[A]n enthusiastic Tory backbencher like me can hardly wait to switch on the Today programme every morning in order to listen to all the bad news. The health crisis has deepened, the rail network has gone pear-shaped and Tony Blair's mania for world tourism has made him a laughing stock.
- David Cameron, 2002
In wake of the recent Foot and Mouth issue, both Stephan Newton and Tom Freeman have commented on the eagerness of some Conservative commentators to focus on how bad this could be for the Labour Party, as opposed to how bad it could be for the farming industry or country. As Tom notes, this tendency, by all parties, to turn important issues into political point-scoring is hardly new.
Nor is it confined to politics. Tribalism – viewing the world largely through the prism of Us and Them – is everywhere. Tribalism replaces open and honest discussion with an infantile attempt to prove that my country/political group/religious belief/football team/etc. is better than yours. It replaces the discussion of ideas and issues with simplistic point-scoring.
You can see tribalism in action across the Internet: Anytime a discussion of politics starts to revolve around whether the Nazis or BNP are left- or rightwing, or whether atheists or religious believers have killed the most people. These aren’t serious discussions, but merely attempts to prove that ‘our’ beliefs are better than ‘their’ beliefs – as though groups such as leftwing, Christian, etc. were almost completely homogenous, without important rifts and divisions. Once the discussion enters this stage, it becomes utterly pointless.
I suppose that’s why I’m attracted to explicitly non-tribalist projects such as ‘Blogpower’ and ‘In Search of High Places’, which are concerned with individuals more than ideologies.