David Brooks has devoted at least part of his last four columns to worrying about what he sees as growing “tribal” emotions within the United States. From the New York Times:
The End of the Two-Party System
David Brooks FEB. 12, 2018
… Today, after the financial crisis, the shrinking of the middle class, the partisan warfare, a scarcity mind-set is dominant: Resources are limited. The world is dangerous. Group conflict is inevitable. It’s us versus them. If they win, we’re ruined, therefore, let’s stick with our tribe. The ends justify the means.
The Rise of the Amphibians
David Brooks FEB. 15, 2018
They assert that the way you see the world is determined by your single tribal identity. … In so doing they cultivate mistrust, division and emotional frozenness. …
Their lives teach that what matters is what you do with your background, the viewpoints you construct by combining viewpoints. Their lives are examples of the power of love to slice through tribal identity.
David Brooks FEB. 19, 2018
… We don’t really have policy debates anymore. We have one big tribal conflict, and policy fights are just proxy battles as each side tries to establish moral superiority. But just as the tribal mentality has been turned on, it can be turned off. Then and only then can we go back to normal politics and take reasonable measures to keep our children safe.
The Virtue of Radical Honesty
David Brooks FEB. 22, 2018
This week I asked a group of students at the University of Chicago a question I’m asking students around the country: Who are your heroes? There’s always a long pause after I ask. But eventually one of the students suggested Steven Pinker. …
That is to say, Pinker doesn’t spend much time on the decline of social trust, the breakdown of family life, the polarization of national life, the spread of tribal mentalities, the rise of narcissism, the decline of social capital, the rising alienation from institutions or the decline of citizenship and neighborliness. …
Conscious reason can get you only so far when tribal emotions have been aroused, when existential fears rain down, when narcissistic impulses have been given free rein, when spiritual longings have nowhere healthy to go, when social trust has been devastated, when all the unconscious networks that make up 99 percent of our thinking are aflame and disordered. …
Pinker’s rationalism is not the total cure. But I have to confess, I really like him. A few years ago the magazine Moment gave genetic tests to a bunch of writers with Jewish heritage. The tests reveal that Pinker and I are third cousins. Learning of this kinship tie, I now feel special affection for him. Why? There’s no rational, scientific reason. I just do.
From Moment Magazine:
The Moment Magazine Great DNA Experiment
BY NADINE EPSTEIN September 20, 2012
They got 15 Jewish-American celebrities (Ruth Behar, Joshua Bell, Mayim Bialik, David Brooks, Linda Chavez, Alan Derhowitz, Stephen Dubner, Nadine Epstein, Tovah Feldshuh, A.J. Jacobs, Steven Pinker, Robert Siegel, Thaddeus Tobe, Laurel Touby, and Esther Wojcicki) to take a 23andMe DNA test. This is the company founded by Esther’s daughter Anne Wojcicki, who is the sister of Youtube CEO and James Damore-firer Susan Wojcicki:
Wojcicki has eleven cousins in the group and says she is distantly related to son-in-law, Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
For the most part, we found zero degrees of separation.
This means that most of the individuals we tested were directly related to one another.
This finding far exceeds the three degrees of separation found among most Americans.
I don’t know exactly what that means, but it sounds kind of, well, tribal.