Tribalism is a primitive instinct, yet patriotism and loyalty are honorable traits. But where do we draw the line?

Tribalism is an us-or-them mentality that starts wars and rips societies apart at the seams. Back in the days where we actually had tribes fighting over scarce resources, this philosophy made sense. If you couldn’t hold your own against the neighboring human pack, you could lose your cave and your food stash.

But in a time when we have more than enough resources to go around, we don’t need to fight for our dinner anymore. And while feeling pride in your homeland and your circle of friends is just fine, thinking of outsiders as the “enemy” is not. Some Americans can’t stand to hear that European countries, or even our northerly neighbor Canada, are doing something better than we are, whether it’s offering better (and often free) health care or getting rid of crime. That mentality prevents us from learning what works rather than simply living with a broken system.

Tribalism really gets dangerous when people target other groups with violence. This happens a lot with people from different religions or ethnicities: whites enslaving African-Americans, Christians murdering Jews in Medieval Europe or Sunni and Shi’a Muslims trying to annhilate one another in Iraq. These cases have nothing to do with logic, and everything to do with base instincts.

So while we may be better off under the protection of a cohesive group (i.e. America), which makes some degree of patriotism a good thing,  it’s important not to allow the mentality to go unchecked. We need to be accepting of others and treat them as our own unless they present us with an immediate and obvious threat. Otherwise, tribalism gets out of hand and things turn ugly.

image:  Moyan_Brenn