Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tribalist Nonsense Makes You Look Like an Idiot - Stop Doing it!

I’ve been hammering on the point recently that most politics today is tribalist nonsense. I say this because I see people voting for their team, more than they actually vote for the causes that they apparently stand for.  This irks non-denominational political actors like myself, who try to base their decisions on a law’s merit rather than who proposed it. I’ve used the Patriot Act as an example (that was considered a conservative thing to do?  Really?).  There are many others. 

The fact is, we humans are struggling mightily to overcome our baser instincts, and in a lot of cases, we are not very successful in doing so.  Our proclivity to fall into “us vs. them” tribalist arguments is one of those cases.  I’ve tried mightily to point out to people that they are taking sides in the Giant Douche vs. Turd Sandwich debate based on which political party Douche and Turd are a part of, when what they should be doing is demanding an alternative because neither option is very good.  And yet you have guys that are nominally anti-douche in every way, vehemently defending the Douche because he is from the right political party.  20 years ago, Mitt Romney would have been considered to the left of most mainstream democrats, and yet the nominally conservative republican base was rooting for him as if he was their own personal savior come election time, just because of the “R” after his name. 

And yea, then He said "there will be no alcohol or caffiene,"
and He saw that it was good...
 To prove my point, here are my five most favorite examples of non-political tribalist nonsense in the present day.  Focus on the point that I’m trying to make as you read this, which is to say that when you stand apart from these tribalist arguments, and you really don’t care which side is right and instead are focused on the real answer to the issue, the people involved in them look like drooling morons.  You draw the moral.

 Brand loyalty arguments.

There are a lot of examples of these:  Harley Davidson vs. Every Other Brand of Motorcycle;  Coke vs. Pepsi;  Starbucks vs. coffee that is actually good...

I could go on for a while, but I won’t, because the only one that I need to mention in order for you to understand the magnitude of the stupidity here is this one:

Yup.  Brand wars as regards the three most popular brands of full sized pickup truck in the United States.  Ford vs. General Motors vs. Dodge (now Ram, I guess?).  You can see the bumper stickers as you drive to work every morning.  Young boys urinating on the competing brand’s logo; “I’d rather push my Chevy than drive a Ford!”; FORD = Found On Road Dead.  Do I need to go on, because they just get more vulgar from here on out?

It's clever because the Dodge Diesel is made by Cummins,
and the Ford diesel is branded "Powerstroke" so the sticker is
making a commentary about how the owner...  fuck it, never mind...  

In no other category does the vitriol get any worse than with diesel pickups.  One would assume that since diesel trucks are the biggest, most powerful, most capable trucks available right now that they are the pinnacle of that manufacturer’s truck manufacturing ability, and so it is in those categories that the largest amount of hate gets spewed. 

If you listen to a Chevy guy, your Chevy will function flawlessly for 500,000 miles, without even having to put fuel in it. You’d be lucky to make it out of the parking lot with your Dodge before the piece of shit managed to fall apart, however.  A Dodge guy will tell you that their engine (the 5.9 Cummins diesel) has been in American industrial applications since the 1950s, is proven, powerful, and much more reliable than that Japanese-sourced pile of crap with the “beer can aluminum” heads in the Chevy.  The Ford guy will brag because his truck has the most GCVWR capability, and will put any two Dodge or Chevys to shame in brute hauling manliness. 

But if you take a second to look at the specifications for all of these trucks, something is going to jump out at you, and that something will be how absolutely, remarkably similar all these trucks are.

I chose the picture at the head of this section for a reason - those pictures are amalgamations of all three brands, overlayed over each other.  Notice how they fit together perfectly?  Notice how the trucks are almost identical in every way?  

They all sport mid-300’s horsepower, turbo diesel engines.  They all have 6 speed automatic transmissions.  Yes, Ford’s GCVWR is a bit higher (something like 1,500 pounds more) but then you look further down the page and you’ll see that their truck’s curb weight is almost exactly that much higher than that of the Dodge and Chevy offerings, meaning it’s actual hauling capability is exactly the same. 

But the number is BIGGER!  IT'S BIGGER!!!!!

Each has its pluses and minuses which fit the preferences of each individual owner, but we’re not talking about the major, vast gulf of difference that you would be forced to assume exist if you were listening is as an unsavvy outsider.  And once you are aware of that, you become more aware of how fucking moronic these people sound when they literally get angry, and sometimes even violently so, in their discussions about who’s truck can out-whatever who’s. 

Best example I can think of:

This is a video of a test that some fucking genius came up with to determine once and for all which truck is best.  They took a Ford Expedition and a Chevy Suburban, tied the back ends together with a tow strap, put them in 4-wheel drive on a dry asphalt parking lot, and played tug-of-war with their $50,000 trucks.  The Ford easily dragged the Chevy backwards across the parking lot, so to the Ford guys, this is proof positive that their truck is the biggest, baddest truck out there, and that anyone who drives a truck with a “bowtie” is a light-loafered nancy-boy.

I did feel a bit like I shit in their punchbowl when I pointed out to them that the only thing that this proved was that the Ford Expedition was heavier than the Suburban, and nothing more. 

2.       Racism

I am trying really hard to write something funny here, but seriously, how does one make jokes about racism?  It isn’t really that funny.  I think the biggest thing that I always like to point out here that the tribalists miss is that “different” is not the same thing as “not equal.”  You can have discussions about differences, including discussing whether a certain difference is a plus or minus to a particular group, but to use differences as a bludgeon to “prove” that the other group is somehow inferior to your group is just fucking stupid.  

I could point out that the same thing happens in the gender wars.  Women and men on both sides get absolutely twitter-pated about the fact that men and women are not the same, talking from their bubble and their viewpoint about how those differences make the other less than them, without even considering that they are speaking from a bubble of their own perspective, proclivities, and experiences. 

3.       Religious Denominations

I’m not talking about different religions here, because in a perverse sort of way, the historical fights between Christianity and Islam, for instance, sort of makes sense in a rudimentary and moronic way.  No, I’m talking about in-fighting within the same religion, between different denominations.  Sunni vs. Shiite vs. Shia;  Catholic vs. Lutheran vs. Protestant.

Scientology vs. Sanity
What you have here are people who all believe in the same message of faith, hope, redemption, love, and eternal life, and yet get into heated, many times insanely violent arguments about trivial points of dogma, which were often times not even mentioned by the founder of the religion. 

In an example that I hope won’t draw too much ire, the tribalist mentality in humans is proven to be even stronger than our desire to have a system of morality, by Christians fighting with each other over who is properly worshipping the peaceful, pacifist originator of their religion.  

"So, yeah, you're all doing it wrong, just so you know,"

At some point in time, someone decided that Jesus Christ, a man who preached love and peace to the point to where he wouldn’t even defend himself against the men who ended up brutally killing him, would want them to start fighting with other people because they weren’t kneeling in just the right way when they worshipped him, or picking the correct day as the Sabbath.  The tribalist mentality has become so ingrained in us that we will do violence against people in the name of a pacifist God, all over trivial points of dogma that Jesus never even talked about, while at the same time not realizing how absolutely ball-crushingly stupid that all sounds. 

"Ahh, duuurrrrr..."

The Sunnis and Shiites are bombing the shit out of each other on an almost daily basis, all because they each think that the other is wrong.  If this isn’t bad enough, the things over which they disagree are so trivial in the grand scheme of their belief system that it boggles the mind that they would ever even consider hurting one another over them. 

Best example I can think of:

I was going to say the inter-Islamic violence that is going on right now, or the  Catholic/Protestant wars in Ireland, but they aren’t contemporary enough to my readers.  So I chose the Phelps clan.  If there is a better example of people more interested in their tribe being right than they are with making the rational choice, I can’t think of one. 

At one point in time, this woman presumably asked herself: "WWJD?"
This is what she came up with.  

 Biker Gangs

If you took a group of like-minded men, with similar interests, similar goals, similar styles, and the same hobby, would you expect them to get along okay with a few exceptions, or would you expect them to partition up into groups based on a logo on their jacket, and start to maim and kill each other because the other guy had the wrong logo?

If you chose the first option, you’ve never considered how ludicrous rival biker gangs are. 

Or ape-hanger handlebars.  Just sayin'

I’m not talking about the weekend Harley owners with some black leathers, but the serious, beaten-in, ride-for-the-club bike gangs that you see on TV and read about in the news.  They hate each other.  They kill each other.  They do damage to each other’s property, and fight each other whenever one group invades another’s turf.  They commit unprovoked acts of aggression against each other as a hobby. 

And why? 

These are men that aren’t just similar.  They are almost exactly the same.  By most rational standards, they should be friends with each other, and yet they’ve chosen to be enemies over the logo that they wear on their leather jackets. 

"The devil on your black leather jacketwith silver buckles is a
different shade of red than the devil on MY leather jacket with silver buckles!
I've decided that I hate you!"

Best example that I can think of:

The Devil’s Ride.  Every episode.  Don’t waste your time watching it.  Just take my word for it.  It is mind-boggling.  


  1. Preach it.
    People hate the other, it's always been (since we killed off all the neanderthals), sometimes what makes the person the other is just ridiculous.

    You know, except for people who put the TP in the incorrect, overhand fashion. There's no excuse for that stupidity.

    1. "You know, except for people who put the TP in the incorrect, overhand fashion. There's no excuse for that stupidity"

      Oh my God, yes. All of those stupid assholes should be shot on site.