A Group Mentality Turned Toxic

How Tribalism is Affecting Our Capacity for Compassion

Isa Karathanos, Editorial Editor

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The other day I was talking to my friend about politics. If you can’t tell by that sentence that this story ends badly, well, God help you. Anyways, my friend told me something that alarmed me, to say the least. She mentioned that her dad refuses to watch movies featuring actors that don’t support the president. As in, he won’t watch Captain America because Chris Evans once called Donald Trump a “meatball” on Twitter. As much fun as that sentence is, it got me thinking about why we, as a society, feel the need to group ourselves with either one side or the other, why we can’t understand other viewpoints, and why we only vote for people who we already think we agree with. It was then that I started to grasp the extent that modern tribalism is affecting our lives.

Tribalism has pervasive effects on every aspect of our lives. First, the “mob mentality” causes us to forgo our individual moral compass, overriding reason. Essentially, we don’t care what we’re doing as long as someone else is doing it too. Take the classic frat boy example- a tribe of testosterone-dripping hooligans are shown to have significantly less personal responsibility than an individual testosterone-dripping hooligan. In fact, a 2016 Telegraph article reports that fraternity members are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than non-members. While this may be an extreme example, it highlights the effects that tribalism has on all of us.

It shows our willingness to excuse and accept anything put forth by our tribe, which in turn makes us increasingly quick to call out the other side. We are failing to see other viewpoints, to consider anything outside of our own narrow understanding of the world. This will harm us in solving international, as well as domestic issues, as it is impossible for us to work together while we are in direct opposition and competition with one another.

The solution is not to eradicate tribalism, but to find a way to belong to a group without the accompaniment of toxic tribalistic traits. To do so, we need to stress the importance of diverse thought, and there are three key steps to achieving this ideal state of mind–first, don’t confine yourself to a single group. For example, I am Indian AND American. Second, question your tribe–don’t take everything your guy says at face value. And third, consider the opposition; judge people on an individual basis, regardless of what you previously affiliated them with. As stated in Wealth for All Africans, by Idowu Koyenikan, “You can no longer see yourself solely as a member of a tribe, but as a citizen of a nation of one people, working toward a common purpose.” While Koyenikan is focusing on uniting African people, his advice applies to all of us.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. But there are a few ways to put this mindset into practice–according to a 2018 article form The Intelligencer, some countries actually have laws that attempt to combat tribalism. For example, The Netherlands has three major tribes- Catholic, Protestant, and socialist. And these three social groups are divided into five political factions, to ensure that the government doesn’t reflect the tribal nature of society. Now I’m not saying that we need to completely rethink our political system, but we do need to take a serious look at how and why we vote.

So, maybe you’re a Cubs fan who just really likes Yadier Molina, or a Democrat who thinks Ben Carson is just kinda neat. Or, maybe, you’re an American who understand the importance of an open and diverse global relationship. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to be an Individual.