Me And My Cousins

When I was little, I wasn’t allowed to wear red.  My mom actually seems to have convinced herself red looked/looks bad on me.  (Look, I have tan olive skin.  No, it doesn’t.)  No one in the house could wear red.  Or buy anything red.  Or pain anything red.  Or sew anything red.  Or…

Now you’re going to think growing up during the cold war there was a reason for this ban.  Uh.  You’re going to think it and you’re going to be wrong.

The ban on red had absolutely nothing to do with politics.  It had to do with soccer.  You see, being from Porto my parents supported Porto, which you can find somewhere under my facebook likes – the colors are blue and white and (sensibly, I thought) the symbol is a dragon.  Porto’s Main rivals are the clubs from Lisbon, which are Benfica (red) and Sporting (Green.)  This is why I will never ever be friends with Mr. Kratman’s sister in law.  Her family supports Benfica.  what would the relatives say?  (In case you wonder this is, yes, heavily tongue in cheek.  I can totally make friends with people who support Benfica.  As long as my parents don’t find out, of course.)

Growing up in Portugal, in a time when there was only really one party, I saw people more split over soccer than over politics.  Marriages (and other promising relationships) could end because they supported opposite teams.

Yes, of course that wasn’t all it was about.  the support of soccer clubs tends to be regional, which bespeaks deeper, tribal rifts.  (For a tiny country, Portugal is an ethnically divided one.  Though all Portuguese are er… composites, because Portugal is one vast strip by the sea and a lot of different peoples came in throughout history, there is still a somewhat sharp divide between North – Greek, Celtic, Roman, Swabian, a little bit of Arab but not much (as it tended to be mostly an overseer placed there) and a lot of French Crusader and English remmitance man – and the South –  Carthaginian, Celtic, Roman, Visigoth, a lot of Arab.  Now, this is of course a broad brush as people could and did intermarry…  But not as much as you’d expect, because of cultural/tribal barriers.

Do you remember that Far Side cartoon that had the door to squid bathrooms, with the two drawings of squids and underneath “Only they can tell the difference?”  I’ve been harassed in Lisbon for being from the North.  This might be less so now, with the highway and all, but it used to be the difference was visible, quite sharp and certainly audible.

I always laugh when I’m reading something in the States and it says something about “European styling” or “European fashion” because, well… WHERE in Europe?  (It’s like the phrase African-American, where someone REALLY needs a hammer to the side of the head for thinking up that one.  Do they want something other than black, and Negro is too close to the bad term?  Fine.  Make up new words for ALL the races.  But using the name of a continent is stupid.  What in heaven’s sweet name do Berbers have to do with Zulus?  And besides, in the ultimate analysis, didn’t we all come from Africa?)  Yes, it’s a point of contention – partly because of the times people tell me “I thought you wouldn’t have problems with nudism.  You’re European.”  WHAT?  (Beyond the fact I’m over forty and pudgy and my last wish in the world is to have strangers see my bod.)  As if all of Europe is Sweden?  I bet you (though I wouldn’t know) not even all of Sweden is Sweden (Pickled fish, naked people and strong liquor – at least as far as I can determine what people think defines Sweden.)

Then there’s European Styling which for Southern European countries would of course mean “dark wood, heavy carving with religious symbolism and a bit of whitewash on the walls” – right?  Yeah.

Europeans are still FAR more tribal than Americans.  That Americans can think entire countries or entire continents are a mono-culture means we’ve got very far to overcome the ancient evil of tribalism.

Why do I call it an ancient evil?  Didn’t removing it encourage the even worse evil of the nation state?  Don’t know.  Ask me again in a thousand years.  Right now, sure, the nation state has piled the dead as high as tribal warfare, but it has also allowed a freer of way of life and more movement and creativity, which in turn has given us a lifestyle that’s not short, brutish and nasty.  (At last for some portion of us.)

Will the good in the long run outweigh the bad?  I don’t know.  Time will tell.  As CACS said in the comments on creativity, we still feel the pull towards tribes.  It’s very possible we’ll go back to tribalism.  There is the possibility of a future in which we ensconce ourselves in professional tribes, or worse, genetic tribes.  And then there’s the possibility that future will be very bad.  Or, if we remember we’re all human, it might be the best of both worlds (depending on how much mobility between “tribes” is allowed.)

Europe is tribal to a level Americans can’t imagine.  My mom hated the way we looked, since we’re a very “mixed” people, and though at the time the comment annoyed me, I’ve come to believe she didn’t even mean in the RACIAL sense.  It’s just that in Portugal you can tell upper class by the way people look.  (No, you couldn’t.  I probably can’t anymore.  Again, it’s bathrooms for squids level.)  Losing those markers, for her, was as annoying as when she tried to organize my canned goods, going solely on color and sometimes drawings, since she doesn’t speak Portuguese English (It is I who barely speak Portuguese anymore 😉 ).

And yet, as tribal as Europe is, it is not that tribal.  In the end, they do stand with each other in larger units – countries, areas of the continent, even the continent – as proven by their fatal attraction to the horrible idea of unification.  They might not have anything in common but their wish to have something in common, but that’s (almost) enough.

I suspect even Africa nowadays is nowhere as tribal as it was when Europeans first landed.  This is not to say it is not tribal, but they can think of people as human, even if some humans are more humans than others (of course.  That’s how humans work.)

Yes, of course a lot of the way we’ve managed to overcome tribalism is by finding bigger units of people to fight.  “Me and my brother against my cousins, me and my cousins against the tribe, me and the tribe against the stranger” is not just an Arab thing – it’s a human thing.

The best – possibly the only way – to have a united and at peace humanity is to have an alien land tomorrow and start killing and enslaving us.

It is a flaw in the design.  We have many.  Comes from not being just minds, but also bodies.  With all that, and despite the many who died getting here, we haven’t done that badly for ourselves.  I mean, we ARE the dominant species, after al, and with very few natural assets to get us here.  The moral squeamishness on what we did to get here is human too.  It doesn’t mean we’re a bad species.  Look…  Bad, by whose standards?  Despite the books in the seventies calling us uniquely aggressive, most of our worst characteristics are shared with all mammals.  We just feel bad about it.  It’s a start.

As the overcoming of tribalism, limited and confined as it is makes a start too.  It seems to be a better way to run things.  Certainly cultures that have overcome it have the advantage over those who don’t.

Will it be an advantage going forward?  Time will tell.  It depends on what the future is.

76 thoughts on “Me And My Cousins

  1. Tom Kratman talks about “amoral familism” which is IMO just another term for “tribalism”. The “tribe” usually is a group that is an extented family. John Ringo mentioned this in a discussion about “high trust/low trust” societies. In a “low trust” society, the only people you should trust are those related in some way to you.

      1. But if it is family screwing you over, at least it is family not some stranger.

        If that doesn’t make sense it means you are starting to rise above tribalism. 😉

    1. Well…originally the term was coined by someone studying Italian nuclear families in a particular village and the immediately surrounding area. These guys either had never worked themselves all the way up to tribalism or had fallen from that high peak. Since then the term’s expanded to cover those who see all legitimate loyalty as dependent on blood relationship and degree of blood relationship.

  2. One evening over beer, I listened to two professors, both European history specialists, talking about sports tribalism and football. What started it was when the German history prof mentioned that when Bayern-München first became known outside of Germany, apparently the long-time supporters of 1860 Munich were NOT pleased with all the Johann-come-latelies who suddenly became fans. That led to a discussion of which groups/professions/religious persuasions followed which British football teams. As someone who grew up in Nebraska and Texas, rabid loyalty to a football team is nothing new, be it a round-ball version or the oval-ball version, but some of the other grad students really couldn’t believe that feelings ran that deep or that Catholics would support Glasgow Celtics while Protestants backed the Glasgow Rangers. Tribes and sub-tribes, because 98% of football fans in Germany will support whichever German team goes to the World Cup, ditto Britain.

    1. Step thou carefully if you come into North Carolina. The difference between Duke and Chapel Hill is more than a shade of blue their basketball team wears — it has been know to cause rifts in families.

      1. My mom is a rabid Blue Devil. My folks’ house is Duke blue and white, and woe betide anyone who gets between her and the TV in February and March.

    2. It’s even worse in European Motorsport: The sponsorships get handed out on the basis of one’s passport, not one’s talent — French sponsors want French drivers; German sponsors want German drivers; etc. (They’ll take an “outlander” if they have no choice; but the whining never ends.)

      Then the congentially-mentally-defective in America have the nerve to wonder why Americans can’t seem to “catch a break” in series overrun by Euros.

  3. Even though I am 100% American (that means “mutt”) and the product of a mixed marriage (Texas and New York — those who know, know) I have been informed by my mother that I belong to the Ford tractor tribe. Apparently you don’t get to choose your tractor affiliation. My grandfather was a farmer and he used a Ford tractor. Should I ever marry, my intended either needs to also belong to the Ford tribe, or convert. (I SWEAR I am not making this up and I have never driven a tractor. Doesn’t matter.)

    1. Oh, but THAT is only sense. We were a Ford family. Not like those Renault people. We were (and are) a Tide family, too. (Though now my mom uses — I swear I’m not making this up — Omo. It’s Italian.)

      1. We are not a tide family anymore… something to do with allergies when we started in 1998 to get welts from the laundry soap. I now use fragrance free and everything free type soaps. And we were NEVER a Ford family, we were any car that we could make run and if we had any money we would buy a Chevrolet.

        We did own an old Ford truck. Funny my parents didn’t have a problem with their daughters dating hispanics or other mutts. But, if we decided we wanted to date NA’s or blacks, we would get the “what about the children” lecture.

        1. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I think most of us compulsive storytellers are in fact descended (several times over, since we tend to marry our kind) from some Neolithic madman who roamed around telling stories of gods and heroes and — occasionally and disturbingly, in a pre-tech society — of spaceships…

    2. Well dang, I’m out of luck 😉 It’s been years since I drove a tractor, but I know that real tractors are green.

  4. “Losing those markers, for her, was as annoying as when she tried to organize my canned goods, going solely on color and sometimes drawings, since she doesn’t speak Portuguese.”

    was that supposed to be …speak English, am I missing something, or both?

  5. I’ve said this since I was a teen (I never noticed it was an issue as a kid) …but I don’t get people’s obsession with race and physical attributes (usually skin color, but if not, there’s always the nose… hair, etc.).

    The key to everyone getting along lies in my understanding of your culture, and vice versa. This requires effort, education, and knowing what we are willing to incorporate into our own (and what we’ll choose to pass on, due to personal preference).

    Culture is inherently a smaller unit sort of thing that varies regionally. Families differ, neighborhoods differ, cities & states differ, etc. …and like you said, we don’t even necessarily see eye to eye with family members of the same unit.

    I come from a large family ( 2 brothers, 2 sisters, and a mom). It would be interesting to plot our views, alliances, and broken-down negotiations on a classic “draw the line to the correct answer” chart. It would probably come out resembling something along the lines of abstract art — a web of various levels. Still, there would be a few things that we all agreed on. A few. 😉

  6. I mean, we ARE the dominant species, after al, and with very few natural assets to get us here.


    Felis silvestris catus

    Define “dominant.”

      1. Hmmm, History as a plot by the grasses to domesticate and harness human energy. First the wheats, then the rye grasses developed fungi with psychotropic qualities to manipulate us, and now vast areas of suburbia are being taken over by lawn grasses, enslaving humans to provide personal care services: feeding, weeding, trimming these lawns as they compete with one another.

        John Christopher, eat your heart out.

            1. This underlies their antipathy toward Odds; with few exceptions we are poor groundskeepers and must be bred out of the species for the plot to succeed. Thus people who do not tend their lawns well are ostracized by neighbors, reducing the odds of their offspring mating successfully.

              The plot of plots would also help explain humanity’s fascination with games that require well-maintained turf. Where would be Baseball’s romance without “the smell of the grass”? Golf is a frustrating walk whose horror is only alleviated by the fairways and greens. Football (oval or round), Croquet, Bocce, Tennis, Badminton — all entail beautifully kept greenswards. It also would explain the instinctive revulsion we experience to artificial turf.

              Clearly we are experiencing adaptation by an invasive species and we must none of us welcome our alien overlords, even if the price of resistance is death. But take care – warning your neighbors of this plot will be challenging and dangerous.

              1. Although some Odds are successful enough to hire other people to do the lawn-work.

                And some people cut the lawns too short, and they burn, and us “mowing the lawn is evil” folks, in back of our wetlands, laugh as we drive by.

  7. A lifelong Baseball fan, I was into my forties before I gave serious consideration to a peculiar phenomenon. Players who on other teams were bums suddenly became much better when acquired by my team, while players who were nonpareil on my team suddenly suffered appalling deterioration of their talents upon moving to another team.

    I have never understood my brother changing team loyalties just because he moved to Boston. I would suggest a check of his DNA to confirm we truly are related, but one must strive to be generous.

  8. For a tiny country, Portugal is an ethnically divided one. Though all Portuguese are er… composites, because Portugal is one vast strip by the sea and a lot of different peoples came in throughout history, there is still a somewhat sharp divide between North – Greek, Celtic, Roman, Swabian, a little bit of Arab but not much (as it tended to be mostly an overseer placed there) and a lot of French Crusader and English remmitance man – and the South – Carthaginian, Celtic, Roman, Visigoth, a lot of Arab.

    It is important to have had your ancestors raped by quality.

      1. But think, actually if your ancestors were raped by invaders, then technically your ancestors were ALSO doing the raping, so it’s actually both. 🙂

    1. How true. My father’s family came over from the Orkneys, which means his ancestors did quality raping all over Europe. They even got their own saga.

      When people want to be snobby about their ancestry to me, I point out that their ancestors were probably raped by mine. That usually changes them from snobby to outraged, which is at any rate more fun to listen to.

      1. Oh yes, Tom – I used to be very upset with the history written about the Vikings (Danes & Norwegians) since I am one. My great-aunts were given a free trip in the 1960s to meet the then King of Norway because they had been looking for our family and it dinged the king’s genealogists. So we are his American children. LOL

        So when someone gets all snotty I say the same. The Scandinavians had writing, farming, judicial system, and oracles while they were probably farming with a stick. (or something) 😉

        1. *is amused* (In my fictional world, the Viking equivalents basically took over Europe. Somewhere in there, they hit the Greeks or Romans, assimilated them, fusion happened, and the whole thing became an Empire. Then things got messy, but oh, well.)

            1. Especially when one adds low magic, competing lineages, and years of war in which Impressive Magics Are Lost, wheeee! 😉

        1. That would be rape _third_. Pillage, Burn (don’t want to get that order wrong or you’ll burn the stuff you wanted to pillage). Rape last, because, as you said, it’s more romantic by firelight.

  9. I keep trying to explain to some…er… angry agnostics that I talk to that “see other people as people” is NOT a default thing, it was a really major deal with Jesus said the whole everybody-is-your-brother thing; usually I try to stick to the idea of “eye for an eye” being an improvement over what was there, but…well, I’m sure you can figure out the result, since the idea of being touched by religion is an insult to their chosen tribe.

    1. “…the idea of “eye for an eye” being an improvement over what was there”

      Well, made me blink, but you’re right. Lex talionis was agnostic as to tribe. It wasn’t “two barbarian eyes for one of my cousin’s eyes” but one to one, a completely proportional response.

      What an odd thought. Thank you.

      1. I had a similar response to you and Scott when someone– I think it was Jimmy Akin, but it could’ve been any of a number of Catholic apologists– explained it in a way that got through my head! Just so– nifty!

    2. Thanks. For the first time “Everyone is your brother.” actually makes sense to me.

  10. I hope this isn’t too long. If it is, Sarah, please feel free to delete.

    My ancestors came to the United States in 1735, part of a large group of Scottish Highlanders brought there by James Oglethorpe to protect the Georgia colony. Even then we were a bit on the muttish side, as many of them were from the Hebrides, and had intermarried with Vikings, Danes, and so forth, and from both Pettish and Celtic tribes. Once my ancestors arrived in the US, they began marrying into the local Native American tribes, primarily the Muskogee Creek.

    There was an uprising in 1813 in southern Alabama, at Fort Mimms (the Fort Mimms Massacre). While my ancestors were part of the force that attacked the fort, they weren’t in on the final massacre. One of the unusual things about the fight was that many of those fighting on either side had relatives on the other. After the War of 1812 was over, and Andrew Jackson expelled the Five Tribes to Oklahoma (the Trail of Tears), many of the half-breeds and lesser mixes moved from Alabama to Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma on their own.

    I became interested in my ancestry about 15 years ago, and began doing some research. One thing that truly astounded me was that from the lists of Fort Mimms survivors, and surviving family members of those killed at Fort Mimms, I could match 70% of the surnames in my high school graduating class. Tioga, Louisiana (near Alexandria) is about 450 miles from Fort Mimms, Alabama, but obviously the families migrated more or less to the same areas of the more western Southern states. There are areas both in Mississippi and Texas where you could probably do the same thing.

    Tribalism or family? There are links between those of my classmates that belong to that 70%. Some are relatively recent, some go back 200 years, but they’re all there. Those roughly 85 families are intertwined worse than a nest of water moccasins.

    BTW, Sarah, I understand exactly what you’re talking about. The Bavarians hold their noses in the presence of Wurttembergers, and the Prussians sneer at both. At one time, I could guess which nation in Europe someone was from, just from their physical attributes and their choice of clothing. Can’t do that any more…

    1. obviously the families migrated more or less to the same areas

      This is the primary reason that the once traditional postcard message of “Having a wonderful time, wish you were here” has become so maligned. It is one thing to fleece you as a tourist, but to have to endure your heathen ways beyond the time necessary to extract all your spare funds …

      Traditionally (it forms the primary theme of Louis L’Amour’s The Daybreakers) one or two members of a community would migrate, set up housekeeping and send back for other family members and friends. It is always easier to move to a community where you already know (and are known by) somebody.

      1. And the Sacketts were from Virginia/West Virginia. I knew a couple families from West Virginia that I grew up around. We always called them clannish, which was basically the same thing as tribal. When one moved, pretty soon all of the extended family followed. If the family didn’t follow, in a couple years the one that moved usually moved back. They moved from West Virginia to Oregon, then to Washington, a few tried Idaho, but the others didn’t follow and pretty soon they moved back, now the process is starting as they are moving to Oregon. About half have moved down to Oregon from Washington, and I expect the other half to be there in a couple years. Now this all happened over the last 50-60 years, I don’t know their history farther back than that; but they still keep most of attitudes and habits they brought with them from West Virginia. I imagine the family has been clannish like this for as long as they have been in America.

      2. I understand entire villages in Italy populated entire neighborhoods in NYC. Look, I’m not going to deny the attraction. There is something to growing up in a place where people knew your great grandfather.

        Last year, around this time, I was at one of the goldsmiths just outside the village, and my kid was sitting in the entrance area, waiting for mom and I to look at stuff. This gentleman came in. Apparently family friend (not anyone I know. Or at least not anyone I remember almost thirty years later) who hadn’t seen mom in a while. Since mom and I were towards the interior of this darkish shop, mom said, “How did you know I was here.” And he said, “I saw your grandson, and knew you or your husband must be around.” Now, Marsh has been in Portugal, all together maybe two months since birth at about three years intervals. Mom said “My… How did you know he was my grandson?” “Couldn’t be anyone else. He looks the spit and image of your husband. I figured he was little Antonio.” (Which we considered, as a name.) There is a certain COMFORT in that — in knowing if your kid is in trouble cousins will OF COURSE come to the rescue because “he looks like us” — particularly when you consider cousin goes back six? Seven generations. But then, there’s the flip side…

    2. Re: fighting your relatives, that’s usually an Irish thing. The Irish did a lot of clan intermarriage, but it apparently just meant being able to recognize and wave at the guys you were raiding or fighting, or provide a nice custom challenge to single combat or insulting piece of battle banter. Of course, it did improve your chances of being able to complain to the other clan’s leaders or sue by name somebody who did you wrong, so maybe that was why.

      (Well, that and short-lived alliances. Everybody changed their minds over alliances right before the fighting season.)

      1. There have been Irish fighting on the winning side in every war for most of the last millenium; and the losing side to, but we’ll ignore that (why yes I am Irish, how did you guess?) They have always been fighters, and usually good ones, unfortunately they can’t keep from fighting amongst themselves long enough to defend their own country, much less become expansionist.

        1. OH, yes, there’s a good bit of Irish in my particular family line. You know, here’s the thing… My family ALWAYS picks the losing side. And then we explain to everyone how we REALLY won. Poets and storytellers all the way.

  11. This isn’t just limited to Europe. During my time in Iraq, I was amazed by the factionalism within not just the same country, but even within the same town(in Haditha, there were 12 major tribes all vying for dominance). And talk about holding grudges – one guy I talked to spoke about the need to seek revenge against the neighboring village. When I asked why, it was because the other village massacred 23 members of his village, including young boys…back in 1887.

    1. Which is of course why the country will implode right back into tribalism shortly after our troops are pulled out.

    2. Er… they’re just large-write family feuds. Mind you, in Portugal we’re more CIVILIZED. It’s not a death thing, but there have been families in punching matches and refusing to deal with/sell to/marry each other for 200 years for the equivalent of “What their granny said about our mum.”

      1. It is useful to keep in mind that for nearly seven centuries the running of Europe was essentially the Hapsburg family business.

  12. Heh. The only nudist beach I have been on was in south Portugal. You know, the tourist areas, surrounded by hotels. (And while I’m not at all bothered by skin, mine or others, I didn’t take off my clothes. Was clothes because I was already sunburned, so I stayed very covered while my traveling companion sunbathed. Did enjoy the view, though, there was this bunch of mostly quite athletic young men playing beach volleyball in the nude. And yes, nowadays I always stay covered in public, but that’s as a courtesy to others – past fifty and fat doesn’t make comfortable viewing for most).

    Finns were rather clearly divided between the east and the west until rather recently – no fighting, or not much, but no real mixing either. What seems to have broken that was the last war, when we lost most of Karelia to Russians. Since the whole population of the lost area was evacuated, and then couldn’t go back, they had to be placed somewhere. And that was pretty evenly through the country, where ever it was possible to get enough land for small farms or jobs to be had. The Karelians were not always received with open arms, but there was enough solidarity that they were received, and accepted in time, with only some occasional grumbling.

    Some recent DNA research seems to say that, while we look alike, and talk pretty much the same, there really is a very sharp genetic divide between the east and the west parts of Finland. I have seen it claimed that it’s among the sharpest in Europe.

    My mother was a Karelian, my father’s family originally from Ostrobothnia, which is an area on the northern part of Finland’s west. Mother had the somewhat Asian features you sometimes see among Finns, if I moved to States I probably could, based on her photograph (I didn’t inherit her looks, I look more like my father), claim to be quarter something or other, perhaps Mongol. Well, back in times when being purely European was the thing Finns were called ‘Mongolians’ and sometimes faced some discrimination. There seems to be a small, about 10 %, inheritance from Siberia, otherwise we are pure European. But those looks my mother had seem to say something how persistent phenotypes can be, since that Siberian element got into the mix a very long time ago, you are probably mostly talking about thousands rather than mere hundreds of years, and the looks still sometimes come out in people (and were the base for that ‘Mongolian’ designation we once had).

  13. Oh, Mike, Ostrabothnia is called ‘Pohjanmaa’ in Finnish, and that’s where ‘pohjalainen’ comes from – somebody who comes from Pohjanmaa. I haven’t answered your mail because real life interfered, my godson’s maternal uncle died a couple of days ago. I haven’t met the family yet, my friend text messaged me to wait until they feel like contacting me, but I have been trying to think what the hell can one say in this situation. I’m afraid I’m not very good with these things. I didn’t know him, I think I only met him once, so the only way this touches me is through what it means to them.

    Young guy too, he was only 36, my friend’s kid brother.

    1. Wahl hall, Pam – humans’ve done it on the basis of church (y’all evah see what happen if a good Baptist boy bring home a Methodist girl?!!) and these days many people are far more active in devotion to their team than their church (and, given how some of them teams play, that devotion requires greater Faith.)

      1. Heh. Where I lived in Iowa, a mixed marriage was a Reformed marrying a Christian Reformed (CRC). And their children were considered fair game to be lured into the “proper” fold. Heaven help a Dutch Reformed kid who looked twice at a CRC, Reformed, or (gasp!) Lutheran; Protestant Reformed was questionable but OK if the Dutch Reformed kid found no other option. I was warned with all sincerity to beware of the Missouri Synod Lutherans in the next town, “because everyone knows that Missouri Synod Lutherans are fast.” Out-breeding, as you can tell, was strongly discouraged.

        1. If you lived in West Michigan, the same dynamic was at work, until M.R. De Haan got on the radio (Radio Bible Class) converting both flavors of Reformed to undenominational protestant. and that got them to intermarrying with us Baptists.

  14. For a while there I thought that like tribes were replaced by nation-states, that these in turn would be replaced by something else. Something conceptual. Some folks say America is an ideal. Or an idea. I hoped that future organizations of large groups of people would be predicated upon ideas or ideals. E.g. “I’m a Soviet, from Hancock, Michigan” or “I’m an Odd from Portugal.”

    But blood is thicker than branch water. It’s nice finding out someone’s from my tiny hometown of Kent City and figuring out who they know I went to school with.

    Dutch Prime Minister Abraham Kuiper named three institutions that bind humanity together whose responsibilities should be kept separate: family, church, and government. Perhaps we’re evolving or recognizing a fourth, idea-based institution. The trouble is that we haven’t sorted out ideas that are basic enough to serve as coordinate axes in this new institution-space.

  15. “The best – possibly the only way – to have a united and at peace humanity is to have an alien land tomorrow and start killing and enslaving us.”

    Then we are in deep, deep trouble. But you knew that.

    During the years of African Slave trade the Europeans did not wander off into the jungle to capture slaves on their own, the slaves were SOLD to them by other Africans.

    In other words, the tribesmen sold their fellows to the aliens.

    Which is what would happen if some Aliens wanted to take over the earth–they’d just contact Tehran with an “Offer from Allah” (or maybe try to broker a deal with the Chinese to end American Hegemony etc. Heck, they might even have something to offer Romney or Obama to make it sound like there were just helping out. Until we f*d half the world and reduced our own strength).

    No, Aliens would not be a uniting thing for us any more than 1930s Germany united Poland.

  16. I do notice that politics has become much more tribal in the US than it used to be. People who disagree are no longer simply fellow citizens with different ideas about how things should be run: they are evil and stupid and motivated by hate and fear.
    This is a very bad trend. Once you start thinking that way it’s not hard to justify political chicanery to prevent those evil people from getting their way, and it’s not a long step to disenfranchising them or resorting to violence.

    1. It’s a natural development from the 60s counter-culture, especially when it comes to traditional manners’ demand that topics on which there was disagreement shouldn’t be discussed in general company. Restricting “sex, politics and religion” to groups where impolite topics could be brought up– generally with those you know, are interdependent with and love– meant that the usual hot blooded reactions were tempered. Sure, some people never did follow that part of manners– there’s even the stereotype of That One Uncle Blowhard, but now we’ve not only got him, but the college blowhards, and the people who have been minding their manners for decades and finally lose their temper– and the ones who minded their manners for decades, then went ballistic and became a new form of Uncle Blowhard.

      Passion + disagreement + the impression that everyone agrees with you = HATE.

      Oh, and I think that “Rules for Radicals” guy suggested focusing on poisoning the well type tactics, too. “Focus, personalize, attack” or something like that.

      1. I think it’s time for those of us who minded our manners for decades to come out swinging. I hate to say it, but the false impression of “all sane people believe this” pushed by gatekeepers by decades MUST be shattered. Yes, I hate it. Yes, it must be done.

        1. Seems folks agree with you– thus, the TEA party: people who NEVER protest, out protesting. (Vs, say, #OWS: people who always protest, protesting.)

        2. Back in the 90’s (alright – it was during the Clinton Administration) I recognized what in my household we call the “drunk at the party” problem. We’ve seen this at many a con — there is a nice suite party, convivial friends and interesting conversation, until some drunken boor intrudes.

          Being inherently polite, being tolerant of Odd people, the party attendees try to carry on. Some of the boor’s missteps are politely ignored, sometime they elicit a milf reproach. But for the most part the boor never quite crosses the line where removing him from the party is worth the to-do that would be required. So we all quietly fume, persevere in our conversations and allow the pestiferous carbuncle to fester, eventually ruining everybody’s evening. Sometimes you’ve just got to step up and throw the bum out (a problem which, I’m pleased to observe, rarely afflicts Barflies.)

          BTW, the whole point of Alinsky’s strategy was to paralyse counter-protests — it is the same strategy used by a frontier sheriff facing down a lynch mob.

          1. One time while I was catching up with a friend in a SFWA suite, in the inner room (the one with beds) — Dan and I sitting on chairs, and our friend on the bed — a young couple came in, got into the bed behind him, proceeded to have sex (under the covers, but quite clear) and then go to sleep. We were actually too horrified to say anything — it was too weird, like someone coming in and you know, growing a second head or something…

            1. Ewwww. Sometimes you’re afraid to say ” ‘Ere now! Wots all this then?” for fear of getting an answer.

              I mean, it ain’t as if they haven’t already proven themselves shameless.

              Their falling asleep really puts the pièce de résistance atop the act, don’t it? THAT is exactly why you should ALWAYS carry superglue at all times. (Well, actually, the superglue is an excellent treatment for papercuts and other slight cuts … but the other uses are multifaceted.)

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