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Tribalism, Post-Tribalism and Counter-Tribalism

The modern left has become a curious amalgam of the modern, the post-modern and the savage.
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This is the peculiar uncertain place that the left is in. It’s no longer modern, but its ideas were put into place by modernists, its elites share the modern bias for progress, but have grown skeptical of the technology that makes for progress, and their rationalism is tainted by romantic political codes. Its old notions of the inevitable forward march of man sits side by side with the grad student in ethnic studies who believes that the best times were in the past.

The left has shrunk down to a social welfare movement obsessed with perfecting the municipal governments and non-profits that administer cities filled with savages. Its self-image is elitist, but its horizons are hopelessly petty. It reflexively backs absurd identity politics causes because there is nothing else for it to do except embrace its own dissolution.

The counter-tribal seeks its own destruction. Unlike the modernist post-tribal, it has no horizon. It is suffused with ennui, with an awareness of the evils of its own white privilege, its capitalism, the blood that its ancestors spilled and their endless crimes against man and the environment. It measures enlightenment in relation to its suicidal tendencies. The truly aware and educated individual is a member of a culture that believes it has no right to go on existing.

Counter-tribals and post-tribals both measure advancement in relation to the rejection of the tribe. The difference is that post-tribals did so because they believed that another level of civilization lay ahead, while the counter-tribals believed that the tribe was evil.

The modern West is dominated by counter-tribals, with a strong post-tribal influence. But the post-tribals rarely challenge the counter-tribals. When they do, the boot of political correctness, a construct largely used by counter-tribals to suppress post-tribals and the wrong sorts of tribals, comes down on their heads.

The paradox of the counter-tribals is that they too are a tribe. Much as the post-tribals were. The very act of opposing tribalism creates its own tribe. This can be illustrated by an example from Howard Jacobson’s novel, The Finkler Question, in which the ASHamed Jews, who have formed a movement based on their great shame at being identified with Israel, the epitome of Jewish tribalism, find themselves becoming a tribe, bonding over their common distaste for Jewish tribalism.

The paradox is one of human nature. The creation of a group is the birth of an embryonic tribe. The post-tribal is only another form of tribe. The counter-tribals understand this better than the post-tribals do. They just rarely talk about it. They form a defined elite with consistent characteristics whose existence they are constantly apologizing for at someone else’s expense. This too is a common feature of post-tribalism. The individual can subsume his ego within the tribe, but the post-tribal associations are collections of egos, plans for the imposition of collective mandates that none of the individuals imposing them wishes to accept.

The post-tribal apocalypse is military as the clashes between construct empires reached a devastating scope, while the counter-tribal apocalypse is industrial. The counter-tribals reach back to romantic times, their obsession with the evils of technology predates the moderns. The post-tribals may have feared a nuclear war unleashed by mechanical means and mechanical societies too detached from any sense of the group to understand that they were destroying the world, but the counter-tribals are obsessed with industrial pollution destroying the world, they project local pollution on a global scale.

The post-tribal solution to nuclear war was typically more post-tribalism, more transnationalism, more global organizations and international law, eventually leading to a world state; the ultimate post-tribal institution. The counter-tribal solution to a hallucinated environmental catastrophe is to achieve what their feudal spiritual ancestors were unable to, the close regulation of technology.

The post-tribals were obsessed with the new, while the counter-tribals are obsessed with the real and the authentic. Apple is post-tribal, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is counter-tribal while Hip-Hop is tribal. Combined them in one and you have an example of how post-tribal structure makes counter-tribal and tribal ideas expressible and influential.

Modern America runs on post-tribal structures, but the spirit of its liberal politics is the counter-tribalism and reservation tribalism of the left. Counter-tribal and tribal politicians still use post-tribal rhetoric because it is the only form of unity keeping countries together. They know that as soon as the system fully engages in open counter-tribal and tribal rhetoric, the entire thing will collapse.

About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.


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One Response to “Tribalism, Post-Tribalism and Counter-Tribalism”

  1. Fascinating analysis of 21st century Western society.

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