Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Dangers of Tribalism

We in the Western Democracies tend to shake our heads condescendingly about tribalism. The various Middle-Eastern and Central-Asian conflicts; the Tamils v. the Buddhists in Sri Lanka; religion based conflicts. We yearn for random applications of reason.

Africa we openly laugh at. That a tribe in a postage-stamp sized country that no one could find on a map should decide to actually kill all members of a competing tribe just seems ridiculous. But are we so pure that we can criticize?

The same tensions exist in Belgium, for instance. The only difference is that the Flemings and the Walloons show admirable restraint in the way they weaponize their differences. In Canada, the same.

Larry King last week featured a bunch of UFO-logists. One of them suggested that governments try to cover up UFO information because they are afraid that we will all develop an “Earthling” identity if it is shown that there are beings from some other planet out there. This comment may not have been as foolish as it first sounds.

When I was a young, abrasive, working-class pseudo-intellectual, I sprung a wild plan for world peace on my unsuspecting friends. We should, I posited, secretly destroy six or eight second rung cities around the world and blame it on Mars. As a result of this interplanetary Pearl Harbor, we could mount a campaign against the Red Planet that would force all of the peoples of the earth to work together for their mutual salvation. All very “wag the dog,” with lots of manufactured news headlines, bogus evidence, and some continuing attacks. The desired result would be that “we” would defeat the Martians and then “we” would need to rebuild our planet with effective “planetary defenses” and much enhanced cooperation between all nations.

Tribal, schmeibel. Why can’t we just get along?


Anonymous said...

I think Ronald Regan and the republicans knew about your plan. Unfortunately, the Red Planet in Regan's mind was the Soviet Union, and he(Regan),decided to initiate the Star Wars initiative. (Oh, the humanity of it!)

Pray tell, how do the Flemings and the Walloons weaponize their differences?

fred c said...

Flemings and Walloons beat each other about the head with political appointments, taxes, the vote, mutually exclusive languages, and vile rumors about each others culinary preferences.

Like most such situations, the Belgian divide is a lingering result of colonialism, in this case Spanish.

Anonymous said...

O.K. Now you've got me thinking.(Very dangerous, I might add.)If the Wallons and the Flemings have mutually exclusive languages, how on earth do they accomplish anything?

Anonymous said...

Sounds likey some kind of Republicans right wing conspiracy I think so. Go to bed with dogs wake up with flys.

fred c said...

In Canada, the tension is between French and English. An English speaker with a good vocabulary can do pretty well reading simple French, like an invitation or a street sign or something. Flemish is a lot like Dutch, and I don't think that there's much overlapping vocabulary with French.