Tribal Memberships

The other day a friend on Facebook posted information about a company whom she felt should be boycotted for their stance on a recent supreme court case ruling. She posted and then went on with her day. It was and is my opinion that the supreme court ruled correctly (I know the SCOTUS will be relieved to learn that), however I had different reasons. On this particular topic, I happened to be agreeing with most of the arguments given by the right or conservative/Republican side. Again, though, not often for the same reasons.

In the ensuing conversation with friends of my friend, as I gave personal experience and opinion backed by historical evidence and precedence, there was one person who clearly disagreed with me, but whose responses were emotional and trying to categorize me as someone who doesn’t care. I could have stepped away from the conversation, but I had become resistant to giving in because I felt that giving in was the very reason our country is in the situation it is. I countered each of her arguments with rational responses and expected that at any moment she would label me a right wing nutcase or conservative neanderthal.
It didn’t take long for her emotions to spew and finally labeling me as tea party moron. I must admit, I had completely forgotten about that group. My response to that was humor, as it needs to be, and pointing out that just because I didn’t agree with her did not make me an alien. I personally do not vote a ticket without thought. I have often agreed with the Liberal/Democratic side and then been labeled a left wing nutcase. I have found that people who think for themselves will often have to endure the name-calling from all parties at some point.
Unfortunately, we see this all the time. This is a conclusion we have been led into over the last couple decades. As our media has become a podium for certain views and goes head to head with other stations who hold a differing view. First, we simply need to recognize that stations have agendas, either political, social or monetary. I am not judging them, simply pointing out that we, the people, just need to be aware of that. It is far too easy to find a station with which we can feel comfortable and then be led into stronger opinions on other topics.
It is human nature to seek out like-minded people, our tribe. This need for kinship is the main reason why we share such horrible stories via email or Facebook. We need to know that our tribe agrees with us, and horrible stories are much easier to get a consensus on.
So, we gravitate to a virtual world and as they share opinions on other topics, we feel that must be our opinion as well. It does not take long for us to allow ourselves to drink the collective cool-aid. From there it is a short step to recognize any dissent to the tribal rhetoric as alien and unacceptable.
Returning to the previously mentioned Facebook conversation, my verbal sparring partner had one tribe and one view. In her world, she and her group wanted people to be safe, and be treated fairly, and they had a certain set of steps that must be taken in order to achieve that end. The problem comes in when the group has been so indoctrinated that any dissent to the talking points was tantamount to treason. Therefore, anybody with alternative steps were seen as alien and with a different set of basic needs to be met. In truth, most people want the same basic needs to be met. They simply have alternative routes to get there.
While politics is certainly a big enough instigator of division, this thought of “if you… then you…” has permeated every other facet of our lives. We project our values onto others. If you were a good employee, you would dress in this attire. If you loved me, you would hold my hand when crossing the street. If you cared about your health, you would not eat that. If you were a good driver, you would follow further behind. If you … then you.
These are personal values projected on other people, and in my opinion they are the source of this country’s divided people. We are far too quick to make value judgments on people simply because they do not mirror our own ideals. And we need to stop it. I’m not suggesting we tolerate our differences, I’m suggesting we embrace and appreciate them. Our differences are this country’s foundation. Our ancestors didn’t agree with the one size fits all system of England and started a new country, based on different thoughts and values. Our Constitution was written to allow the greatest freedoms attainable, as long as one person or group did not directly harm another or keep them from their own rights and freedoms.
We have a long history of different thoughts and values being included in policy. We have a long history of understanding that the religion we chose or didn’t choose was based on our personal belief that the decision would bring us comfort and happiness and joy.
We have to stop the “if you… then you..” This has been the cause of a great deal of the “I’m offended,” responses to comments and posts. People are offended because they are living in the “if you, then you,” mode. People are offended, disgusted or upset by a co-worker’s messy desk, or clean desk, or goth make-up and dress, or that they have a Playboy in their drawer.
We need to stop projecting our values on others and seek to understand. If we could stop thinking about ourselves and what we feel is the right response, we could hear that we are all seeking the same basic needs. We are not aliens. We just have different ideas on how we can achieve some very common goals.
The key to this is stop drinking the cool aid. We need to recognize that there are a lot of very insecure people in our world and they have a strong need for tribal affiliation. We need to hear the individual tenets of the membership and say to ourselves and others, “I agree completely with this… but this part… I don’t think that is the answer.” Be ready for gasps and the membership equivalent to the “Pod People” * response, but you need to be true to yourself.
I love the word and feeling of tribe. I think it is very important to recognize who your tribes might be and to enjoy them. A tribe that completely agrees on everything is a tribe of one. Next time somebody offers you the cool-aid, politely ask for water instead. Keep your head clear to your own ideas.
*If you are not familiar with the movie, it is it worth learning more. The pod people recognize each other and if you are not one, this is your response. And then you better run, or you will be killed and replaced with a pod person that looks just like you. Clearly a movie way ahead of its time, like most sci-fi.