But not how you think! It has become almost fashionable to say that “I am no tribalist!” I think it’s an ignorant statement to make. The current world we live in, I would support tribalism in only one condition i.e. the human tribe and once we have achieved that, we will need Earthling tribalism. We have fought many wars over tribalism; it might be the biggest source of division and cause of wars. You can justify a war for your tribe for pretty much anything, the other tribe is going to attack us in a couple of years or they will enslave us or we should attack them because they are getting stronger and stronger so we should pre-emptively attack them etc. You can even justify legislation in peacetime over tribalism i.e. they will take our jobs, our race will go extinct because they reproduce a lot faster than us etc. Religion also further strengthens tribalism. As long as the other tribe is also made up of humans, you are not a part of a human tribe, you are a part of a localised tribe. Now that’s the kind of tribalism I would never support.
There are legitimate causes of tribalism amongst human groups that arises from conflict of opinions but it is not something that can’t be worked on. All the causes of tribalism that we know of today, can no longer be subscribed to or at least not to the extent they are subscribed to by the vast majority of Earth’s population. It would have made sense when we were living on the plains of Africa that we needed to kill all the lions in the savannah because they come at night and hunt us down. Or we need to kill the neighbouring tribe because they will come and kill the men and take our women as slaves. We know that humans are the masters of the world when it comes to competing with other animals with the exception of the insects and the microscopic world. This is why we have so many animal rights movement because there is absolutely no need to be cruel towards animals. No lion or ape can take over the Earth and enslave us. They are totally dependent on us for their survival. We all remember what happened to the doctor who killed Cecil the lion. Rightfully so, whenever an individual butchers an animal we have groups of people condemning them. Leaving animals for the source of food aside, which I believe is a totally different debate, we should condemn people for butchering animals. But you would not notice a global or even a local outcry for killing mosquitoes. Why is that? That is because its humans vs. mosquitoes and a lot of people can die because of not killing the mosquitoes. Nearly half a million people died in 2015 due to malaria and hence it is very easy to draw a policy on mosquitoes i.e. “they are the enemy and we should eradicate them”. Same with bad viruses! I am ok with tribalism when it comes to fighting mosquitoes and viruses.
We know that a mosquitoes’ brain is not as complex as that of a lion or a giraffe and hence its suffering is no where near as that of an advanced animal but it is still a suffering isn’t it? Image an alien that comes from a different part of the galaxy, it has had a million year head start in evolution and their brain is a thousand times more complex than that of ours. It would be fair to say that they would assume we are some primitive life forms who don’t suffer to the extent they do, which might be objectively true. On the basis of these findings, they can justify butchering us and take over the Earth. We would not accept their findings and resolution and will try our best to defend ourselves and butcher them instead, independent of the suffering comparison. Something, I would agree with. Is that the tribalism in me that would be coming out? Of course yes.
Now imagine a neighbouring country that has decided that pigs have no right to exist on the planet Earth and they are systematically being killed to a point of extinction in that region. What would your country (tribe) do that holds the view that all animals that are not a direct threat to a human species, have a right to exist? Would you invade that country and stop them from massacring pigs? If your answer is yes, then you are putting your Earthling tribalism over human tribalism because humans will suffer for the defence of pigs. If your answer is no, then you are putting human tribalism over Earthling tribalism because you are not willing to cause human suffering for the sake of pigs’s suffering. Either way, tribalism is involved.
“Us vs. them” is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that no matter how hard we deny its existence, it is there and might stay there for a long time. Imagine if you can make all mosquitoes immune to the virus that causes malaria? We would do that in a heartbeat so mosquitoes can co-exist with us on this beautiful planet! What about the suffering of viruses then? After all, they are also earthlings and regardless of the level of their suffering (if they do suffer) have a moral right to exist. Let’s just say we have made ourselves immune to all types of viruses. Now imagine a world where this technology has been acquired say in the 22ndcentury. The people of that century will view us 21stcenturions as mass butcherers of mosquitoes and viruses. It might seem ridiculous to imagine them viewing us that way but consider the people from the 15thcentury who viewed our fellow humans as slaves. How do we view those slave owners today? Obviously, we see their morality primitive. The most charitable position we can give to a slaver owner of the 15thcentury is “Well they were just a product of their time” but in no universe we will view them as morally superior to us with the exception of religious people who view their prophets as morally superior to everyone from all times.
Tribalism is bad in a sense that it doesn’t do any good on a universal scale. The fittest and strongest survives and wins. It is evolution at play! I am eagerly waiting for synthetic meat to arrive where we no longer have to cause suffering to hundreds of millions of animals every year. I wonder how Muslims will behave then? The whole concept of “Halal” meat will have to be reinvented. We will have one group of people who will consume synthetic meat and then we will have this other group of people that will insist on inflicting pain on millions of animals. The only defence Muslims will have, is “well, it is our religious right!” Needless to say, it would only be Muslims from the 22ndcentury who will sympathise with us meat eaters of the 21stcentury regardless of our religious differences. Unless Muslims of the 22ndcentury evolve and adapt, this might be one of the biggest example of “us vs. them”.
We should be working towards a goal where no life form has to suffer! We are so far behind achieving this goal that we cannot even remove the suffering of humans, let alone other life forms. But now imagine a distant future where we have the technological capability where no wolf can attack our livestock or no pig can ruin our fields, no mosquito can cause death amongst humans, there is no virus left that can kill us, religious differences between humans are gone, resources are equally distributed amongst all humans so there is no reason for a war or artificial human suffering. We all belong to one tribe that is “Earthlings”. What then? Would tribalism end then? It might end and it might take another century or two. Would it really end though? What if an alien civilisation from a distant part of the Milk way galaxy comes in and wants to destroy the entire Earth’s population, down to every single virus? It will be “us vs. them” all over again. Again, I will support that tribalism and I don’t think there would be any human who wouldn’t. Imagine, those invading aliens have made a truce with us and we are all happy to co-exist, will the Earthling tribalism end? Probably not, now another alien civilisation from Andromeda galaxy might turn up and wishes to take over the entire group of planets of the Milky way galaxy that are interesting to them? We will then need all the “Milky Wayins” to unite and fight against the “Andromedans”. This will give rise to “Milky wayin tribalism” Of course its all far fetched and we don’t know even those aliens exist or if they do exist they themselves are tribalistic or not. But this is a question for us to ponder, are we tribalistic in nature? I think we are! We just have to decide which tribe we belong to and how we can include most living beings in that tribe.