A couple of blogs ago I wrote an essay on Afghanistan wherein I explained how tribes were the foremost identifier for the majority of Afghans and how if you asked someone from that “country” what they were they would respond with their tribal affiliation vice calling themselves an Afghan. This is true in other places as well. In smaller towns in Saudi Arabia and Jordan you’ll hear the tribal before the national identification. Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Laos, Namibia, Zimbabwe and a host of other places in the world have tribal identities that surmount any national identity. There are genetic components to these tribal affiliations but it is not always a necessity for tribal formation or for a group to exhibit tribal-like characteristics. Some tribes have been based on common purpose and cross several genetic boundaries, like the Seminole tribes that formed in Florida in the U.S.A. Other groups have started with a common purpose but become tribe-like over time developing their own traditions and support structures.
We have always had all forms of tribalism in the United States. Native American tribes populated the region prior to the arrival of the Europeans and those tribes acted like any other tribal based societies with traditions, religion and language varying from tribe to tribe. There was a natural distrust of other tribes and competition for hunting areas and other natural resources brought conflict with the strongest tribe generally prevailing. In some regions confederations of tribes developed but each tribe continued to have its own designated areas and to hold sway in those areas. The wars between the English and French disrupted the order of the tribal unions once again placing tribe against tribe in the struggle for control of the land. But the Europeans also had a tribal structure based primarily on religion, status and place of origin. The English, the Irish, the French, the Germans, the Catholics, the Huguenots, the Anglicans, the Quakers and the Puritans marked out territory and acted in a tribal manner. One did not necessarily trust the others and even with the settling of boundaries for the new states of the Union you discovered tribal behavior displayed between the populations of the states and those tribal differences would result in a great domestic war.
In the aftermath of the Civil War we saw a growth of the rich tribes versus the poor tribes, the city tribes versus the rural tribes with a new tribe of suburbanites developing in the late nineteenth century. Then with the advent of trade unions people sometimes found themselves being pulled in different directions because of multiple tribal affiliations. Baptists belonging to the AFL found themselves paying dues that supported secular causes to which they were religiously opposed. So too, did Catholics and other denominations. But over all the tribalism lay the concept of E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one.” The concept of nation and the benefits of being one outweighed and made secondary the concept of belonging to a tribe or a number of tribes. It was a good thing and allowed the society to grow and it began to push tribalism even farther down the hierarchy in decision making while still allowing individuals to pursue tribal interests as they felt they needed.
Then “new” tribes based on things like skin shades, reinvigorated expressions of religion, sexual preferences, gender identity and political affiliation coalesced. The “tribes” began to exploit the burgeoning technology of every person being reachable at any given hour to publish their protests no longer just to local or regional audiences but to national and international communities. These were not protestations so much as they were demands seeking to have their tribal ideas and customs imposed on society in general. No longer, they say, should the one from many concept be honored wherein tribal objectives are subordinated to the concept of nation, but each tribe seeks dominancy over the other tribes to the point of wanting the One’s culture to be exclusively theirs.
These “new” tribes forget the history of the United States wherein, over two hundred and fifty years, the “One” has morphed into the most liberal, accepting society on earth by incorporating change driven by the needs of society and justice. In the history of the US these new tribes would find that, over time, their ideas, if merited, would find their way into the mainstream of American culture. Such history, however, is not sufficient for them. In fact, they attempt to rewrite history trying to prove that such things have never happened. They apply twenty-first century mores to seventeenth century actors and find them wanting and necessary of being labeled racist, misogynistic, and Puritanical when, in fact, our predecessors were simply acting out the tribal imperatives of their time. These more recent tribes refuse to consider the amendments to the Constitution like the abolition of slavery, the civil rights act, the voting act, the emancipation of women, the direct election of senators, as evidence of such evolutionary change and have begun to rationalize that giving preference to people because of their differences is more important than creating a oneness of identity as an American where no one receives more attention than anyone else, and everyone has the opportunity he, she or they work for. They ignore the beauty of the founders ability to engineer into the society a constitution that may be amended, but only by a majority. By such measures the new tribes attempt to discredit and destroy the process that made the U.S. the most liberal and inclusive culture in the history of the world. The inevitable result of such dissension and tribal warfare will be the destruction, not the reshaping, of the Republic; for no republic can exist when the constituent parts are not equal, as was demonstrated in 1860.
As these new tribes compete for power with the established hierarchy (and here it must be pointed out that power is the real objective of these tribes, not the societal inclusion they claim to seek, but simple power to dictate,) they cause the small cracks between the other hundreds of tribal affiliations to grow into major chasms. A quest for power on the part of one tribe causes a domino effect on other tribes who see their place in society being threatened requiring them to act. The technology of information dissemination has, in the past two decades, accelerated the process of tribal conflict by widening the access these tribes enjoy.
Just as you hear in Afghanistan, “I am Pashtun” or “I am Tajik” so too you hear in the United States, “I am (choose your ethnicity)-American,” “I am (pick one of the 72 possible)-Gender,” “I am a member of (choose one of the many) political party,” and so forth. Tribal identity supersedes national identity whereas we should be hearing “I am an American who is (choose your ethnicity),” I am an American who is (make your choice)-gender,” “I am an American who belongs to this political party.” But most of all we should be hearing, “I am an American who supports the Republican form of government and the Constitution that has made the U.S. the desired destination of most of the rest of the world.”
The resort to tribalism and the invoking of long ago real or imagined wrongs plays directly into the hands of those who hold secretly to the Lucifer leader ethos explained in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”:
“Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.”
Thus, the more the physical and political conditions of our society, whether local or national, deteriorate into “Hellish” conditions, the more the would be Lucifers rejoice.
Next: Discussion of a return to creating one out of many.