Plague Diary 10: Get Outta My Tribe

Like many people, I’ve watched in horrified amazement as the country slips down the toilet drain of history while fully 40% of Americans stand around loudly vocalizing their support for a president the rest of us do not see.

Those of us who believe we’re rational, 60% of the US and 99% of the rest of the world, keep expecting the reality of the situation to change the minds of the cult members. But it never happens.

We’ve long given up trying to argue facts against their theories and feelings, but we at least hoped the country actually catching fire would wake them from their slumber.

Nope.

So the question banging around inside our heads is: Why?

Why do 40% of Americans see federal masked troops disappearing nonviolent protesters off the street without badge or warrant and not see the very overarching dictatorship they’ve been paranoid about for decades?

How can Trump supporters watch him steal money from a cancer charity, funnel money into his own businesses, enact a fully Russian agenda, screw up a major pandemic that takes 200,000 lives and not have their minds turned?

Tribalism.

Let me put it down here in a way even Trump supporters can understand: “Many people come up to me, big strong men, men who never cry, with tears in their eyes and say, ‘Sir, thank you for strengthening my tribe’ It’s called Tribalism. Nobody knew about it before me.”

The theory of tribalism is that some people (or maybe all, we’ll get to that in another post) identify themselves not by name, race, or family tree, but by a collection of shared beliefs.

If, subconsciously, you think of yourself as belonging to a group of people who believe white people are superior, the rich are better, face masks are dangerous, and COVID is a hoax, then you’re not open to new information about these subjects because not believing in them means you are no longer in your tribe.

Trump supporters literally can’t wear a mask without being kicked out of the club and since they’ve turned their backs on everyone else, that would leave them utterly alone.

There’s no changing those minds unless you change the definition of their entire tribe. And good luck with that if Fox News exists.

So how does a regular belief differ from a tribal belief? Put simply, a regular belief is open to new information. If you quietly suspect the weatherman is a gorilla dressed in a human suit and then later you see him at the pool and are able to reevaluate this theory as provably false then that’s a regular belief.

If you belong to a Facebook group called The Weatherman is a Gorilla then you have to ask yourself if you want to be kicked out of that group or if it’s possible the gorilla has gotten himself a human suit made out of skin.

If you think that sounds ridiculous, imagine believing in the Pizza Gate conspiracy theory about a pedo chain operating out of the basement of a pizza store that has no basement but not the actual pedo chain headed by Epstein and Maxwell because your favorite president was a good friend of theirs.

It’s hard to see your own tribe in the present. For instance, as someone who started out as a conservative Republican, I can see my beliefs changing over time, so I’m pretty sure those weren’t tribal beliefs, but I can’t see which of my current beliefs aren’t fungible.

For instance, I can’t imagine someone coming to me with evidence that proves police departments deserve 99% of a city’s budget. So until that happens, I will continue to support the idea of defunding the police. Is that a tribal belief? I don’t know and I won’t until I’m faced with a reason to change it.

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