Requiem for an Empire

Requiem for an Empire

brexittribalismBritain’s dominant tribe, the Conservatives, has been hoisted by its own petard. Long live the Queen.

As Shakespeare might say they’ve undone themselves. Kikuyu Kenyans, American Republicans, Le Pen Français and ANC South Africans better take a very hard look, because tribalism simply won’t work in today’s world.

British conservatives preached a stew of tribal policies like austerity, go-slow immigration, social services cutbacks, retraction from the EU and now they’ve eaten it. So they’re dying.

Tribalism is a cancerous phenomenon: once it takes hold it’s hard to stop. It grows much faster than other social phenomena like welfare or desegregation. It forces those around it to also become tribal, even against the better judgment.

Brexit likely means that Scotland will secede. Conservative movements throughout Europe get an enormous boost. This morning tribalism is all powerful.

One of the first western anthropologists to study tribalism was Margaret Mead, and one of her best current disciples is the Australian, Roger Sandall.

Sandall was intellectually marginalized by a now going-out-of-date notion that ethnic identity is preeminent in any social situation. He suffered unfair criticism that he’s racist.

But Sandall’s interpretation of Mead is perfect for what happened in Britain yesterday as well as the growing sentiment worldwide to retract into small social units and “go it alone.”

(Make America Great Again means building walls, voiding trade agreements and impeding immigration.)

Sandall wrote that Margaret Mead understood “culture [is] more valuable than its people… that the intellectual features of tribalism cannot be defended; that its moral code leaves much to be desired; that its economic assumptions obstruct and stultify.”

Tribalism is Africa’s greatest single plight, and I’m constantly inspired by how vigorously young Africans try to shake it but to date simply haven’t succeeded. The trend is there, however, and I’m convinced in another generation or two Africa will have become one of the least tribal areas on earth.

Then why this regression in our (theoretically more developed) world?

People are fed up. But they don’t yet understand – as the Brit does this morning – that the wealth, power and glory that they strived for all their lives is exactly why they’re in the state they’re in today. There just isn’t enough wealth, power and glory to go around satisfactorily. Everybody can’t have it.

So when some Joe gets his hands on it, he has to do everything possible to keep it from the rest of us.

One of Joe’s most successful ways of doing this is to flaunt his wealth, power and glory, to convince us nincompoops that we can all be like him if we just do what he says.

And what he says in clever ways secures his wealth, power and glory at the expense of us ever being able to achieve it. He convinces us to act, to vote, against our own self interest.

That’s lying. That leads to a whole new set of techniques to make us think it isn’t lying, or that lying doesn’t matter.

So against simple commonsense, straight-forward grammar and very complex economic data, the poor British sot just chose to make his life infinitely worse.

That’s too bad. But it could be good for Kikuyu Kenyans, American Republicans, Le Pen Français and ANC South Africans. If the pound tumbles quickly enough there might be time enough to witness the British sot getting sotter before these others start to destroy themselves, too.

Ultimately tribalism won’t work. Mead and Sandall are correct. The requiem for British conservatism is now our formal example. American Republicans might be the next.