The rise of ideological tribalism

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A British friend of mine recently posted his frustration that although the Brexit referendum was extremely close, “leave” politicians in Parliament are nonetheless treating the vote as an overwhelming mandate to leave the European Union. Similarly, in the US, although Donald Trump lost the election by more than 2,000,000 votes, Republicans across the US are portraying his election as a watershed affirmation of the “conservative” agenda and are moving to implement it in a take-no-prisoners fashion.

Looking at what is going on in the world, it is clear that these distortions of an election outcome by sitting politicians are not isolated “political” anomalies limited to the US and Britain. Rather, they are part of a larger disturbing pattern of political behavior that appears to be infecting “democratic” nations throughout the “Western” world —The Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Canada, etc.

One can only speculate about the causes (and whether, as is likely, factors like the Internet and social media have contributed), but it is clear that the face of popular nationalism has shifted from an ideologically inclusive love of country to a parochial devotion to a narrow ideology.

Up until the end of the 20th century, nationalism—patriotism—was both pluralistic and geography-based. There were many kinds of Brits who proudly identified themselves as British —Conservatives, Liberals and Socialists, for example. And members of all these groups recognized that other Brits who might hold a different point of view were still legitimately and equally British.


But with the advent of the 21st century, this has changed. Nationalism is no longer pluralistic. It has splintered into a primitive, intolerant and narrow savagery.

Today, we are dealing with a new political phenomenon the world has not experienced before—IDEOLOGICAL TRIBALISM—complete with glorious myths, extravagant rituals and totemic heroes.

“I am an (American/Brit/Dutchman/Pole) because of what I believe not because of where I live and if any person believes differently, then that person is not a true (American / Brit / Dutchman / Pole), that person is an enemy.”

What about the rewriting history? In this new world of ideological tribes where history and myth are fast becoming indistinguishable, rewriting history is just one more way to ensure the victory of the “tribe.”

And, let me add that the left is just as guilty of this irrational ideological tribalism as the right. All sides of the political spectrum have been playing fast and loose with the truth since the 1980s.
Eat your heart out George Orwell, it turns out you were an optimist.

Mark Gordon is a senior professional lecturer of Marketing in the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. Originally educated as an anthropologist and evolutionary biologist, he has more than 25 years of experience as a strategic marketer.

MARK GORDON

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