While I’ve been living my life over the last 60 years or so, our country has been dividing in to two distinct camps fueled by the expanse of cable TV and social media. During my early life most everyone I knew was pretty much on the same page. My first knowledge of this dichotomy was Al Franken’s book Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and a Tea Party reveler at my job. I wasn’t a big follower of politics during this time, but several of the claims made by the reveler were highly contradictory to my worldview. Now that this divide is part of my awareness, I am struggling to understand it.
In The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks (Random Books, NY 2019), the author outlines the causes behind this move toward tribalism. Brooks posits, that since the 60s, Americans have adopted a “…hyper-individualistic way of life,” resulting in a “….a great disembedding” from community, a loss of purpose, a sense of “…moral directionlessness” which together has caused “…common life to decay.” People are leaving “…tight communities with prescribed social norms.” They are “living further apart from one another – socially, emotionally and physically.”
According to Brooks, this has all resulted in a loneliness crisis characterized by “general detachment” and being “unaffiliated” which has taken a “…psychological, social and moral toll.” After loneliness comes distrust as trust in reciprocity with neighbors disappears and faith in the institutions of public life becomes nonexistent. Next is the crisis of meaning where there is “…no common moral order” and where they have lost “faith in faith.” “People do not feel they are part of some larger story that they can believe in and dedicate their lives to.” These three crises have given rise to tribalism.
The author concludes that “Individualism taken too, far, leads to tribalism.” So this is where we are now. What can we do to heal as a nation? How can we find a common purpose? Who are we? We can’t determine who “we” are if we are in a constant state of “us vs them.” People who are individually searching for meaning are easily drawn to world-views that counter the common good. I will delve further into this topic for next week as it seems a bit overwhelming at this moment. Comments are welcomed.