“But the Us in blind tribalism is creepy. In blind tribalism, the tribe’s guiding dogma doubles as the identity of the tribe members, and the Us factor enforces that concept. Conscious tribe members reach conclusions—blind tribe members are conclusions. With a blind Us, if the way you are as an individual happens to contain opinions, traits, or principles that fall outside the outer edges of the dogma walls, they will need to be shed—or things will get ugly. By challenging the dogma of your tribe, you’re challenging both the sense of certainty the tribe members gain their strength from and the clear lines of identity they rely on.
“The best friend of a blind Us is a nemesis Us—Them. Nothing unites Us like a collectively hated anti-Us, and the blind tribe is usually defined almost as much by hating the dogma of Them as it is by abiding by the dogma of Us.
And if there isn’t a Them around anymore — perhaps because he has just died — they will find a new Them to attack. The one that was associated most strongly with the old one, perhaps.
“Whatever element of rigid, identity-encompassing blindness is present in your own tribal life will reveal itself when you dare to validate any part of the rival Them dogma.
“Give it a try. The next time you’re with a member of a tribe you’re a part of, express a change of heart that aligns you on a certain topic with whoever your tribe considers to be Them. If you’re a religious Christian, tell people at church you’re not sure anymore that there’s a God. If you’re an artist in Boulder, explain at the next dinner party that you think global warming might actually be a liberal hoax. If you’re an Iraqi, tell your family that you’re feeling pro-Israel lately. If you and your husband are staunch Republicans, tell him you’re coming around on Obamacare. If you’re from Boston, tell your friends you’re pulling for the Yankees this year because you like their current group of players.
If you’re me, try saying that your reality is that Mom was selfish, lazy, neglectful, and disinterested, but Dad really loved you. That Joe & Susan were shitty, and they should feel bad about what they did, and apologize. Try saying that you don’t want kids to your family and your MIL.
“If you’re in a tribe with a blind mentality of total certainty, you’ll probably see a look of horror. It won’t just seem wrong, it’ll seem like heresy. They might get angry, they might passionately try to convince you otherwise, they might cut off the conversation—but there will be no open-minded conversation. And because identity is so intertwined with beliefs in blind tribalism, the person actually might feel less close to you afterwards. Because for rigidly tribal people, a shared dogma plays a more important role in their close relationships than they might recognize…
“As far as society is concerned, when you give something a try—on the values front, the fashion front, the religious front, the career front—you’ve branded yourself. And since people like to simplify people in order to make sense of things in their own head, the tribe around you reinforces your brand by putting you in a clearly-labeled, oversimplified box.
“What this all amounts to is that it becomes very painful to change. Changing is icky for someone whose identity will have to change along with it. And others don’t make things any easier. Blind tribe members don’t like when other tribe members change—it confuses them, it forces them to readjust the info in their heads, and it threatens the simplicity of their tribal certainty. So attempts to evolve are often met with opposition or mockery or anger.
But without change there is no possible growth, personal or otherwise.
“…when you are the experiment, negative feedback isn’t a piece of new, helpful information—it’s an insult. And it hurts. And it makes you mad. And because changing feels impossible, there’s not much good that feedback can do anyway—it’s like giving parents negative feedback on the name of their one-month-old child.
Which basically explains why nothing I’ve ever said has been taken on board by anyone.
“…they were “trapped in their own history.”
“…Being trapped in your history means you don’t know how to change, you’ve forgotten how to innovate, and you’re stuck in the identity box the world has put you in.“
More confirmation that mostly, I’ve made the right choices: to be myself, to speak what I believe to be the truth, and to rid myself of a whole litany of dogmas: Catholicism, mother-worship, career choices, patriarchal thinking. Phew.
The price has been what it was always going to be. It’s a steep price tag, but it’s been worth it.