Here's a second reading reflecting what I said yesterday — "It'd help if those who bemoan America's tribalization would propose remedies." We need better analyses of not only the causes and consequences but also the cures for malignant tribalism. (Of course, that applies to me too, but we'll get to that some other time.)
This reading is Deepak Chopra’s “After Trump, What Will It Take To Heal?” (2016), published right after the election.
Deepak Chopra!? I never thought I'd be quoting him in a professional effort. Too new-age for me. Yet here he is, showing a good grasp of the tribal form and how it can turn sour. I include it because he proposes ways to improve interpersonal relations (but not society's structures and processes) in today's America.
Here's his opening theme:
"A kind of tribalism has grown up in our democratic society, and the new segregation along party lines means that many people don’t even have a friend who votes the other way. …
"If you can identify with any of these symptoms — and which of us cannot? — the way to healing is clear. Become part of the solution by consciously changing your tribal attitudes, words, and actions."
However, he points out, tribalism brings psychic benefits that make it difficult for people to change:
"The difficulty is that tribal thinking carries with it a package of benefits: you get to belong, to agree with others, to share a common foe, to feel self-righteous and angry at the same time. These are powerful incentives not to change. …
"Likewise, tribal thinking brings secondary benefits, but one shouldn’t overlook that “us versus them” thinking is toxic and unhealthy to begin with."
To urge people to change away from divisive tribalization and reconnect with each other compassionately, he turns to the Buddhist concepts of "Ahimsa" and the "shadow self":
"In the yogic tradition of India, a crucial quality related to peace consciousness is Ahimsa, usually translated as non-violence. Ahimsa is associated with Mahatma Gandhi and the non-violent civil rights movement associated with Martin Luther King. But at heart Ahimsa is about the bond of loving compassion that is natural in each of us when we abandon the seductive allure of false consciousness, in particular the state of separation that engenders all divisions, either inside ourselves or in the outside world. We accept “us versus them” ultimately because there is a “them” inside ourselves. It consists of the shadow self we hide from and deny, which harbors hatred, fear, aggression, and the dread of death."
Trump, he figures, has brought out the tribalized worst in people by embodying and connecting with their shadow selves:
"When we can’t face our own shadow, it gets embodied in figures like Trump who gleefully let the dark side of human nature romp in public. As much as right-thinking people are appalled by him, Trumpism strikes a chord in everyone, because we all have a shadow."
In conclusion, Chopra recommends a process of healing — one that involves achieving an enlightened consciousness:
"It may seem as if I’ve drawn a tenuous thread connecting a flamboyant political sham to something deep in human nature. But the connection is real, and so is the possibility of healing. Bringing in the light, however you define that phrase, is the way to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. The wounds in consciousness can only be healed through consciousness."
As I indicated, that is a bit too new-age for me to think it could be very effective. But at least he is offering what amounts to a systematic viewpoint, based on a good understanding of what tribalism is like and what it does to people's thoughts and actions.
To read for yourself, go here:
[I posted an earlier write-up of this reading on my Facebook page, on April 7.]