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Tribalism: The enemy among us

Tribalism: The enemy among us


EDITOR: One P.R. Campbell was once my mentor, whom I followed with upraised fist around Grammar School’s lawn in Black Power protest during the mid 1970’s. It was this same gentleman who during the referendum discussions of 2009 said he feared that tribalism had taken root in Vincentian politics. Truly it has and the main feature of this tribalism is the person who blindly follows another, losing his own identity in the process.

No one can doubt that SVG has a serious identity problem. Perhaps the first step in any conversation is to feel out whether a person is ULP or NDP. This single bit of information decides how you are to be treated. Universal recognition, first and foremost as a Vincentian, is being replaced by recognition based on which political party you support. This assumes significance in an environment of limited opportunities. Come on board, the party tribe will take care of those who take on its badge of identity. In power and when it gets into power.

Observers like Kwame Anthony Appiah note that this type of tribal identity becomes the enemy of human solidarity and national unity.

Wesley Yang exposes the party tribe as being characterized by dogmatism,circular reasoning, hugging up a self-enclosed system of reference protected against criticism and so stifling free speech. Aha, you too have seen persons when talking, constantly glancing over their shoulder as if looking for the bogey man.

They are afraid of the party tribe’s tale-bearers who will report your name for reward, even if just for a doggy pat on the back. The mind of the political tribe is closed to any reasoning except its own. But one hand can’t clap.

According to Stanford University’s Francis Fukuyama, the political tribe’s chief assault on democracy is that it forces the citizen to be consumed with his own personal survival and so diverts all energy away from addressing bigger national problems.

St Clair Leacock lamented that after 39 years of Independence we are still bogged down with problems of internal relationships. Yep, The Major is correct. Instead of coming together to face external problems, including any connection with heinous crime, we have turned against each other. Even the church becomes fair ground for practicing tribalism from those who call themselves our brethren.

Vincentians, just like any other people, do not become “trained” or “matured” in democracy by leaders pre-occupied with the ballot. It is by our own continuous fight for democracy against any power of tribalism that this is achieved. And Brother Chad Kautzer believes that by the time we awake to challenge our absorbed political identities, much would seem normal. Many of us suffer from outrage fatigue in that wrongs in society no longer surprise us or draw any passionate desire to correct them. This begins our spiral downwards into self-imposed helplessness.

But in 2019, let us resolve to let go of political tribalism and reunite ourselves again as universal Vincentians. The extremely divisive political opinion leaders are generally only about 10% of the population and we must by all means undo the disproportionate tribal influence they exert on our identity.

If politics takes over everything we are all going to be destroyed. There must be space to communicate in which identity politics does not distort. We need to put on badges/bumper stickers of independent thought, not badges of political identity.

I leave with the words of W.E.B Dubois taken from his book entitled The Souls of Black Folk : “It takes great strength to live as a subject and not an object when you are denied the security and resources allowed to others”. Let it not apply here.

Happy New Year to all.

Steve J Wyllie.