First, an instructive historical citation:
”Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.” – Martin Y. Latsis head of the Ukrainian Tcheka
Along with that, have a personal vignette.
About thirty years ago, I briefly dated a Chinese girl who was here on a student visa. Ming told me many stories about life in Communist China, some of them unbearably painful to relate...and to hear. The attitude the Communists strove to inculcate in the common people was a highly accurate reflection of the Latsis quote above: they were to evaluate a neighbor, not on the basis of his conduct but on the basis of his class, with some trades and classes rigidly predefined as “enemies of the people.” Thus, if you practiced one such trade, or if you were deemed a member of one such class, you were condemned ab initio, socially if not legally.
Ming’s mother had been a teacher – one of the “enemies” trades. Enormous pressure was put upon her to abandon it. She wound up operating a tea farm that barely kept her alive, in part because of the two government-assigned “helpers” that monitored and hindered her at every instant.
How, you may ask, does a nation that anathematizes teachers progress materially? A good question. My guess is that the favored ones were channeled into the education of the offspring of the political elite. But there is no question that the Communist regime prospered politically by giving the people faceless classes of enemies to hate – and that the fortunes of common Chinese were negatively affected by the policy.
Food for thought.
Tribalization is a tactic both for forming blocs that can be herded into political coalitions, and for creating depersonalized enemies that one’s allegiants can be encouraged to hate. Indeed, a tribe would lack all significance were there neither suspicion nor animus directed against those outside the tribe. When we address a collectivizing trend in our politics, it’s best to ask both questions: not merely how the tribe is being defined, but how it defines and views any adversary tribes.
In the case of contemporary (i.e., gender-war) feminism, generic “men” are defined as the adversary: a supposedly monolithic bloc that obeys conscious and unconscious tendencies to “oppress” women. It’s essential to the feminist project that she who defines herself as a feminist accept that as a postulate. By implication, if she associates herself with a man or men, they must somehow be qualified as exceptions – in essence, they must be vetted and accepted as “women with Y chromosomes.”
In the case of Occupy-style tribalism, the adversary tribe is “the rich:” an undefined and undefinable category of persons who have supposedly contrived to profit from others’ deprivation and misery. An Occupier is encouraged to make that a principal tenet of his worldview and (of course) his political stance. That he benefits personally, often greatly, from the achievements of “the rich,” conveyed to him by the market process, must not be permitted to intrude upon his consciousness.
Viewed thus, tribalism is a species of collectivism strongly flavored with conspiratorialism. Though the aspect of conspiratiorial thinking that posits conscious plotting of some against the rest is often absent, the attitude remains immensely useful to the retribalizers: the hucksters and grievance-mongers who labor to divide us into mutually suspicious tribes.
The most unfortunate thing about tribalism in society and politics is that it cannot be met head on. There is no salvation from any sort of collectivism in “counter-collectivism.” That’s merely a short route to open warfare. The sole remedy, as frustrating as it is to contemplate, lies at the individual level. Men of good will must individually and repeatedly demonstrate that they are such, in the ordinary course of life among other men, no matter what perverse social or political notions they or their neighbors may hold.
America has no shortage of men of good will, but that alone is insufficient. Tribal boundaries are not easily lowered or dissolved, especially when the retribalizers are laboring to raise and strengthen them. Atop that, there are pro-survival aspects to certain categorical suspicions and cautions, as painful as that is to admit. ("I can be walking down the street at 2am in Jackson Mississippi, hear footsteps behind me and be relieved it is a white man behind me." – Jesse Jackson) Survival will always trump more abstract political considerations.
The damage tribalism has done to American society is extensive and severe. It will take many millions of persons quite a long time to repair; though trust is slow to form and hard to cement in place, it can be shattered in an instant. Nor will the retribalizers kindly suspend their efforts while we work to undo them.