Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Our Tribalism is better than Their Tribalism

The CBC had a opinion column today that was definitely an opinion: The internet has fostered a new kind of tribalism, and it's destroying the way we interact.

It's short but I don't know if it's worth the read. You've probably encountered this view before - our facebook only shows us people we agree with. Never mind that everyone I know who frequents facebook faces views they disagree with all the time.

Back in the pre-internet days, I suppose people used to debate with people with differing views all the time. It was like the Athenian forum, with philosophers in every park espousing their ideas and the most rigourous arguments ideas winning the day. Or perhaps it was all compassion, with everyone lending a sympathetic ear the trouble events affect the lives of the server at Tim Hortons instead of just ordering their coffee and walking out. I was alive in the 1980s, I don't remember any of that.

I remember people being pretty shitty to one another. I remember homophobia being completely normal. I remember the backlash against "political correctness run amok" - of course in the 1980s being politically incorrect was more routine sexual assault than it was misplaced words.

Yeah, let's get back to the good old days.

The internet hasn't created some new kind of tribalism. It's democratized the old kind of tribalism. Pre-internet we lived in a world where it was very easy for heterosexual people of the area's predominant race and religion to persecute people who deviated from their culture. And they did that, big time. Now if you are the only gay teenager in your small town, or the only furry in your medium-sized town, or the only person trying to make working origami Turing machine in your country, you can find people online who share your situation and make your own tribe. You can talk shit about dominant culture with people who understand your situation.

So when people lament this new tribalism, they are actually lamenting that the freaks and geeks can form their own cliques and harkening to a time when cliques were for pretty, rich white girls only. That guy who you stuffed in a locker in highschool has friends - guys like that aren't supposed to have friends. It's a threat to social hierarchy and privilege being labeled a social scourge.

Yes, we seem to be more divided than ever, but blaming the internet is a little rich. Our contemporary age of political division is an intentional political strategy of a major political movement. Our zeitgeist that says there is no such thing a society and we are all in it for ourselves - that is creating division.

Plus, I seem to recall that countries had civil wars long before there was an internet, we seem to do a fine job of dividing ourselves without it.

If you are really concerned that we are sheltering ourselves, stop being upset that black trans women with disabilities can organize safe spaces for themselves and start listening to what they are saying. Then, when you have heard and understood a point of view that isn't limited to your friendsphere, be thankful that they were able to find that space to talk about their issues without having to listen to your "diverse" opinions.

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