders in the faith we belong to.

Whenever a mass shooting happens, racial minorities and white Americans alike are scouring the airwaves or the internet to find out the ethnic background of the perpetrator and hoping he (it’s almost always a male) is not of the same ethnicity as themselves, as if what racial group a mass murderer belongs to has anything to do with the heinous act they committed.

The problem with tribalism is that it dumbs people down and makes the indefensible fallaciously defensible. It tills the fertile ground upon which political, religious, and financial chicanery can be planted, grown, cultivated, and harvested. Tribalism makes people mentally malleable and this is not a good thing.

Never overlook, or worse, justify bad behavior from odious people just because you can identify with them racially or ideologically. It leads to nothing good.

Just ask anyone who lived in Germany in 1939…

-The Rational Ram

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