Human beings, whether you believe they were created “out of” or evolved out of creatures of the Earth are built on a frame of great apes. This is good when you think in terms of chipping flint or building moon rockets. But when you think in terms of “why aren’t humans angels?” that’s the answer too. Because we’re uppity apes.
Me, I’m not a human hater. I’d like us to be better in many ways, but I don’t expect us to be perfect, because we’re great apes. It’s a relief we no longer physically fling poo at each other and restrict that to twitter, frankly.
In fact, humanity has the flaws of its virtues, and all of them go back to that “Great Ape” thing.
Recently I landed (accidentally) on a site where the comments were full of people extolling the virtues of tribalism, and tribalism as a way of the future. These peole were, quite unabashedly, white supremacists. They weren’t precisely saying white people were “superior” (though they were saying it, sort of) but rather that being white they wanted to support the white race, because it was theirs and this would bring them parity would “other races.” And “Stop the extinction of the white race.” I could (and would) write volumes about “white race” given the chance, because that name is a massive, yawning falacy all by itself. What constitutes “white” varies from country to country. I’ll be absolutely honest, if you’re going to talk of “races” my dad is more accurate when he speaks of races as covalent to countries “the Portuguese race”, “the Spanish race”, “the French race.” Even though those are mixed as hell, if you translate it as “breed” and stir in culture that’s part born from breed-impulses and which reinforces them, and you come close to having something real. Sort of. Kind of. Because individuals are still individuals, variation is great, and ancestry is complex.
But “White race” encompassing all those with MOSTLY European DNA is not a thing. It’s not a thing in the same way “black race” or even “African race” is not a thing. Most people in Africa DO NOT CONSIDER themselves all one race. (And if you’ve ever visited or had friends of different tribes — if you haven’t, please talk to Dave Freer sometime — you know the differences in body type, let alone in behavior, are even more marked than say between a German and a Chinese, except for the ability to tan rather well.) Hold on to that. The “they do not consider themselves.”
What Africans consider themselves as is members of a tribe.
So, what is tribe?
Remember humans are built on a Great Ape frame, right? Great apes tend to move around in groups. Bands. Often with a single male, more often (if I remember my biology right. I might not. I feel half dead today) with a dominant male, subordinate males, and a harem of females.
Part of the reason we have an atavistic impulse towards leaders who are “saviors” and men on a white horse if from this. Bands with a strong leader, obviously, did better. It’s also according to Dave Freer one of the reasons the notion of “fair” is ingrained in us from the earliest conscious thought. In a small band, hoarding all the food, say, is unfair. Unfair and counterproductive as it weakens the band.
We know from archeology that hominid and hominin bands had some strikingly admirable qualities that we still consider moral: for one we have reason to believe they looked after the infirm, the weak and the old. We don’t know what advantage this conferred on the band. Perhaps wisdom (the grandmother hypothesis) or perhaps just that knowing they’d look after you if you needed it made you a better band member.
So, we were made to live in a band, or perhaps an extended family. At least in our legends, memories and dreams those loom large. So let’s say that’s it (even if living in one is neither as ideal nor as dreamy as our new agers imagine.)
Humans long to belong and to be part of a band. That’s baked in the cake. I know for instance that I was much more effective as a writer when I was in a writer’s group that functioned like an extended family. We all were.
Realistically it made absolutely no sense. I mean, sure, we encouraged to write more and submit more, but other than that, how could it help success? Well, we were braver, both in trying new things and knowing that if we got that rejection we’d have a popcorn and chocolate pity party with our friends the next week. The tribe was real. We were there for each other in the highs and lows. And that gave us confidence and strength, which is why humans long for it.
How extended can that family be? Well, if you’re from a Mediterranean or Latin background, you know the answer to that is “a few hundred.” I mean you count cousins till the fifth generation, uncles and aunts to the third, and in big celebrations everyone descends on you.
Weirdly science agrees. We can feel loyalty to groups of about 150 people.
I don’t know what size tribes are. I KNOW some are much larger, but when they are I suspect they’re more “loosely affiliated clans.” And people probably feel the bond/loyalty to their little piece of it, unless there is war or whatever.
I do know that tribal warfare is some of the most bloody in history, and I have reason to believe that tribalism, not disparity in arms, but tribalism — aka software in the head — gave the European Empires Africa and most of the Orient.
You see, I read enough of it when I was writing the Magical British Empire trilogy (coming soon in author’s editions, if I can stop looking at houses in most of my free and not free time) about the “conquest” of various lands and I can tell you at least in Africa for d*mn sure, what gave Europeans Africa was tribalism.
You see, contrary to the beliefs of the custard heads, the Zulus weren’t natives of South Africa, any more than the Boers were. They had conquered down from the North just as the Boers were arriving in South Africa.
The difference was, despite all differences and infighting, the Boer belonged to a super-tribal organization, identifying itself as “civilized man” or “the white race.” (Though usually the first, as Dutch, Germans etc didn’t consider my ancestors — or the Italians and sometimes the Spaniards, and definitely the Greeks as “white.”)
So when the white people landed and started settling (not just in South Africa, though some of the Zulus actions were the most extreme) the Zulus did what they’d always done to defeat other tribes. They descended on the settlement and practiced acts of stupendous cruelty and horror.
This was not savagery, but a highly sophisticated response. If you did that, you created a fear in the other tribe, which would run or at least face you while impaired.
They could not conceive — hardware in the head — of a supra-tribe comprising many countries and lands. It was “tribe or nothing.” And tribe was people at least vaguely connected by blood. “Our kind” or as Portuguese translates relative “belongs to me.” (A lot of un-evolved — in the linguistic sense — languages including, I believe some Scandinavian ones — I only had two years of Swedish thirty two years ago. So, I don’t remember — and definitely older versions of English, make no distinction between nephews/nieces and grandchildren. That gives you a sense of WHO was “tribe.”)
Of course their tactics backfired because Europeans had newspapers and shared information over all of Europe, which in turn brought retribution down on these tribes, and degraded them to “less than human” which made the reprisals ferocious and ultimately what won the war and gave Africa to the Europeans.
If you look at it and you don’t even have to squint that hard, what makes Africa the mess it is is tribalism. You have individuals incapable of sharing information or doing commerce with those people over there, who are “not people” which is the meaning of “other tribe at an instinctive level for Most of humanity. It is tribalism that has held humanity in Africa behind in development. (And yeah, IQ. Look, guys, if you take IQ that seriously you never studied how it’s arrived at. Geesh. Or how conditions of upbringing influence it. Let’s just say our pediatrician assured us if we adopted our adoptive kids — barring serious impairment — would end up testing about like us. He said he’d seen it often enough and I believe him.)
But Sarah, you say, when they want tribalism, they don’t mean their family and a few other people, they mean everyone who identifies as white or black or–
Well, that is because the words they say don’t mean what they think they mean, or because they’re using “tribalism” to mean “racism” a word that has been debased.
So let’s examine the virtues of racism. Um… divided countries filled with people who identify as different races and who work actively against each other SURE are my idea of paradise. This is why “balkanization” is the highest value to aspire to, right?
Which is where we return to “identify as race” or “there ain’t no such thing as a white — or black or purple or pink with poka dots — race, unless you define it as a national identity. (And the people who think they can identify a national identity in the US are stark raving bonkers. Even when it was a British colony, it had Dutch, French, German and yep, a lot of Portuguese in New England.) Even as a national identity it has holes, but as a combination of “probably some shared genes and culture reinforcing tendencies, it KINDA SORTA makes sense.
“Race” in the ethnographic sense means “tends to have these characteristics” however let me tell you that I visited South Africa during apartheid and at the time one of the big news stories was the finding of a baby girl in a dumpster. The baby girl was alive, which created an issue: what race was she? And the ultimate answer was “can’t tell.” There was nothing on the physical level that could tell you. Her skin could be dark white or pale African, her hair was not there yet, etc. etc. etc.
To do this we have to figure out how the “black” or “White” or “yellow” race and the idea of identifying with/as them come from. And the answer is: the twentieth century.
I don’t THINK it started with Marxists (though they eventually jumped into them enthusiastically) but I do know it started with the modern state’s attempt to keep those dependent on the nation state either loyal or (for multi ethnic nations) divided.
As it exists right now, where black people in America identify with Obama though they share no ancestral experiences with him (descended from slave traders on both sides, which you must admit is fitting) it was created by the Marxists, who view creating dissension in a nation as a way in. And it focuses SOLELY on superficial characteristics.
Which is why they try to convince us there is such a thing as a Latin “ethnicity” visible on site, and not a conglomerate of vaguely related cultures. And they’re so good at it that people often even pick me (and always my kids) as Latin, but WORSE because they’re muddled in the head, often identify us as Mexican (I swear to you, though neither the kids nor I look it. Someday I’ll tell you about the boss who thought my name was “Feliz Navidad.” Yeah.)
Look, what I’m saying here is this: the people who want a “white race tribalism” as bringing “parity” in other races only make sense in the context of a super-state who a) keeps these ‘tribes’ from one another’s throat. b) uses them to keep people from turning on the state. c) dispenses benes according to victimhood.
Take that state down, or remove most of its powers. Make governing small, local, more responsive and not only is there no benefit to identifying as the “white race” but the distinctions start surging. Most people REALLY don’t consider those who are “vaguely like me” tribe. If you remove the benes/action of big government which make that a thing, the identification reverts to “me and my cousins” or in America “me and my small town.”
Which might not mean that people from podunk are people, but those from Knudop are just animals. Have you seen how they eat their ice-cream?
BUT it will mean that “White race” means less than “Yeah, Bob is black, but he is my neighbor and our kids go to school together. Why you want to mess with him?”
The only way these super entities make sense is in the context of the super state. Which means the people advocating for them MUST want a super state.
I know they imagine that the white “race” being so superior will simply kill or enslave all the others and therefore they’ll rule as little kinds in their fiefdom. This is because they don’t understand the reason whites did this before was that they eschewed tribalism.
And because I know this will be read by idiots, let me point out I’m not against nation states. In some ways they’re a great invention, if a recent one. Nation states, which forge a sense of nationality between everyone within their borders are in a way a great thing. And yep, they need to have borders and those borders need to be defended. (Ia nation without borders isn’t a nation. I have not been an internationalist libertarian for a long time.)
Which is why I invite you to look at France. France had a massive illegal immigration problem with Portuguese. At some point they tackled it by making it absolutely mandatory to put kids in from pre-school on. My cousin was one of those. He now lives in Portugal, where he married, but I suspect most of his hardware-in-the-head is still French. By five he knew the anthem of France, all the stories and poems little French kids knew. By high school he was a Frenchman.
Open borders was still bad for them (eventually they had an illegal immigration problem with Muslims. Still do.) BUT at least most of the kids, until the French got even crazier notions than open immigration, became French. As French as they could be. (And keep in mind genetically Portuguese from the North have a good deal of French, because of the crusades.) And the country worked as a French country. Even with a bunch of other contributions.
IF OTOH France had insisted on teaching people Portuguese Pride (which they might now) what is that word again? Balkanization? Yep, the highest aspiration of civilization.
In the country as it is now, what we need is less tribalism and more Americanism. I sympathize that those identified as white get hind teat, but pursuing “white identity” only works if you assume the government teat, with its complementary tyranical tendencies will ALWAYS be there.
If your goal is to reduce the scope of government, oh, sure, be tribal. You can’t avoid it. My chosen tribe is “those who belong to me” some of which are, sure, in Portugal and I have blood ties with them, but the vast majority of which aren’t either blood relations or in Portugal. Some of you are my chosen tribe, my chosen extended family. And I don’t even know what some of you LOOK like. You could be purple with tentacles. You still “belong to me.” By choice.
BUT being tribal is looking after those who “belong to you” — your family, your group, your buds.
It can’t and doesn’t stretch over “I’m for the white race.” Really? Hillary over Thomas Sowell? Be REAL.
Which is why crazy extended tribalism might be the wave of the future. If your chosen future looks like 1984. Mine doesn’t.