Dehumanising impacts of American life, from neoliberal “free-market” economics to “rugged individualism” to separation from nature, are driving people – consciously or reflexively – into tribes of varying definitions and ideologies. One such example is the movement for California to secede from the Union. According to a story from the Washington Post,
About 15 people huddled in a luxury apartment building, munching on danishes as they plotted out their plan to have California secede from the United States.
“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of an independent California,” Geoff Lewis said as he stood in a glass-walled conference room adorned with California’s grizzly-bear flag and a sign reading “California is a nation, not a state.”
Sweaty onlookers from the gym across the hall peered in curiously.
Bolstered by the election of President Trump, the group, Yes California, is collecting the 585,407 signatures necessary to place a secessionist question on the 2018 ballot. Its goal is to have California become its own country, separate and apart from the United States.
Return to tribes
As the movement to secede in California demonstrates, proactive efforts abound whereby citizens frustrated by politics that serves industry of humanity hunger for a more fruitful, healthy and sustainable experience of life. The term “neo-tribalism” has of late emerged to describe such efforts and initiatives. According to my nephew, Max Gordon, who’s immersed in wildlife science, biomimicry and rewilding at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, New York,
Neo-tribablism is a broad topic. In modern society, tribes mostly exist through the internet. Of course real experiences with fellow peoples and places is the purpose of starting these global communities. In short, neo-tribalism as a meme, is recognizing that we are social creatures who need real, intimate, and creative relationships with all life.
The notion of tribalism is not new to me. A child of the 60s, I had a front row seat at some pretty distinctive and odd counterculture experiences. With most of my youth immersed at a Waldorf School, I saw early on how the community, of which my school was a part, was making a statement about something to do with the culture-at-large. While the tenets of the intentional community were of interest to some extent, what really piqued my interest, even in early grade school, was the xenophobic impulse of community members to reject something of the greater culture they deemed uncivilized, or antithetical to the best interests of people and the earth. But that was only part of the story.
Most obvious and curious to me about my school’s community was the other side of counter-culture: the reactionary impulse; the emotional need/payoff for rejecting the status-quo of joining an exclusive group with esoteric and often ersatz beliefs. It’s not that I necessarily disagreed with tenets that rejected dehumanizing results of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. It is the requirement of the group/community to demand absolute adherence to the organizing philosophies and principles. And, not only do participants willingly ascribe, they self-identify as a member.
In my twenties I found myself a willingly immersed member of a food-centric counterculture group that, while well-meaning and intentioned, demanded strict adherence to the group’s philosophy. I quickly received harsh reprimand by other group members, and ostracization for simply questioning accepted dogma. While inflammatory, calling such groups “cults” would not be inaccurate.
Once I returned to self-identifying as”Craig” instead of “Craig the macrobiotic” I able to honestly explore the psycho-dynamics that allowed me to pursue group identification, as one would with a religion. What I discovered was not pretty. Underneath my pedantic posturing and preaching about the life-enhancing benefits of consuming brown rice as a staple food, and chewing it until one’s jaw cramps, was a need to feel superior to others not making the same choice. Beneath that lived dramatically low self-esteem and self-worth. Walking backwards into a tribe that would validate my identity was never going to heal my emotional wounds, only offer a mask of self-righteous indignation against non-believers.
We are family
That traditional communal and tribal needs of humans have been withered away by the exploitive and insatiable demands of neoliberalism is not news to 99% of American society. While rational neo-tribal efforts are a sensible response to no-holds-barred capitalism, an irrational reactionary “political tribalism” has risen up from the ashes of the Democratic Party in the wake of their disastrous defeat in the recent election. Rather than self-reflect and examine the causes of their loss, party propagandists are doubling-down on the very dynamics which turned the electorate on them in the first place. By ramping up divisive strategies of identity politics, self-identifying liberals are holding fast to the notion that any and all Trump supporters are subhuman crustaceans. Talk about deplorable!
A news analysis piece in the NY Times, of all places, sums up the hate, and the blowback,
Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.
“The name calling from the left is crazy,” said Bryce Youngquist, 34, who works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Mr. Trump is a little like saying in the 1950s that you were gay. “They are complaining that Trump calls people names, but they turned into some mean people.”…
It is tempting to blame Mr. Trump for America’s toxic political state of mind. He has wreaked havoc on political civility and is putting American democratic institutions through the most robust stress test in decades. But many experts argue that he is a symptom, not a cause, and that the roots go deeper.
Whether their obnoxious and distracting obsessions with Trump, Russia, and even aligning with the CIA in its open combat with the White House, this churlish moral superiority on behalf of liberals seems to draw more from fear and electoral unworthiness than anything empowered and forthright. I have friends, many on my Facebook feed, who spew hatred at anyone who voted for Trump, or didn’t vote for Hillary. To their detriment, resistance to anti-people and planet policies will not emerge from hate or refusal to engage. What’s required is to join forces where we can and do agree, irrespective of political parties and affiliations, as Ralph Nader pointed out his 2014 book, “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.”
While the adage that “Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line” was reliable as Swiss time for many election cycles, with Trump splitting the Republican establishment, and Democrats clinging to theirs, it’s now the latter that’s expecting their family to fall in line. Perhaps it’s finally time for a breakup.
Everyone can see we’re together
As we walk on by
And and we fly just like birds of a feather
–Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards