Tribal politics

In a blog post http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2015/08/tribal-politics-and-the-death-of-reason/ Brian Edwards talks about his politics, concluding:

Idealism has a tendency to give way to pragmatism in politics. Leaders, particularly in opposition, have a tendency to become followers of what is sellable rather than what is right. Labour Party leaders are no exception.

But, all things considered, I’m still a Labour voter with a greenish tinge. What I’m not is one-eyed. I don’t believe that everything about the Labour Party is good and everything about the National Party is bad. I’m simply not “tribal”.

He then moves on to ‘Tribal Politics”.

Tribalism in politics is the death of reason. It involves seeing no good in the parties you oppose and no bad in the party you support. It involves blind admiration for the leader of your party and dismissive rejection of the leaders of opposing parties. It involves ascribing the worst motives to those on the other side of the fence and the best motives to those on your side. Tribal thinking can be bigoted, irrational and capable of real malice. To get a taste of this read some of the almost invariably anonymous comments about  my posts on this site or Twitter or the National Business Review which republishes what I write.

Tribal politics draws no distinction between the person and the party they support. It’s as if being Labour, National, Green, a follower of Winston or Colin Craig  was part of your DNA – permanent, irreversible and , perhaps worst, capable of explaining everything about you. “Typical Labour!” is the commonest term of disapproval I read about myself when I’ve written a post or left a comment on Twitter or Facebook. The words stick to me like the label on a supermarket apple.

But there’s nothing “typically Labour” about me. And the truth of the matter is that I could never join the Labour Party or any other party, because that would compel me to think  tribally rather than thinking for myself and saying what I thought.

Which is why I say that tribal politics inevitably involves the death of reason. If you really think that a political party, your political party, is the only viable option or can do no wrong, you’ve given up thinking.

On the other hand, it’s a very, very comfortable position to be in.

It’s easy to see tribal politics in action on political blogs (not here!), and ‘reason’ seems to be lacking at times, at least on the surface – political activism doesn’t always express reality, as the PR often rules.

But most people aren’t politically tribal. I I think the reality is that most people are very comfortable ignoring politics as much as possible most of the time.

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15 Comments

  1. kiwi_guy

     /  7th August 2015

    A lot of the posters on here are VERY tribal – foaming at the mouth about the Left but only stop to take aim at the Right if they perceived it as having moved to far towards the center.

    Reply
    • The tribal politics Edwards talks about is party orientated. I couldn’t tell you which party I think any of the regulars here would vote for.

      From what I see most comment here as individuals with no clear party allegiance or allegiance to other commenters.

      Reply
    • Mike C

       /  7th August 2015

      @KiwiGuy

      Sometimes I agree with Zedd and Ugly, and at times I disagree with AlanW and Kitty, and vice versa.

      My opinions and views are based upon my own ethics and morals and life experience, and I certainly have never been the type of person who follows others like a sheep 🙂

      If l disagree with anyone in here, I would hope that they don’t take it personally, just the same as I do not take it personally when people don’t agree with me.

      I enjoy a healthy debate about almost any topic (not just Politics) and I would hate to be defined and pigeon-holed as a person, simply because of what box I tick on an election voting form.

      Reply
    • FarmerPete

       /  7th August 2015

      Total cobblers! This place bears no resemblance to the totally one eyed and partisan comments you can read in virtually every post at The Standard or WhaleOil.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  7th August 2015

      Since I’ve crossed swords frequently with kiwi_guy may I just reiterate that I advocate for social and economic freedom and support any party or individual who promotes that sensibly and oppose those who oppose it.

      I also like to wind up Lefties a bit for sport since they splutter nonsense so entertainingly once they have run out of cliches – almost invariably very soon. Conservative extremists somehow don’t give the same entertainment since they are usually either religious nutters or sad racists.

      Reply
  2. I think Edwards is a joke and a disgrace to journalism ,this guy was supposed to be a neutral commentator on various shows and forums throughout the last elections ,yet he was praising labour and insisting the polls were wrong ,kicking National in the guts at every given opportunity, this joker made my blood boil with his obscenely biased commentary and newspaper columns, even stated he expected to see a labour- Greens coalition .Now that he has stated on record he is a Labour voter how can anything he says be taken seriously . What you are Bruce is ONE EYED .

    Reply
    • seems to be the trait of the left. reminds me of those at The Standard.

      Reply
    • FarmerPete

       /  7th August 2015

      You are making the mistake of focussing on the man and not the message. What he has written seems to me to apply to the extreme left or right. Most people in the middle have ceased to be strongly one party or the other and will go for the sensible options.
      Personally, what he wrote expresses very clearly what I tried and failed to get across on Red Alert and the Standard some time ago.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  7th August 2015

      You are confusing two different Edwards, I think, Bryce and Brian. And as FarmerPete says, this is a very sensible commentary.

      Reply
      • Kerry

         /  7th August 2015

        oh shit!! yes your right I should have paid more attention to the name .

        Reply
    • He stood as a candidate for Labour back in the ’70’s, so not really surprising that he is of the left. He is worth listening to because, as his post says, he isn’t tribally blind.

      Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  7th August 2015

      I was about to say that his Labour support is well-known and has been for many years. I do wonder if he’ll go off them with the fiascos of recent years.I would, if I hadn’t changed years ago anyway. It’s hard to imagine how they’ll ever regain their credibility and mana.

      Reply
  3. traveller

     /  7th August 2015

    My experience with Edwards is that he is open to reasonable debate. Whether it’s left, centre or right reason commands his attention. So I accept his position in the above post, but I bet he;s always voted Labour. 😉

    Reply
  4. Tribalism is a response to animosity or intolerance within society, which is in turn a barometer of the social stresses du jour. These stresses provide a catalyst for change, and the nature of the transformation depends to large degree on whether society is driven by survival based behaviours or by behaviours based on empathy and/or reason.

    Reply
    • Mike C

       /  7th August 2015

      @Ugly

      I guess that means there must be heaps of really badly stressed out people over at the Standard, and the majority of us in here are empathetic and reasonable people. LOL.

      Reply

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