Tribalism is not the Answer

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

~ James Madison, Federalist #51

The American story is one of continuous improvement, it is a historical anthology of a people striving to perfect the imperfectible.

There are contemporary voices that claim that nothing that does not begin in perfection is worthy of existence – but because corporeal things are invented by imperfect humans, nothing they can conceive or invent, no matter how intelligent they are, ever begins in perfection. To date, humans do not possess the ability to travel through time or to see the future; therefore, the only future event that can be predicted is that there will be unforeseen and unintended consequences.

Even diamonds need to be cut, shaped and polished to come close. “Perfect” diamonds are not truly “perfect”, they are simply those with the fewest imperfections.

There seems to be the idea that splitting into tribes based on race is the answer – but has tribalism ever stopped oppression and discrimination (either within the tribe or external to the tribe)?

The answer to that is, of course, “no”. Not only “no”, a differently sized, body positive, “no” of girth (otherwise known as a big, fat “no”).

Humans are humans, regardless of race. Tribes have their own hierarchies, their own prejudices, their own internecine warfare, and their own affinities to, or dislikes of, external groups.  Tribes may be homogenized by race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or any discriminator the tribe chooses – but they still must be governed and that requires power, either flowing from the people or from forced dominance by a person or group. Tribes are still collections of individuals – and once power is mixed with individual human pride, avarice, passions and hubris, there are always challenges. As Lenin famously said, it always comes down to the “Who, Whom?” question. Who decides for whom, who determines the roles for whom, who dominates whom?

The one commonality every single person on the face of this planet shares is human nature – and human nature is all too predictable.

America is not perfect. It did not begin in perfection, nor has it achieved it – but the difference America represents is a system of government where perfection can be sought. In a sense, and to use a software term, America was the first “open source” program in the history of the world. It is the first ever national crowdsourcing event.  It was conceived as a system with the absolute minimum amount of interference with the people’s pursuit of whatever form of perfection they chose – the downside to such a concept is that our code is so open, it can also be hacked and therefore perverted and corrupted.

We are where we are because we are victims of tribes of hackers who sought to take a 3D CAD system that was working well as a design package and turn it into a word processor that does not work well at all.

Tribalism does not improve, it corrupts. It concentrates, intensifies, and codifies error and isolation. America needs to get back to the ideas that we are all free to be who we are and free to be left alone in doing so. I think, perhaps, the latter is the most important – for without the right to be left alone, no other rights are possible.

We need to recognize that human nature is what it is – there are no angels to whom we can turn. It is on us. Individual liberty only survives where we can find ways to be alone together. The US Constitution is the best plan I know to do just that.

3 thoughts on “Tribalism is not the Answer

  1. NASCAR used to, trumpet “Second place is First Loser”.
    I spent 15+ years helping clients improve their operations. Some worked, some didn’t.
    My great takeaway was realizing that change doesn’t start at the top of of pyramid and never at the lowest level. Finding that single fulcrum made all the difference.

    Change doesn’t come easy. Work to correct those small problems that make a difference to someone. The change will grow.

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