Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Tribe has Spoken

Maybe it's the campaign season, or I've been watching to much cable news, but America seems to be moving away from a democratic civilized society where rational discourse is used to examine and critique a variety of ideas - and becoming a nation of tribes.

We have divided ourselves into tribes, by using labels that we often don't understand - "Republicans", "Democrats", "Liberals", "Conservatives", "Radicals".

Once I've labeled you I can discount "you" since you are not a member of my tribe. It becomes a quick leap from rational thought to emotionally charged feelings - you are bad, you are scary, you are not like me. I want what's good - you for some reason want what's bad. It's all silly nonsense of course - because the definition of the tribe is sometimes based on no more than sound bites heard on MSNBC or Fox News or whatever TV/radio show, internet site, we think best represents our tribe.

Political affiliation, similar to religious affiliation, is often an accident of birth and many people don't bother to examine the underlying philosophies of either the political or religious tribe they claim membership in. Never having developed their own religious or political beliefs they are left open to following whatever mystical or irrational ideas are promoted by the leader(s) of the tribe.

As an antidote to the cheering (or booing) mobs I see on TV I'm reading Karl Popper's book written in 1944 - the Open Society and Its Enemies (Volume 1).

After I've finished those I think I'll re-read the San Francisco longshoreman/philosopher Eric Hoffer's book The True Believer.

I'm afraid if all I do is watch TV, listen to the radio and visit my favorite websites I'll be tempted to join in the emotion - stop thinking rationally, and thereby give up my individual liberty to say and think what I want. If the tribe has spoken and they do my thinking and talking for me - then I can stop thinking....and cease to exist as an individual.

What a waste that would be - we live in a free country - we are all wonders of God's creation - we should take advantage of that fact to come up with new, better and more peaceful ways of thinking and doing things.