Banishing Tribalism

Banishing Tribalism


There are still people living in western democracies who are puzzled by the large numbers of white people who came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As Sherlock Holmes might have said to his baffled colleague, ‘It’s evolutionary, my dear Watson.’

I haven’t yet seen Mr Trump asked directly whether or not he accepts the scientific principles of evolution, while members of fundamentalist Christian sects like the Amish or Mennonites reject the concept entirely. They believe that the world was created by God around 6,000 years ago, in seven days. I imagine Mr Trump holds whatever view is most expedient for the audience he is addressing. Aware that a significant proportion of his electors are from these and similar communities, he is not averse to brandishing copies of a Bible that, it is said, he seldom reads, in an attempt to convey the barely credible impression that he aspires to follow the teachings of Jesus. On the whole, though, evolution-deniers around the world are rare enough not to signify.

Please, bear with this verbose intro. In broad terms Charles Darwin’s theory proposes that all species evolve to compete, survive and reproduce in order to become more perfectly adapted to sustain and, where necessary, to increase their numbers. The natural corollary of this objective would be the development of a species which can feed itself, protect itself and live harmoniously in a way that would best allow for the continuation of the species sapiens in all its ‘racial’ forms.

The ultimate physical destiny of mankind is not realistically predictable in any meaningful way. However it is clear that if the human species can find a way to live throughout the globe, and beyond, in harmony and using all the resources that the earth has to offer, in a way that is equitable and sustainable, it will be closer to being a better adapted species, closer to being perfect, which must be the apex of evolutionary destiny. If the achievement of harmonious coexistence of all ‘races’ within the species throughout the world can be identified as a primary evolutionary objective, the greatest possible cooperation between traditional ‘races’ or tribes must be a fundamental element in attaining this primary evolutionary objective.

Even in the last 2,000 years – a short blink in the history of sapiens’ development – substantial changes, progress even, in attitudes to foreign tribes can be detected. Whereas Roman Emperors staged spectacular Coliseum shows of Christians being torn to bits and devoured by lions in order to mollify their restive populations, even Mr Trump would not see a political advantage in offering spectacles of alien populations – perhaps Muslims, Chinese spreaders of what he likes to call ‘Kung-Flu’, or illegal Mexican immigrants – being devoured by wild animals in the Yankee Stadium.

A critical number of those who live in free-thinking western democracies have reached a point in the process of human evolution where archaic, vestigial tribalism and the crude bigotry that it spawns, is being consciously, specifically rejected; where people are understanding that to progress as a species, we must concur with our collective evolutionary imperative in overcoming this ancestral bigotry in the same way that we have overcome so many other vestigial tendencies. This new understanding was manifest, for example, in the joy felt by so many when Barack Obama was elected President of the US – a clear sign that the world had come of age, although, as has become clear, not quite yet. That too is to be expected; there has always been resistance to social progress. Human evolution depends on the conscious and willing acceptance of the need for change, and changes inevitably occur in tiny increments, unevenly embraced across the population.

For tens of millennia, mankind relied strongly on tribal adhesion; it was a key element of self-preservation, along with the basic human imperatives – to eat, to survive, to procreate. As population increases, so the need for loyalty to small tribal groupings recedes, but while it is naturally difficult, even counter-instinctive, to shed these shared and deeply embedded tendencies, it is essential for the ultimate survival of mankind that we do so. In a globally connected, ubiquitous population, tribalism and racial bigotry are simply divisive and regressive.

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