This is a personal take on tribalism. Many books and columns have been written on the broad sociological phenomenon of tribalism. Google it.
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Tribalism is the state of being organized in, or advocating for, a tribe or tribes. In terms of conformity, tribalism may also refer in popular cultural terms to a way of thinking or behaving in which people are more loyal to their tribe than to their friends, their country, or any other social group.
My camp boss is a wonderful progressive and an astute observer of human behavior. As we were unloading the new firewood from the back of his pickup truck yesterday, he asked me if I was enjoying the run up to the election. He had noticed that the previously well decorated with bumperstickers rear end of my car was now naked. He asked me, with air quotes, if I was excited.
I told him that I was excited about the opportunity to vote for and volunteer for Hillary Clinton but that the whole ugliness of the campaign disturbed me a lot. I told him his name was on my call list and I thought I’d just ask him in person. “Count me in,” he said.
Then he said this, “What’s happening is that when people get scared, they retreat to their tribes. Look at the Trump supporters, scared white men thinking they are being left behind. Look at the gun control votes. Republicans are too scared to think of the people being killed by guns every day because the NRA tribe rules their votes. Tribalism is really powerful and it overrides reason and common sense.”
My boss has a degree in environmental sciences. Perhaps 8 years ago when I got active in saving the BWCA from sulfide mining, he said, “I’m with you but the $30 billion to $150 billion in minerals means the money tribe will win. It’s not about good mining jobs, it’s about money. The old time iron miners will get used in the process and they are fierce. I wish you luck.”
The campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is winning, against some significant opposition.
Today, the US Forest Service (USFS) announced it was considering protecting Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining by withholding consent to the renewal of two mineral leases. The leases, held by Twin Metals Minnesota, which is owned by the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, expired on Dec. 31, 2013, and are up for renewal.
“The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a one-of-a-kind natural wonder and key driver of the economy of Northern Minnesota,” said Becky Rom, National Chair for the Campaign to Save the Boundary the Waters. “In recognizing the incredible value of the Wilderness and the dangers posed by sulfide-ore copper mining, the Forest Service’s announcement is an important acknowledgement about the need to protect the Boundary Waters.”
Becky is part of one of my tribes, the Ely Empower group of progressive women. Odd in a way that I ended up at the edge of the BWCA and was asked to join Empower. Odd that hundreds of phone calls later, our tribe is winning. The money tribe is losing. I’d write that in all caps if it would help get your attention.
With respect to saving the BWCA, science and historical data were on our side. So were a whole bunch of state Democratic officials.
Every election matters. Pick your tribe carefully and go all-out or all-in, whatever. We can make change happen with every phone call. I am an optimist.
Credit: Adobe Stock Images. Standard License.