Ask The Psychologist Issue #46: What is Tribalism and is it Good or Bad?

Tribalism is  the human tendency to seek out and connect with like-minded people, who share common interests, beliefs or habits. According to Seth Godin, a tribe is a group of people who are connected to one another. 

With a negative connotation and in a political context, tribalism can also mean discriminatory behavior or attitudes towards out-groups, based on in-group loyalty.

I remember one of my college psychology professors telling our class that, a sociology course will simply tell us that, people live in groups. In a sense, primitive man/woman lived in groups to survive. Every member of this tribe had  sets of duties that benefited the total group and helped all survive. Out of this evolutionary process, the need to have the species survive and eventually, NATURAL LAWS FOR HUMAN EXISTENCE followed. 

Natural law is a theory in ethics and philosophy that says that human beings possess intrinsic values that govern their reasoning and behavior. Natural law maintains that these rules of right and wrong are inherent in people and are not created by society, politicks or court judges. The thinking can be deducted that without these Natural Laws, it would be a matter of time before the human species will become extinct. 

It can then be stated that all humans are fundamentally equal and bestowed with an intrinsic basic set of rights, that no human can remove. That is to say, there is a body of unchanging moral principles, regarded as a basis for all human conduct. From the time human beings first walked the earth, they soon realized that the first example of a natural law includes the idea that it is universally accepted and understood that killing a human being is wrong. However, it is also universally accepted that punishing someone for killing that person is right. Without this recognition, the human groups would eventually disappear, along with their whole species.

Various religions reflect on Natural Laws for human survival. The Ten Commandments reflects the natural moral laws. The natural moral law means, the objective moral order created by God. That is, there is a “divine blueprint” or “set of rules” by which people live moral lives.The Ten Commandments teach about respecting God, being honest, honoring our parents, keeping the Sabbath day holy, and being good neighbors, etc. These rules are as important today as they were thousands of years ago.
Those natural rights of life, liberty, and property, are protected implicitly in the original US Constitution, are explicitly protected in the Bill of Rights. That right of liberty is the right to do all those things which do not harm another’s life, property, or equal liberty. Many scholars, as well as myself, think that the idea of natural rights emerged from natural law, Therefore, when tribes are harmful, they have  negative connotation and are in a one sided political context. This type of tribalism can mean discriminatory behavior or attitudes towards out-groups, based on in-group loyalty and as a result, will restrict the natural rights of the out-groups. We have seen this destructive tribalism throughout history, where the end result was the violation of the first example of a natural law, the death and punishment of innocent human beings. The major question is, do you see this happening now, over the years in the United States and if so, are you contributing to a one side political context or, the intrinsic human values of all concerned. 

Bart P. Billings,Ph.D.
COL SCNG-SC, Military Medical Directorate (Ret.)
Licensed Clinical Psychologist CA PSY 7656
Licensed Marriage, Family Therapist CA LMFT 4888
-Director/Founder International Military & Civilian Combat Stress Conference
-Initial Enlisted Ranks and Retired as Medical Service Corps Officer with a total of 34 years in US Army
-Recipient of the 2014 Human Rights Award from Citizens Commission on Human Rights International & The University Of Scranton “Frank O’Hara Award” in 2016. (“Invisible Scars” & “Unhealthy Eating …” Books Website) (Combat Stress Conference website)
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