How Did We Get So Tribal?

Phil Rossi

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Turning social discourse into bloodsport fails our fellow man, our humanity, and our path to a better world

Instead of viewing social and political issues with open minds and various vantage points, our new pastime is picking sides. And it’s expected. In our haste, we prune the facts that support our position.

We park ourselves in our safe spaces. Our tribes. Like-minded people with similar attitudes and belief systems. Alongside our fellow social warriors, we dig in. To fight for the cause and to defend our tribe’s belief system at all costs.

Along the way, we’ve turned our educational process into a playlist. We know what web pages to visit and which writers to read. The television programs to watch and which podcasts to listen to.

Rather than respecting a different opinion and agreeing to disagree, we treat opposing voices like an invasive species. An intruder rather than a voice of reason.

This is the danger of the tribal mentality. It creates and fosters a climate of discrimination. Our bias begins and is now reinforced.

Opposing voices are perspectives founded on beliefs and opinions through life experience. The life experience that is unique to that opposing voice. An experience that provides a window into their psyche and humanity.

How could we expect to progress without disagreeable discourse? These are the starting points to find workable solutions. When we silence different opinions, we fail our personal education and politics.

The old-fashioned debate has become a lost art. Instead, it’s easier and more fun to annihilate the fellow debater. To make them look foolish. When this happens, it's just another wasted opportunity for diplomacy through engagement.

It’s as if we’ve resigned ourselves: Why debate with an opposing point of view to find a working resolution? Why go through the trouble with so much work? The back and forth?

Too many TV panels these days are party wonks barfing up talking points. Echo chambers of like-minded viewers and talking heads.

Whenever the network brings in an opposing voice, they’re out-manned. It’s also obvious this recurring guest has been neutered by the network’s brass and the show’s host.

You can’t look at an issue from different vantage points these days without pissing someone off. Since when is a logical opinion offensive? This thought process has never made sense to me and never will.

The most divisive commentary is found on cable news channels. The mockery, self-righteousness, and moral authority from hosts and invited guests. The double standards and greenlights they give themselves to be crude, disrespectful, and vulgar.

The level of hostility is baffling. Instead of sharing a healthy discourse, people with opposing views are discarded. Most times, ridiculed.

As citizens, we owe it to ourselves to find various viewpoints. Instead of discounting different opinions, try taking the time to find other perspectives.

Don’t be afraid to change or alter your mind. You might. There’s no need to fear the thought of hearing something smart and logical. Despite what we’ve come to practice: We don’t need to waste our time with these people. They’re uninformed and don’t get it.

Due to our habits and current climate, many of us find this reasoning a waste of time. Give it a chance. Stop believing your party’s points lock, stock, and barrel.

The art and process of pragmatism have also been lost. The fear of changing our minds plays to our egos, not our education. As if there is something flippant, shameful, and phony about a new and different course.

Even if that new course is better for us. We sacrifice our personal development for the benefit of our tribe and its cause. We remain trapped in the mob while resuming the mob mentality.

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.~Muhammad Ali

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From my days as a college student, I recall a sociology professor from St. John’s University. He always taught us to view social problems through a different-looking glass.

The many socio-economic and cultural communities the problem disrupts. How the problem is viewed, handled, and ultimately solved. Our discussions would always focus on the aftermath and fallout.

Social Problems 101 could have had a subheading: The Consequences of Solutions. That’s what my professor always lectured and taught us.

In order to solve our problems with workable solutions, we need to meet at the bartering table. In lieu of hostility and agendas, it requires dialogue.

The equivalent of healthy and respectful debate, rather than a rush to victory. Everything must be done for the good of the cause, or else we all lose.

The purpose of debate and discussion shouldn’t be this win at all costs. To prove we’re better, smarter, and more equipped to change the world.

In the meantime, our political discourse continues to degenerate. People from both sides of the political spectrum are replaced with tropes. Slogans and sound bites instead of intellect and respect.

What happened to our anthems of freedom, expression, and the safe-space of open societies to be our true selves? There are just as many wingnuts on either side. There is also a number of informed and educated voices.

Can’t we find common ground? Civility and respect? Inclusion and understanding along the way?

The self-help found on this site encourages us to step outside of our comfort zones. In order to grow and achieve, we’re encouraged to stretch ourselves.

And just like the self-help model, by failing to do so we stay the same. The same people in the same situations. All this as our growth remains stunted.

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Phil is a blogger interested in sports, culture, politics, and the art scene.

Hackensack, NJ
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