Sunday, April 08, 2018

Political Tribes, Group Instinct And the Fall Of Nations

https://www.amazon.com/Political-Tribes-Group-Instinct-Nations/dp/0399562850

Found the subject book by Yale professor Amy Chua to be a quick,  easy, and worthwhile  read. It seems such a perfect book to show up just as I'm closing Moose Tracks.

On page 40-41 she does a good job of quickly covering the basic science that we already know -- "our brains are hardwired to identify, value, and individualize in-group members, while outgroup members are processed as interchangeable members of a general social category".

"Humans aren't just a little tribal. We're VERY tribal and it distorts the way we think and feel".

"The key to ethnic identity is that it is built around the idea of shared blood; ... For most human beings, the family is primal".

Readers of this blog know all that, and they also know why destruction of the family is key to destruction of a culture!

She wisely spends a lot of the early part of the book discussing the US inability to recognize tribalism in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Venezuala. I was completely unaware of the degree to which the Vietnamese had been fighting against a Chinese minority that owned most of the wealth of Vietnam for a thousand years -- and we ignored that fact.

On page 46 she introduces the critical idea of a "market dominant minority" which the Chinese were in Vietnam, and are in Indonesia today: "in Indonesia the Chinese comprise 3% of the population but control 70% of the economy".

At this point it would seem easy to understand where she is headed -- something over 90% of the wealth in the US is controlled by an elite of well less than 10%, with something over half being controlled by a 1% who largely attended ivy league schools, live on one of the coasts in very large cities, and share a set of establishment values at odds with the have-nots of any color -- Asian, Hispanic, Black, White, etc.

Pretty much, she doesn't go there -- she goes to race.

On 166 she says "The Left believes that right-wing tribalism -- bigotry, racism -- is tearing the country apart. The Right believes that left-wing tribalism -- identity politics, political correctness, is tearing the country apart. They are both right."

From 21-33 she asserts that we became a "super-group" in "1965" after the Voting Rights Act, and defines a super-group on page 22 to be "a group in which membership is open to individuals of any background, but at the same time binds it's members together with a strong,  overarching, group transcending collective identity". To the extent she defines that "identity", it is "The American Dream" ... that everyone can economically surpass their parents.

What she doesn't focus on much is that Christianity as the prototype super-group -- the strong overarching goal is serving Christ and others, and everyone, regardless of background is a "blood brother/sister" in the blood of Christ. Galations 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Obviously, her objective is a SECULAR super-group, which she thought the US had from 1965 to the election of Barack Obama. She notes as I have on previously page 165 that 1965 was also the year when an historically unprecedented wave of immigration, much of it non-white,  started -- this was not an accident. The elites at that point felt that America was too slow to change, so they would just change the population. Brilliantly, they also told us that Americans should avoid having children because world hunger was the "end of the world issue" of that day, similar to "climate change" today.

On page 181, she spots a little problem with identity politics ... "The demand is not for incluson within the fold of universal humankind ... nor is it for respect "in spite of" one's differences. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different."

So much for "everyone being created equal" -- try each individual being "evolved" different and special, and demanding to be SPECIALLY respected for being different! Everyone a star! Sacrifice? Tolerance of those who do not share your particular differenc? Not values of identity politics.

She spends a good deal of time on things like "The Prosperity Gospel", "Sovereign Citizens", the WWE, NASCAR and a few other things to it is not clear what end -- something like a few on the left doing a "Safari to America" after Trump was elected.

 By the most scary estimates the FBI or the Southern Poverty Hate  Center" could come up with were "as many as" 300K members of apparently highly feared "Sovereign Citizens" ... I've never met one, apparently no web site (sovereigncitizenship.net was expired). There were LOTS of web hits on how much of a threat they are however. It's on the Internet, it must be true.

Would NPR listeners be a "tribe" like "NASCAR"? Since I'm a regular "spy listener", I'd certainly say so -- very much a secular humanist world view with recent movement toward "intersectionality". How about BLM? At a minium, they seem to have a lot more web presence than the fearsome "Sovereign Citizens". Amy is right about tribalism ... even if you DO have a transcendent value beyond your tribe, seeing your OWN tribes is HARD --  we just assume our own tribe is "normal / reasonable / etc'.

So we once had a country that Amy believes was a secular super-group, a goal of at least hers  -- and then came Obama, the proof of the existence of that super-group, and "poof" it was gone. So how do we get it back now that we are no longer going to have any dominant majority group? However, we will apparently continue to have a very elite coastal ivy league "market dominant minority" of the 1% that own all the wealth?

I'd argue that even with lots of minority problems, we were much more of a sectarian (Christian) super-group than she gave us credit for well before 1965  ... that Federick Douglass could rise to the prominance he did as an ex-slave in the mid 1800's shows that much of the country held merit to be a much greater factor than race even at that time. Something about America -- I'd assert it to be our written Constitution, was enough for people to fight and die for even though we remained far from a "perfect super-group". As she points out, nobody else on the planet even sees that as a goal.

The book is a good survey of the prevalence and problems of tribalism -- it does not in my opinion acknowledge how far the generally Christian Western civilization had risen above tribalism by the apogee of America post WWII 1945 - 1965. it does show that the higher level educated no longer subscribing to the values embodied in our Constitution, and certainly losing Christianity as a common glue, has resulted in what most students of civilization and culture would assert to be a fully expected descent into tribalism ... Darwin's Cathedral is one post/book that goes into more detail here.

She provides a hugely hopeful story on page 205. A young  Mexican American Yale student, "Giovanni" lived in a poor trailer park in rural Texas near "the Joneses", who were extremely kind to his family. In 2016 he thought that due to their social media posts, they must be "racists". He told the author however, that the "Joneses exemplify "a critical paradox that progressives often overlook or dismiss, to their own detriment." Despite their racist attitudes (determined by Giovanni based on social media posts), "they treat our family with nothing but love and respect, in fact, they treat my sister and me to be their adoptive grandkids".

She goes on; "I found Giovanni's story to be striking first because he was talking about racism in a way that is completely taboo among progressives (the group he identifies with). Among progressives, once someone is deemed racist, that's it. You can't talk to them, you can't compromise, and you certainly can't suggest they might be decent people just because they are nice to a few minorities.".

Perhaps Giovanni is an Easter Person? Somewhere in his heart might he imagine that his judgement is less than ultimate, and that ALL are redeemable? For me, the saddest part of Hillary's deploreables comment was that she judged them (us?)  "irredeemable". As a Christian, it isn't the Joneses works that make them redeemable -- nor mine, nor anyones. If it were, then Christ would not have needed to die because ultimate redemption would be a matter of meeting some standard of works (vs proper social media posts as judeged by "progressives)", it would be a matter of "keeping up with the Joneses"!

We have exchanged a dominant culture where all people were at a minimum "redeemable", and at least the standard was that as a practicing Christian we were  bound to not only not judge them, but to even LOVE them, for a "progressive" culture where worth is validly judged via social media posts, redemption from such posts is not possible, and such posts define your worth even beyond repeated actions! Giovanni is a rare person -- rare enough for his Yale professor to call out his behavior in not cutting off people that have been kind to his family for years on the basis of social media posts to be an "amazing hopeful sign" in this tribal nation of BOistan!

As I wait for the potential of yet another major spring snow storm, I reflect on where our culture has moved over my lifetime. In my youth and even up to middle age, it was considered wise to believe in a set of transcendent values  that included a created world with a loving God showing us how to live happily not only in this life, but eternally, and living in a nation with a written Constitution, exceptional among all nations on the planet, insuring our right to think and live freely in peace with our neighbors.

We traded that for a world where this short life is all we have, the avowed purpose of our nation is to insure that there will be nothing recognizeable in the future save "accelerating change" toward an unknown, but promised to be "progressive" future. We are required to believe in this, rather than anything we might see with our own eyes -- lest we be judged "irredeemable deplorables" by the elites driving this "progress". Oh, and we are to be pitied -- for it is guaranteed by the elites that the "future beyond the future" is CERTAIN to be even more wonderful! What a brave new world.

Have we not been to this movie before? Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

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