TRIBALISM, OUR ACHILLES’ HEEL

So, what does Achilles’ heel have to do with tribalism? It is our Achilles Heel! Tribalism is the way of thinking and behaving where humans develop strong bonds to other humans based on a variety of criteria: kinship, proximity, appearance, skin color, hair style, dress, hand-shakes, religion, political inclination, ethnicity, nationality etc. These bonds can become stronger than any other bonds, to the extent that it leads to feelings of superiority of my group over yours. My school is better than your school. My football team is better than your football team. My race is superior to yours. My religion is the true religion, and yours is false.

Ultimately, assuming that ‘my way is the only way’, as I am superior to others, and that certain other groups cannot possibly contribute to the human quest, besides being incredibly egocentric, carries risks that may not be worth taking. Many discoveries and revelations are due to the lone voice in the wilderness, the serendipity, and the dogged persistence of the individual. No one person, race, tribe, religion, or philosophy has the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Rule of the people (democracy) is based on that principle. Life is a quest to get to the top of the mountain. Each of us has a different view of that mountain, and some of us may see a trail to the top that others don’t see. Hitler evicted or killed the Jews in Germany. Among those that fled was one physicist named Albert Einstein, the man who introduced us to the power of the atom. It was the two atomic blasts, one in Hiroshima and the other in Nagasaki that put the final death nail in the power of the Axis. Tribalism allegorically came back to bite Hitler in the ass, even though he was already residing in Valhalla by then, with the German people suffering the consequences. We continue to wallow in tribalism, and it has and will continue to set us back, cost lives, and money. Harmless tribalism, such as school pride, is an acceptable release of this inborn trait. But the tribalism that extends to race, religion, and ethnicity is corrosive, leading us to racism, jihad, crusades, and death. We seem to forget the lessons history has taught us. As said so aptly by Mark Twain, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” If we are not careful and learn how to mitigate this vicious form of tribalism, we will again be struck by that poisonous arrow into our vulnerable heel and be sent back into another Dark Age or maybe even worse.