The history of the world is in large part, a history of tribes. People with shared ancestry and shared culture allied themselves against outsiders. It’s perhaps the oldest, most natural form of governance, which is why it survived so long. After all, what could be more natural than to unite with people that look like you and believe the things that you believe to tackle the challenges of the world and defend yourself against others that might want to hurt you?
That being said, tribalism is a primitive form of government that doesn’t necessarily mesh well with the modern era for a variety of reasons.
For one, that form of governance works much better in smaller, homogenous groups. It also often happens to be very hierarchical. The chief, king, or monarch in charge doesn’t get there by being voted into office, he gets there by right of blood, custom, and his ability to wield power, wealth, and violence.
Additionally, a tribe very easily, naturally splits the world into “us” and “them.” The legal code of a tribe tends to be custom mixed in with, “The chief said so.” That’s for people within the tribe. For people outside the tribe, anything goes within limits set by customs and the chief.
Two tribesmen may be scrupulously honest when dealing with each other, but cheating, lying to, or mistreating someone outside the tribe may not even be looked at as immoral. “They” don’t have the same rights as “we” do in the tribe. That’s the nature of a tribe.
Tribalism is in very fundamental ways incompatible with being a republic. That’s why we have always taken pride in being a “melting pot” and that our national motto is E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). The idea is SUPPOSED TO BE that it doesn’t matter what your race, religion, or national origins may be before you arrive because once you get here, you adopt our culture and become one of us. A multi-racial, constitutional republic with people of all religions, from all over the planet like the United States really can’t properly function any other way.
So, what happens when that “melting pot” becomes a “salad bowl” and there is no longer such a thing as “one of us?” What happens when people of every race, religion, ideology, and creed come here and are urged to embrace multiculturalism, hold on to their own culture, and tear down America’s culture from within because they’ve been told a bunch of old, dead white guys who were essentially bad people came up with it? What happens when one of the two major political parties tries to convince everyone that this is a terrible country that needs to be fundamentally transformed and the people who don’t agree with that are evil, white supremacist Nazis? What happens when that same party very deliberately tries to change the composition of the country by replacing the people, the Americans that are already here, via legal and illegal immigration?
These are not idle questions. It’s a description of what’s actually happening in the United States.
We are splitting into different tribes and the Left is driving that change. They have worked tirelessly to split Americans into different groups and pit them against each other. Women against men. Gays against straights. All other races against whites. All other religions against Christians. They work to undermine the Constitution, destroy successful traditions, eradicate conventional morality, and convince Americans this is an evil country undeserving of loyalty and appreciation in hopes that it will be replaced with loyalty to their tribe. They care little for rules, mores, and niceties beyond the acquisition and wielding of power that benefits their tribe.
In the Trump era, conservatives have started taking tentative steps down this same road. Is that just a rational reaction to what the Left is doing, taking the country even further in the wrong direction, or both? It’s too early to say.
What we can say is that Abraham Lincoln was right when he said:
A tribal America will not last because it cannot. That’s not a profound statement. It’s like saying that if you move your cat into the driver’s seat of your car while you’re driving on the freeway, you’re going to crash. Of course, you are. What else would anyone expect to happen?
America cannot thrive without a shared culture, a shared level of commitment to the Constitution, a shared love of country, and a belief that even people we disagree with deserve at least a rudimentary level of respect, decency, and fair play. Yet, a shared culture? Once you get beyond things like eating at the same restaurants and watching the same sports and movies to the things that matter, it increasingly doesn’t exist in any meaningful sense.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Culturcidal by John Hawkins to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.