If there’s one thing I see too much of in this world, it’s tribalism. So much of the way our society has been programmed is in regards to categorizing people into allies or enemies. Sports and politics are two very easy and simple examples, but the topic obviously goes far deeper than that.
With sports, it’s fine. You cheer your own team on and are proud to be a fan when they win, and you get irrationally (perhaps playfully mad) when they lose to a team you hate. All well and good there. That’s not what the problem is.
The problem arises when people start identifying and supporting their group simply because of the name attached with it, rather than the ideas surrounding it. This isn’t an issue where sports are concerned, but I see the biggest offender of this is everything surrounding politics.
America has a two-party system. That’s all well and good (well, actually, I’d argue that it isn’t — at all — but that’s another story), but so much of the policies surrounding people and actions of our nation in the last several decades has been about “Democrats vs. Republicans”. Democrats can’t do anything right when they’re in office, and Republicans only screw it up more when they take the lead. So much negativity. Screw Obama and his administration. Trump is nothing but a racist idiot!
Yeah, yeah, sure, everyone sucks. But America’s politics has just become a giant grotesque cluster of ad hominem fallacies. We shouldn’t hate people just because they’re liberal, or conservative, or whatever stance they take on any topic. Nobody can ever have any healthy debates because two people on the same team will just talk about how awful the other side is, and when two sides talk to each other everything stops being about the topic and turns into insults. Healthy debate stops once the argument is not about the facts surrounding the topic. (This isn’t to say that feelings have no place, but feelings should, on principle, be supported by facts.)
Another huge issue is that we separate ourselves into two groups — liberal and conservative — and we characterize those groups by the loudest ones on the spectrum. The fact is, most of us lie moderately in the middle, and only lean one side or another. If I say I’m liberal, for instance, you might immediately conclude that I’m pro-choice, pro-immigration, pro-gun control, etc. I may or may not be any of these, but the problem is that assumption. Somebody can be liberal and be pro-life, or anything else, because so many topics are so complex that you can’t put a blanket statement over everything and separate them into one of two groups.
Now, pretending that American politics isn’t basically just a business that indulges itself rather than a government whose priority is its people, how do we fix this? Well, it needs to start with us. The media, the every day people, everyone. We would need to start a talk about the issues and stop identifying ourselves as “one or the other”. We all need to be open, often accepting, of new and previously contradicting information.
No more name calling. No more categorization as ‘friend or foe’. Just a healthy talk about what should and should not be done. Ideally, after a debate like this, you and the other person should agree based on the facts each have presented.
Obviously, this is never going to happen. But this is how we would start, if this change could happen.
8 thoughts on “Me — Too Much Tribalism!”
It is a serious problem when we say that all sides have their good points, so let’s all just get along. There are cases, without a doubt, where one side can be completely wrong. Consider the Trump phenomenon, or the Tea Party. These are two examples of shameless blatant fabrications foisted upon uninformed and vulnerable people. But you would engage with these sort of sham entities in a normal debate?
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I think treating the other side as flat-out wrong and stupid is just going to antagonize people, and won’t lead anywhere. Even if one considers “Trump supporters” to be gullible fools, treating them as such as a means of showing them what their faults just isn’t going to work.
I think people who seem to have their head in their clouds have their opinions based on feeling, rather than facts, so if you approach them as if their feelings are important (which, to be fair, they are,) and present them with new facts to change their feelings, you’ve got a better chance of changing your mind.
If we treat “the other” as an enemy, then they’ll do the same for us. If that happens, we’ll never find common ground because we’ll constantly be trying to find a border in between.
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I like what you’re saying No one is really going to disagree with the sentiment. I am thinking more about the Trump White House, and Trump himself. Trump & Co. hide behind the notion that all sides are equal. As for Trump supporters. Well, that is certainly on an individual basis. Everyone needs to take a close look in the mirror and decide what they can live with.
Yeah, it would be so easy to just find a way to “prove”, once and for all, that everyone on one side of an argument is simply wrong. Let’s get a little bit less political for a moment and talk about anti-vaxxers for example. I have no qualms with simply stating that their opinions aren’t just wrong — they are literally damaging to society. But using mass media as a means to change opinions en masse is nigh impossible.
The best we can do is, probably, to tailor the facts to every individual, treating them as people. Are they demonstrably wrong? Yes. Are they bad people? Absolutely not! They have their hearts in the right place (for the most part). Presenting the facts as “Look, I know you’re scared about vaccines, and your fear is totally understandable! But look at these facts and look at all this cool science! There’s nothing at all to be worried about. Plus, this is safer for your kid and the kids around them!”
This will probably go over more easily than “You can’t be serious. You’re one of THOSE people? You know there’s ZERO evidence backing your claim, right? The measles is coming back because of selfish, ignorant jerks like you!”
It can be hard. Some arguments are simply… wrong. But we have to treat people as people first. You’re not better than them just because you know you’re right, and treating people as if you think you are better isn’t going to get you anywhere. Trump supporters are sort of in that boat. Being on one side of an argument is NEVER grounds for attack. If you want them to think like you do, show empathy. No insults. For the sake of a huge hypothetical, imagine if the Romans instead showed the barbarians the virtues of Rome and their beliefs and government rather than attacking them and demanding tribute.
Labeling people in terms of political views is going to antagonize people, period. And as soon as that adversarial relationship begins, that snowball will only get bigger, and the more you treat somebody as wrong and stupid in a debate, the harder it will actually be to convince them to think the way you do.
Nope. Henry’s right!
Kollin! Love that you’re commenting on politics, WOOHOO!!!!
I really do not like politics — and it’s only because of this exact principle. I like healthy debates, but too many people treat it as a war zone. You’re not going to change the other’s mind. You’re either going to win or lose. I think there’s little to be gained from such an experience, unfortunately.
LOL i know. But the other side of the coin when the sides get along, is that people disengage because ‘one side looks exactly like the other.’ That’s how it was described through the 80s, when I was ~20 – 22 years old, and none of us cared. The banks collapsed, corruption abounded, and the religious right took over the GOP. If there is a good way to get the populace to care? I haven’t seen it in the US or elsewhere.