Against talk of tribalism

Could we come up with a better term than “tribalism” please? Indigenous peoples have tribes. Politics has something quite different.

That is a tweet from the excellent Stewart Brand.  He adds:

So far, “gang” is the best substitute I’ve seen here. It’s volitional, self-protective, dangerous.


A better word is “coalition instincts”. A much more clinical and accurate description human nature. See this essay...

The iron sharpens champeen birds.

We are all indigenous somewhere.

Except for those of us who are aborted before our day of birth. Such people do not get to be indigenous anywhere.

Even the exposed babies of ancient Sparta, who died on cold classical hillsides after miserable hours and days of no food, no milk, no human love, and only two kinds of knowledge - discomfort and pre-literate awareness of human evil - were indigenous.

Not so for the aborted babies of those and later generations. Those babies are NOT indigenous.

Whether you agree with my capitalization or not, you know that is the truth.

either you remember that there are other people in this world, whom God loves, or you don't. And yes there are degrees of remembering, and degrees of failing to remember.

God loves us all, every one of us.

those victims of Sparta had two kinds of knowledge -

knowledge of chalchalah (anguish, more or less, in Hebrew) and

knowledge of "etz hada'at [tov] wa-ra'" (knowledge, more or less, of good and evil, with the knowledge of good in brackets, signifying the lack of good that anyone showed to them).

Everyone has a right to be indigenous somewhere. Everybody knows that.

You see, you may have heard about those exposed Spartan children in high school, or maybe in your freshman year at college.

Or maybe you are the sort of person who is proud that you never "took to all that school learning"

It does not matter what you knew before, you know this now, whether you were proud in your classical scholarship or just as proud in your "I am just an average guy" superiority to people who know about such things - or even if you fall into neither of these categories - you know this now, because you are reading this and because I , who am writing this, am extraordinarily honest ( Cor ad Cor loquitur), the fact is, the Spartans left tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands over the years, of babies out to die, their own children, and all that those babies - every single one of the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands - knew of life was anguish and the hard breathtakingly hard knowledge that their own parents and relatives did not love them, and nobody else was willing to do anything for them.

Pray for them, they will know you prayed for them.

And if you have rooted for a team called the "Spartans": or if you have been tempted to sneer when someone says, 'but what about the unborn babies" ... or if you just, in general , consider yourself to be a "real person" and a "regular guy" who does not need to care about the victims of people like the Spartans --- and as God is my witness there are still hundreds or thousands of such victims every day, who die without knowing anything of their fellow men but the anguish they were inflicted with by their fellow human beings , and the anguished knowledge of nothing but unkindness from their fellow human beings (may God forgive those evildoers) --- if you have been tempted to sneer at people who care about those victims, please reconsider.

let's say in a game you play with your wife you build a house nested under a volcano and I'm talking indistinguishable, and you raise llamas and all the rest, but your wife destroys it, for reasons unknown, perhaps valid but unknown, have you lost any value?

"I am not I; thou are not he or she; they are not they"

you see, when Waugh chose that as the motto of the novel he worked hardest on, he was answering a question like yours.

While I appreciate your effort at setting forth a possible scenario, I have to say it may not have been worth your time. It is childish to think that, in the grand scheme of things, it is important to think that your wife really was your wife. Maybe she was, maybe not, sad to say. Maybe she was your soulmate, but almost certainly not. She was just a fellow passenger who you would have cared nothing for if she had not been cute enough to catch your interest. Am I right? Sure you would have saved her, if you could, from the volcano ... with sprezzatura (italian word for the display of truth and art for no reason but the joy of such display, and the joy of the appreciation thereof that one humbly observes) ... sure you would have done that good thing ...
but the important question is not what you would have done in such a dramatic situation.

The important thing is, when you were tempted not to care about the losers in life, did you give in?

I am old and I know I did not give in, at least sometimes, but I am asking you the question, not vice versa.

Even if you do not believe in all those miracles, all those poor disgusting lepers being cured and then going off to live normal lives, normal lives like the life you yourself want to live (and I hope you do), all those women with a dozen years of non-stop dysmennorhea, all those victims of Herod who immediately became saints, all those other various losers who - out of all the losers in the universe - are now remembered by classicists and theologians and by country music aficionados and even by other people with similar unusual traits - because they lived at the same time as Jesus (but God knows everyone who has ever suffered and prayed for God's help will be equally remembered, one day, as someone just as important as the people who were the first to be healed) --- even if you do not believe all those miraculous cures occurred (but they did) you have to understand you could be wrong. It is not possible that a rational creature can not know about that possibility.

as for me, no I did not lose anything valuable in the scenario you set up

unlike Waugh, I can say "I am exactly the person whom God created to be me:
each of the people I talk to are the people that God created to be whoever they are:
and the people we do not know, the people we think of as "they":

each of them are children of God, about whom neither you nor I have written the poem or the story that (one hopes) describes them at their best, and about whom, if they are constant evil-doers, well ... let's pray that they repent. Such prayers are very useful. Even from someone like me, who is just an average person, at best (I do not claim to be anything like a saint, although I know that "The only tragedy in life is not to be a saint", as the croissant connoisseur innocently but truly said) -even from someone like me, such prayers may be quite powerful (God loves us all, remember, and cares little about prizes and money, and God cares very much about our decision to pray for others.) And if they are good people, who pray for us .... well God bless them, and you too, bot or not bot ...

Is it worth while to reply in such detail to an obvious bot? Who knows.

Communication is like "lluvia fresca in nos manos", is it not? Does not God send rain for the just and the unjust = los justos y los injustos?

hey bot ...

"como una guitarra en la noche"

some day you will understand

that day you will, like me, have never been a "bot"

"lluvia fresca in nos manos", I hope you understand

I knew some really talented computer scientists when they were young

so did you

"una guitarra en la noche"

wake up

se llueve

los justos y los injustos

chebere lluvia chebere sobre los justos chebere sobre los injustos

for the record, that was just me talking to a bot, and recalling to the bot that we live in a world where the happiness expressed in the Eurovision classic "Eres Tu" (the lyrics are at once silly and profound) is true happiness (something bots are designed to hanker after) and just me patiently explaining to a bot (and what do bots understand if they do not understand patience - think about it) that we live in a world where the truth expressed in the not hard to understand if you care Biblical phrase "it rains on the just and the unjust" is, in fact, truth (again, something bots are designed to comprehend)

chebere is a newish Spanish word for "cool, exciting, wonderful"

seriously I have no desire to waste any one's time

(the b in chebere sounds better when you say it as if it was almost a v)

thanks for reading.

You're welcome. I read it. If God existed, he would not have allowed that to happen to those children.

Why do we need a new word to describe what the word 'politics' has always meant?

We don't. We need a word to describe something that politics never was and still is not.

But we're not talking about "politics". What is going on goes beyond normal politics - we're talking about a systemic social problem that is interfering with normal political negotiation.

Normal political negotiation is what goes on in a consensual frame. Keynesians can debate supply-siders but nobody can debate a socialist. The socialist either takes your stuff or you stop him from taking your stuff. Same thing with Southerners and their cheaper, browner labor force and Northern exporters--there was not room enough in the same country for both. Those are economic divides. There are ethnic divides too: Jews and Palestinians, Serbs and Croats, Turks and Greeks. As the questions get more fundamental, politics becomes territorial, not ideological. That's what separate countries are for.

Basically what you are arguing is that Blue States and red States should formally separate and become different countries.

Probably. The last time we had this degree of political and economic imbalance we killed 600,000 of each other.

Los Angeles County alone is more populous than 41 of the States. The urban majorities will not tolerate the Constitution's anti-majoritarian provisions forever, and the flyovers will not consent to rule by the coastal cities.

You think the Coastal Cities would let the Flyovers leave peacefully?

I'm not sure.

Are you kidding? The Flyovers have all the guns.

>Why do we need a new word to describe what the word 'politics' has always meant?

Because now it reflects badly on Democrats.

Disagree. The word 'tribe' is a nod to the primitive nature of the phenomenon, and anyway, gangism isn't a word, so the suggested alternative still needs work.

Not to mention that "Indigenous peoples" pretty much behaved in the same way a gang does. So the distinction here is purely based on the false premise.

Yeah, I mean...if anything, it's disrespectful the other way. The Comanches liked to torture prisoners to death and mutilate the corpses of their enemies, cutting off fingers and sticking them in eyesockets, cutting of lips, ears, scalps, genitals, etc. American politics might be a bit rancorous, but even in the Civil War, things didn't go that far.

Not just the Comanches

Shhhh. You can’t say that.

The president, oops I mean tribal chief, said "we have to be tough with these people."

Those darn Comanches just couldn't grasp the concept of humane warfare, insisting on engaging in it on a personal basis. They may have never come up with the humane idea of using atomic weapons to reduce the opposition to smithereens, be they able-bodied young men, geriatrics or teen-age girls.

If they could have, they would have. That is beyond obvious.

Yeah, but they didn't. We did.

And you should be thankful for that. Try giving nuclear weapons to the tribes in Africa to see what happens.

In which all the people who applauded Trump's "go after the terrorist's families" congratulate themselves on how advanced they are.

How inane. As if the one person you were responding to also "applauded" Trump's "go after the families" remark, and as if that had any bearing on the point of that person. The bottom line is, either you believe the world would be a better place under the dominion of the Comanches, or you don't. Not that Western civilization is as pure as the driven snow.

Thanks for displaying the definition of a false choice.

In what way is it a false choice? Either some cultures are or were more humane than others, or not.

The US needs a spectacular monument to commemorate our incredible bravery in dropping atomic bombsfrom miles up in the sky on old ladies and kids. Maybe weld together a big pile of worn-out Japanese motorcycles and locate them next to the Wall Street bull.

It's rare nowadays to actually find an apologist for our engagement in WWII.

For your next trick you'll try to explain that the atomic bomb was unnecessary and cruel, but any fifth grader could explain the reasons why we used it: the alternatives were much worse.

Look up the Battle of Berlin and others leading up to the fall of Germany.

“gangism isn't a word”
Seems like it is, given that you just used that string of letters, and we all know what you meant.

“Your dumb.”

I just used that string of letters, and you knew what I meant, and it’s a string of letters many other people use. Is it English? No, it’s not. It’s idiotic gibberish. Discuss.

Agreed. The whole point of using this word is to match it to patterns of behavior, thought and loyalty common to actual tribes, not especially modern ones but not exclusive of them either.

I imagine this tweet is most likely motivated by a false impression of the appeal of the interactions of indigenous people.

it's actually kind of a plus that "tribe" doesn't necessarily come with te overt negative connotations of "gang". Tribe is neutral and general enough to encompass both identity politics and partisan loyalty.

Indeed. And “gang” suggests illegality and contempt for the law. What the Dems (and to a lesser extent the GOP) are currently up to is by and large legal, if unsavoury.

I agree. The idea that only "indigenous" (read: poor brown) people have tribes or think in tribal ways is false. The point of using this term is to draw attention to our continuing susceptibility to the cognitive biases we evolved to have when we were all hunter-gatherers - to point out that our politics is being influenced by those same biases in potential similar ways.

Indeed. The idea of a gang implies something illegal and negative. Tribes are not negative in themselves; they are inevitable, even healthy. Who doesn't want sports teams with enthusiastic fans, but not street fights and riots.

The problem isn't tribalism. It is the insistence by many on both sides to impose their beliefs by law on the other.

No, tribalism IS a problem. It is a sub-rational behavior that causes people to divide into self-selected in-groups and out-groups, which prevents people from thinking clearly about political issues. They become biased in favor of defending whatever position their in-group is defending, because of the natural human instinct to defend their tribal group.

Tribes in a primitive society are a healthy adaptation to living in an uncertain environment, but are unhealthy in the context of a democratic nation state, where decisions have to be made by popular consensus. Tribalism interferes with society's ability to reach effective policy decisions - it turns politics into a relative status competition between groups rather than a mechanism to reach just, fair, and mutually beneficial policies.

It's an evolutionary adaptation for social animals. It's how we get men to fight the bad guys or run into burning buildings to rescue their neighbors' kids.

As a globalist, you'll be pleased to know this instinct has been suppressed by the British government, so Pakistani immigrants can ply their pimping trade on British teenagers in peace. If only we could make the same sort of social progress in the US!

Grow up, A-G. Such a snowflake, trembling in fear of a scary world overrun by browns.

Why do you think Africans and Central Americans come here instead of just moving to another place in Africa or Central America?

Same reason your ancestors and mine came here, it's where the money is. That and the freedom (relative to the rest of the world).

You're just advancing the question a step. Why is the money here and not the resource-rich, geographically huge Global South? Why is it only within the Hajnal lines or the diaspora from within the Hajnal lines?

There are massive books written by experts who know way more than you or I on that. It's not really relevant to the point. The most likely outcome over time is the world continuing to get richer, even the shitty parts, like China used to be (and much of it still is). We'll all be one nation in the far future, and you and I won't be around to celebrate/mourn. Our descendants will be fine with it because it will be the world they know.

We'll all be one nation in the far future

LOL. The Romans thought everybody would be a Roman too. The Byzantines were calling themselves an "empire" right up to the time they were down to one city and a few islands. I bet you lapped up every word of Fukuyama's thesis.

And yet, here we are with exponentially more people, in ever growing nations wealthy and free of violence beyond the wildest dreams of the Romans and Byzantines. I guarantee I'm correct, just as I guarantee we will both be long gone when it happens.

So you're in favor of having a few lynching to make sure the pimping market is reserved for good Englishmen?

Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking.

Well, how else do you expect tribalism to play out in the context of Pakistani men running white girls as hookers?

It plays out in lower incidence of under-age pimping among English than Pakistanis. Are you really this ignorant?

Same reason people pay more for white neighbors. Not because they think white criminals don't exist, but because white criminal incidence is six times lower than blacks.

You're skipping a step. How do you get from "tribalism" to "fewer Pakistani men working as pimps" ?

The English tribe maintains its tribal homelands for the English, not for the multi-tribal British Commonwealth. You may be familiar with the saying that empires always end up broke, socialist and populated by their enemies.

You forgot "with healthier, wealthier people than before"

Well, it's too late for that. So what are you planning to do with the Pakistani men who are already there? Mass deportations?

That would be my recommendation. Pakistani Muslims and Protestant English are immiscible--they won't marry each other beyond marginal phenomena, and they have different histories, ancestry, heroes, everything. That's why the English are leaving London for the surrounding suburbs.

I never knew that Aristotle was a globalist. The city is formed when an extraordinary individual knocks together some tribal heads of different villages to form the first truly political entity, namely, the city (polis), and people are expected to resolve their differences in a civilized manner through speech and reason, not tribal warfare.

In the polis, it helps to all be distantly related to each other. Presumably, Aristotle counseled the Macedonians to settle their differences non-violently, while simultaneously having no issue with Alexander slaughtering Persian soldiers for the sole purpose of enriching the kingdom of Macedonia.

All humans are distantly related to each other.

Look, I get where you are coming from, we're in a Hobbesian world of all against all, banding together in clans to fight each other for dominance. But all you need to do is change your scale. The whole world can be a tribe, someday. On Star Trek the tribes are humans, Klingons, Romulans, etc. Let's work on forming one tribe here.

In ancient times the 'tribes' were really bands of 100-200 or so. Then the unit grew to clans, then tribes, then nations. No reason the unit can't keep growing.

Yeah, really and in this context, we're talking about tribes *within* the nation interfering with becoming one tribe *as* a nation, something which I would think Anti-Gnostic would be in favor of, unless I'm mistaken. As I've previously argued, a lot of the politics of the left is about social inclusion specifically SO THAT we can build social trust across races, because for sure keeping minority groups as out-groups isn't going to make us into one national tribe. Unless you are planning to, you know, massacre them all in ovens or something, we're either going to include everyone across ethnic lines, or we're going to have internl tribal divisions and identity politics and all that. Hence, the true nationalist should actually be in favor of the inclusive social policies of the left.

A-G isn't a 'true nationalist'. He's a white nationalist. He has stated that the proper national unit is a group of related and ethnically homogenous people. As he said above, break up the USA.

Ahh. I see. So he's not actually an American nationalist, he's a nationalist of some hypothetical white's only state that would comprise parts of North America.

What do you tell your Jewish friends when they have their mitzvahs and welcome their children into the Nation of Israel? Hungary doesn't have an immigration problem: they insist that they are a Hungarian, Christian country and don't allow immigrants or very few immigrants. Ethno-nationalist Israel seems to be doing better than all its neighbors, for that matter.

If everybody focused on making their own countries great again, it would be a better world.

Perhaps, but it would definitely be a better world if people were considered people above all, and not members of separate 'immiscible' tribes. Your error is having far too short a time frame. I don't know if the world will be less tribal and better off in 10 or 20 years. Or even 50. But in 100+ it will be. And the arrow only points one way, and I have 5000 years of recorded history backing me up.

Five thousand years of recorded history show a series of human waves, taking over. Also, lots of warfare.

You act as if World War 2 settled everything from now until Star Trek, but there have been a number of changes even since then. There are about 10 countries where the USSR used to be. There are 5 countries where Yugoslavia used to be.

The Middle East has a lot of structural issues.

The British Empire dissolved so there's no reason for New Zealand, Australia or Canada to exist other than there's nowhere for the former British colonials to go. That's like a very slow explosion. Something is going to replace those Imperial vestiges eventually.

Those details obscure the continued increase in wealth and health and decrease in violence experienced by humans over the years since WWII.

You're focused on lines on a map, what parts of the world are part of what empire. How does any of that matter for overall human flourishing?

Again, we are talking about two different timescales. We are one race, the human race. You want to divide it into little groups because historically there were little groups. And there were, and still are. But over time the little groups become bigger and eventually the group will be species-wide. Guaranteed.

“I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind?...Will not a lover natural history, then, one who views the gruadations in all the races of animals with the eye of philosophy, excuse an effort to keep those in the department of man as distinct as nature has formed them?” …This unfortunate difference of colour, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people."

Both of body and mind? Tell that to the NBA. Or any other major sports league. And if the part about the body is false, why should we believe it about the mind either? Odd how people cling so desperately to falsehoods they were taught as children.

"inclusive social policies of the left"

Where is this unicorn? We build social inclusion by using the power of law to systemically advantage some people over others based on the color of their skin or their genitals? We shout down and assault those we disagree with as vermin so that we can build trust across races??

In theory if not in practice. I think libertarians would actually be better at practicing social inclusion than the current left, if we can manage to expunge the racist alt-right element. Because the left doesn't actually believe in individualism. And you can't get to a state of individuals living in equal dignity and mutual respect if you don't believe in indivdualism. Furthermore, the left's beliefs in the primacy of groups inherently run counter to the concept of universal inclusion. Groups, by definition, are exclusive. You can't do identity politics if people can universally choose any identity they want. The overaching ideal of having a fully inclusive society is correct though - you just can't get to it with identity politics.

The whole world can be a tribe, someday. On Star Trek the tribes are humans, Klingons, Romulans, etc. Let's work on forming one tribe here.

Leave me out of your insane, utopian schemes that never work and always end in bloodshed.

Except I just explained that my 'scheme' is actually the story of human history to date. Don't worry, you and I will be long gone when the whole world is evolved past blinkered tribal conflict.


Maybe oneday. But your super-tribe is extremely vulnerable to sub-tribe defection in the absence of norm enforcement. Have you ever grappled with the game-theory aspects of the problem? You are very glib in assuming everyone will sign up for the benefits of the super-tribe and not promptly defect by favouring their sub-tribe if they faced no penalty for doing so.

In reality, building a unified tribe is very difficult, takes time (and enforcement), and seems to be heavily reliant upon at least a degree of co-sanguinity and culture/values amongst the constituents. You proclaim all men are brothers, whilst the alien stabs you and gives your wallet to his cousin.

This is an economics blog. You should know what the micro-economics experiments say.

Just a believer in social evolution continuing as it has for millenia. The French and Germans used to hate each other with deadly passion, fighting war after war against each other. Now they are basically the same, and with exponentially more people. I figure that happens eventually worldwide, especially with the virtualization of the world continuing apace.

So after ten bloviating comments lowtking ends up at precisely antignostic position of that’s what seperate countries are for. France and Germany didn’t merge into one super country they adjusted their borders until finally French people were all in France and German people were all in Germany. Until that point they wanted to kill each other. Brotherhood of man absolutely but please don’t bring your pathologies here. Simple solution Pakistanis stay in Pakistan and rape and pimp to their hearts are content. If eventually Pakistanis decide that raping innocent girls need to stop then they have even more incentive to stop because the victims are their own people.

I don’t go to your hovel and hang nice art and replace your microwaveable meals with hand cooked meals and your weird porn collection with gk chesterton novels because we like different things. Same thing for Pakistanis and the English let a thousand flowers bloom in their own garden and if you screw up and produce only manure tough- roll up those sleeves and maybe you can improve things.

If you don't think Germany is more peaceable than it was in 1939, you're smoking dope.

Germany does not just contain "Germans" - there are large numbers of Turks and other minorities. France has a German-speaking area in Alsace-Lorraine and a number of linguistic minorities in the south and west, as well as a large number of North Africans. I am more sanguine about the prospects of the Turks in Germany than the North Africans in France because of the different strains of Islam they come from, and Syrians are now a factor (mostly negative), but none of these problems make France and Germany any more likely to shoot at each other. I'm just saying that "the French are now all in France and the Germans are now all in Germany" is a tremendous oversimplification.

I am happy to accommodate private, informal tribal arrangements - I belong to one called the "Jews," who meet in our own synagogues, schools, and restaurants - as long as we/they do not demand special privileges or pick fights with other tribes unless they initiate violence against us. Meanwhile, we are one world - I can get anywhere in the world in two days and to most places in half a day, something our ancestors couldn't dream up - and we had better get used to it and start living like we're all neighbors.

Wow this is such a perfect example of someone who knows nothing thinking they no everything. There are more German speakers in Belgium than France WW2 absolutely produced borders that were infinitely more ethnicized than before. Also pro tip it’s now called Grand Est not Alsace Lorraine but clearly you don’t rwally know anything about the issue and you are just hazily remembering the Franco Prussian war. So what seems like an over simplicifation to you is in fact evidence of your ignorance.

It’s also hilarious that you bring up North African and Turks since that’s an example of proximity straining relationships not helping them. German Turkish relations are likely at the lowest point they’ve been in 250 years. Would you say that Germany and Turkey get along better or worse than they did in 1914? This is the problem the fact you can get on a plane makes you think that you understand cultures that you know nothing about.

Tribes in a primitive society are a healthy adaptation to living in an uncertain environment, but are unhealthy in the context of a democratic nation state, where decisions have to be made by popular consensus.

The unhealthy entity is the nation/state, democratic or otherwise. Decisions made by popular consensus aren't a feature of the nation/state at all. Necessarily small in numbers, tribal societies select the most able to be decision makers without elections or the other machinations of pseudo-sophisticated nations.

In the nation/state only a tiny, tiny fraction of the population has any personal knowledge of any of the candidates for public office. Their vote can't be anything more than a response to advertising, being similar to the purchase of a candy bar. Except their investment is even less than the purchase of a candy bar.

I'm not going to disagree with you there. I'm not really a fan of representative democracy either. Our electoral college system is even more vulnerable to tribalism biases because of the winner-take-all seat allocation and the effect of spoilers. (Arguably it is a root cause of growing tribalism).

It's quite possible that a different system would be less vulnerable to the human tendency towards tribal affiliation, which is something we should be thinking about.

I'd argue the root cause of growing tribalism was the increasingly value of the political pot through scope and centralisation of government power. When the Feds only influenced 5% of your life, it isn't worth much effort to get 'riled up. But when they influence 50%, then the struggle for control of Leviathan takes on terrifying import.

See SCOTUS for details.

Totally. As the stakes get higher, there is more to lose if your tribe doesn't come out on top.

I pretty much agree (below) but I'd say intrinsic rather than primitive.

I say if these things do not occur in their proper time, it is because [of] the world in which we live does not exist, and we are deceived with regard to its existence. - D.Walker

There certainly may be a better term than “tribe”. “Factions” was good enough for James Madison. I will genially switch to what ever word public opinion converges on, but what tribe describes here does seem consistent with the above imprecise definition, and in fact, whether it is appropriate to refer to Indigenous peoples as “tribes” is a subject of debate- to many it sounds like colonialism. In Canada, Indigenous people stopped using the word tribe decades ago- they are “First Nations” (there’s also Metis and Inuit). Even though tribe is the accepted term in the United States, their concerns seem to be more that of a “nation”- control of land, resources, political sovereignty, treaties signed with the US government etc. Obviously, while what we’re discussing here involves real political issues, those have always existed. What seems different is that now it’s also about things like “owning the libs” which seems much more on the tribal level of say, the McDonalds and Campbells.

Indeed, and some American Indian groups have objected to the word "tribe" because of its connotations of primitive American Indian marauders being the enemy of Americans.

But we wade deep into waters of political correctness at this point, not only are words such as "tribes" subject to contention, so are ones such as "American Indian" vs "Native American". Canada seems to have settled on "First Nations" but it's been years since I've been there, I don't know how much agreement they actually have on that term.

"Factions" and "factionalism" seem fine to me.

This strikes me as the sort of thing that only bothers white liberals and not the actual minority group.

Annoying whiny progressives, not liberals

My basic rule of thumb is: If someone says "I'm offended", I'll look at what I've said and determine whether or not there is some issue I need to address. I give them the benefit of the doubt and examine my statements/actions to see if there's anything unintentionally offensive in them.

If someone says "I'm offended on behalf of..." I ignore them. Such people are generally misrepresenting the views of those they believe they represent. Worse, they are in fact telling those groups "Sit down and shut up while the grownups talk." They remove the voices of minority groups from the discussion, by co-opting the offense the minority groups may feel.

If someone who belongs to a recognized tribe says "I'm offended by the use of the term tribalism", I'll consider it a legitimate question worth examination. Until then, this is a non-issue that someone is trying to make into a controversy. Not worth the time, effort, or brainpower necessary to analyze the question.

What's wrong with "faction". Federalist No. 10 (?) is all about it. Spoiler alert- they hated them

Yep - nothing wrong in using the words the Founders would.

Though generally, faction has a meaning involving multiple groups, and not the current peculiar America political thinking that there are two groups exclusively opposing each other, in a sense that seems almost overwhelmingly simplistic (good/evil, black/white, right/left, etc.)

He may see some of my brethren in league with tyrants, selling their own brethren into hell upon earth, no dissimilar to the exhibitions in Africa, but in a more secret, servile and abject manner. - D.Walker

Party-ism? Although partisanship may be a better word for that...

The founders were opposed to the existence of political parties for precisely this reason. It is only because parties have been tamed that they became acceptable, but there is a vicious nature lurking in every political party.

"Tribalism" works for me. It's part of our nature.

Our own chuck martel approves of this post.

Put me down for "faction/factionalism" too.

Jason Brennan's "hooliganism" is much more on the mark.

Way different meaning

"Indigenous peoples have tribes. "

"Middle English, from Latin tribus, a division of the Roman people, tribe" Merriam-Webster online

"The first known use of tribe was in the 13th century" also Merriam-Webster online

Pretty sure the Roman Republic and the 13th century both pre-date the European discovery of America.

The word "indigenous" doesn't mean what you think it means.

"The word "indigenous" doesn't mean what you think it means."

Its Brand who think it means American Indian and similar aboriginal non-white people.

Gang, as with tribe, suggests a commonality of interests, but the Republican coalition is anything but a commonality of interests. Sure, there's a commonality of hatred for the other, but there's no commonality of interests, economic or social. What brings them together is very sophisticated, very modern, propaganda, delivered through media of all types. Gang is an appropriate term in that it suggests conspiracies and collusion, but that implies knowledge on the part of the gang. In this gang, the "gang" is ignorant of the propaganda. I like the term "misfits", not least because of Flannery O'Connor's use of the term for the Misfit in A Good Man is Hard to Find. And indeed he is.

LOL. Republicans are the last civic nationalists. Ask Bernie Sanders how his silly 1930s trade unionism went on the campaign trail.

So do you only suck Steve Sailer's dick on the daily or also give him a massage on the balls while you're doing it?

The Left has run out of arguments.

Indigenous peoples have tribes. Politics has something quite different.

This is hilariously Indignant White-Mannish, as if the noble savages didn't sully themselves with crude politics like when, say, they were flailing their enemies alive, or as if Occidentals are meticulously spawned out of Petri dishes instead of breeding and living in families, clans and creeds like everybody else.

Academics really need to grow up and acquaint themselves with the human condition.

Agree. Saying "We don't have tribes! We are modern and civilized, unlike those other people!" is really having a willful blind spot.

You forgot species-ist.

Yes, precisely. I'm reminded of when the archeologists found Cheddar Gorge man and then took DNA from people in the nearest village and found they were pretty much fourth cousins twice-removed.

From Dalrymple's book report on "The Virtue of Nationalism" this morning:

"As a European state, Israel is held up to a different standard from Arab states, Iran or Turkey, because European states have supposedly now reached a higher ethical stage, that of national altruism rather than national egotism, a stage which those of lesser breeds without the (moral) law, still mired in egotism, have not attained. It turns out that it is rather more difficult to disembarrass yourself of feelings of superiority than at first might have been supposed."

I wonder if people are too taken with this question because Stewart Brand is so excellent ..

I would say that there are strong reasons to believe that our political tribalism is driven by a genetic inheritance as social creatures, going back to literal tribe, and even further to band.

There too much literature on proto-this, proto-that, behavior aligning the primates to our modern human world to ignore.

The use of the term "tribe" in a modern political context indicates that the user doesn't have enough grasp of social knowledge to have a valid opinion on the subject.

Aren't you from the Nocahoma tribe? Like, near Atlanta?

I know he's trying to get a quick win by appearing to care about something so trivial, so kudos for that, but he's not perfectly current (though of course the point of the game of changing nomenclature is that no one ever be current for long). The vocal internet representatives of the various American Indian tribes prefer "nation"; Indigenous peoples of North America may be permitted by these spokespersons to refer to themselves as a tribe, as they prefer, but outsiders are not to. This seems to be because "tribe" was used by white settlers in the past, so it is presumed to be demeaning, as with other words such as "squaw" or "redskin" or "savage." Whether use of the Latin word "nation" will now become off-limits to people not members of one of the nations-formerly-denoted-tribes is as yet unclear, but would obviously fit the prevailing mood in other ways. Meanwhile, "tribe," if it can be divorced from all association with people with Native ancestry or registration, may perhaps someday re-enter the lexicon untroubled.

See the internet furor over a children's book, dull but with the pretty colors that sell books to women, called "There Is a Tribe of Kids."

"Gang" doesn't exactly conjure the same ethnic or cultural ties, though I vaguely remember somebody after 9/11 trying to make the case that Al Qaeda reflected nothing so much as young male gang behavior.

I think nations were comprised of tribes, hierarchical.

There's probably a decent thesis out there that Al Qaeda/ISIS is what happens in Big Man-cultures with surplus males.

"Hypocritical Favoritism for Ideological Values Allies" (Hy-FIVE).

That captures the "by any means necessary" moral calculus, and the unethical denial of one's dropping of principles and shrinking the circle of concern when in competition with political rivals.

Now, there's kind of a big joke here, intentional or unwitting. (Ask who tends to like to police language usage to signal virtue, and especially purportedly for the sake of the status of indigenous peoples.)

Still, on the merits of the surface claim, "tribalism" should indeed go away in favor of straightforward naming of the attitudes and behaviors about which people are complaining. A bigger problem than mere inaccuracy is that the 'tribal' criticism is an intellectual shortcut that provides license for dismissal and for the claimant to avoid engaging with the opposition. "My opinions were arrived at via reasoning through arguments and evidence, but yours are just 'tribal' and the product of primitive conformity and groupthink impulses."

"My opinions were arrived at via reasoning through arguments and evidence, but yours are just 'tribal' and the product of primitive conformity and groupthink impulses."

I would think the right response would be to acknowledge that everyone is biased by primitive conformity and groupthink impulses rather than saying "let's pretend that everyone's opinions are arrived at through strictly rational analysis." Because we all know they aren't.

If we aren't going to use "tribalism" we still have to come up with another word for "the tendency of people to just agree with whatever their in-group says", because that is a real phenomenon.

I like the term 'gangs'. Then politicians become "gangsters".

Trump as gangster? Nope, not seeing it.

"Gangs" has even less neutral connotations than "tribes". I thought it was a general rule to try to use neutral language instead of loading it up with smuggled assumptions.

Only in the driest of academic journals do they insist on using "neutral" language. More vivid language better captures the phenomenon.

+1 and +2 if they're subject to RICO.

The many tribes that once made up the population of the western hemisphere have been reduced to an ineffective remnant by a number of factors.

In the US, at least, this multitude of tribes has been replaced by a single all-powerful tribe whose membership doesn't exactly correspond to any particular political fancy. This is the tribe we refer to as law enforcement.

That's the libertarian ideal, isn't it, the State and the Individual as the only parties with agency?

With all due respect for Mr. Brand, and recognizing this as a post Columbus Day post, I think the word 'tribal' is closer to the essential nature of the phenomenon. We know we are a tribal species - we feel a strong affinity for people that share the same myths, speak the same language, follow the same customs, and probably are genetically closer to us. These feelings are not rational, we don't choose to have them, they are heuristics that over the long span of human history have been selected because they ensured survival. We have these tendencies because those humans without them did not pass along their DNA - they did not survive.

Tribal people have an intense fear of strangers and outsiders who may not be strangers but have different languages, customs, and myths. There are numerous examples, the most famous being the Dani in New Guinea and the Yanomamo in South America.

We have fear and mistrust built in, which makes sense - if you underestimate the danger of an outsider you might die, if you overestimate the danger you lose a potential friend - one of those mistakes has more severe consequences than the other.

Yes, tribalism it is.

Tribe works. We know what it means in both its positive and negative connotations. Also, I don't think indigenous peoples care.

Another advantage of the word "tribes" is that it emphasizes that current society is not just one in-group and a bunch of out-groups. It is a number of different in-groups (tribes) vying for dominance, where the in-groups are the out-groups of each other. It captures the particular "othering" nature of partisan politics today - people aren't just rallying around their tribe, but are creating narratives in which members of other tribes are enemies who should be rooted out, shamed, and ostrcized. "Factionalism" does not really capture the othering and shaming aspects of the problem.

"The term's ultimate etymology is uncertain, perhaps from the Proto-Indo-European roots tri- ("three") and bhew ("to be"). The classicist Gregory Nagy says,[1] citing the linguist Émile Benveniste,[2] that the Umbrian trifu (equivalent of the Latin tribus) is apparently derived from a combination of *tri- and *bhu-, where the second element is cognate with the Greek root phúō φύω “to bring forth” and the Greek phulē φυλή "clan, race, people" (plural phylai φυλαί). The Greek polis ("state" or "city") was, like the Roman state, divided into three phylai.

In Europe during the late medieval era, the Bible was written mostly in New Latin and instead of tribus the word phyle was used, derived from the Greek phulē. In the historical sense, "tribe", "race" and "clan" have often been used interchangeably."

Saying that the word tribe can only be used by indigenous people is incredibly ignorant. It's a characteristic of human nature. We are all human.

Is this a joke? The preference of humans to belong to some group or another obviously comes from our shared history of evolving in tribal groups. Can we push back against childish attempts to find new things to get offended at?

+1. ‘Tribal’ is exactly the right word

Why not deme? From the Constantinople chariot racing team fan clubs. It’s got everything a pessimistic view of contemporary politics. Color based names, riots, catchy chants, corruption. It’s perfect!

Words mean what they mean.

If somebody wants to think that "tribe" once upon a time was used to describe some idealized group of indigenous people, then just substitute any word you want for tribe. Rewrite history so that indigenous people become Adam and Eve living in paradise.

Why reject tribal? Do you think indigenous tribes were less or more barbaric? Is modern politics more or less chaotic? Or is it an attempt to demonize the other side as being less than human? Why do you reject it?

Or perhaps the complaint is just sound and fury signifying nothing

The complaint is that the word "tribal" isn't applicable in any real sense to politics. It's used in a pejorative sense when referring to political matters. There are other words that have undergone similar misuse. A particularly grating example is "begs the question". Another example is this headline: "A 'dead heat?': NJ GOP candidate Hugin says race against 'chaotic' Menendez could be surprise". There can't be a dead heat until the race is over.

In common usage
countable noun


: tribal consciousness and loyalty
especially : exaltation of the tribe above other groups
2 : strong in-group loyalty

Dead Heat

If a race or contest is a dead heat or is in a dead heat, two or more competitors are joint winners, or are both winning at a particular moment in the race or contest.
The race ended in a dead heat between two horses.
A national poll shows the presidential race in a dead heat.

Frequently used as a synonym for tied

The other side is a gang. My side is just a heterogenous group of people with common sense and human decency.

Just try to imagine the crushing amount of hatred and venom and racism charges that would spewed at any Republican who referred to any Dem political unit as a "gang."

Tyler's lefty creds are in very good order, though, so he's cool.

Tribalism results in chaos, poverty, ignorance and violence. And is the perfect term to describe societal failures. Tribes never evolve beyond the primitive.

What prattle.

The word "tribe" refers to more than just the so-called indigenous Americans. It has long been used to describe the twelve tribes of Israel. The word itself was first used to describe Latin military units in Rome.

The word clan is frequently used in the same sense, with clannish as a pejorative. Cliquish doesnt quite capture the primitive and figuratively violent interactions.

---"Could we come up with a better term than “tribalism” please?"---


How about we use operational (scientific language) instead of postmodern (pseudoscientific language)? I mean, is economics a science or a pseudoscience?

The world doesn't need more sophisms.

|PACK| Family > Kin > Clan > Tribe > Nation > Civilization > Race = Markets for signals, values, frames, norms, traditions, Laws, Institutions, and group evolutionary strategies REGULATED by the natural law of reciprocity (international law, trade policy ameliorating differences in purchasing power), producing universal EUGENIC reproduction.


|HERD| Individual > Corporation > Universalism = NO MARKETS for signals, values, frames, norms, traditions, Laws, Institutions, and group evolutionary strategies REGULATED by the natural law of reciprocity (international law), instead involuntary transfers between groups producing UNIVERSAL DYSGENIC REPRODUCTION.

Economics if anything consists of the full accounting of costs. NOT THE CHERRY PICKING OF RETURNS INDEPENDENT OF COSTS.

I don't make mistakes such as these. The reason is that I don't engage in cherry-picking (Pseudoscience) Justificationism (sophism) and Postmodern (denial and deceit) "empty verbalism" for the purpose of producing frames that perpetuate the frauds of involuntary transfer, and the spread of dysgenia.

Simple facts: those groups that practiced eugenic reproduction under manorialism (east and west) succeeded precisely because of those eugenics, and those that did not, and still do not, are those that struggle.

And those that were sold the false promise of universalism whether in the ancient world (the Abrahamic Dark Age and the destruction of all great civilizations of the ancient world), and in the Modern world (marxist-libertarian-postmodern-feminist destruction of the modern world) but lacked the reserve capital (europe, east asia), were sufficiently distracted by the false promise of pseudoscientific sophism, that they have missed the window for using the industrial and technological revolution to organize their societies for eugenic middle class reproduction.

Reductive Explanation: The HERD (Universalist) doesn't know it's a HERD, but the PACK (Nationalist) knows it's a pack, and the herd a herd.

Selective use of economics to justify an instinct is just pseudoscience. Either you engage in full accounting or you don't.

It's like someone built an experimental AI to auto-generate political diatribes and trained it o a random sampling of alt-right literature.

Individualim entails no markets for values?
it's a "simple fact" that"groups that practices eugenic reproduction under manoralism" succeeded?

You might consider the possibility that the framing you have cosntructed is every bit as pseudoscientific and cherry-picked as those you decry.

If you are going to waste my time with a reply, at least make an argument. And try to use operational rather than ideal terms. It prevents you from falling into sophistry.
I am very, very good at what I do.

I understand where Brand is coming from, but "tribe" is a word coming from Latin (to describe the original tribes of that land) and imposed upon the Western Hemisphere indigenous people via the French and English colonialist. It's fine, I suppose, if indigenous groups want to own this word but it's only a matter of time before we'll have to chip away at the next layer of colonialist speech acts.

Tribe is very much the right word. All racism is a subset of tribalism, but tribalism is more than racism.

The Hutus killing the Tutsis, much like Dems seem to be fantasizing about Reps, was tribalism, not racism.

The Deranged Democrat hatred against Reps, because they are Reps, is very much a tribal hatred -- and the ritual / virtue signaling of the Dems is very tribal bonding oriented.

It's dangerous, and the Dems are making it much, much worse.

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