Humans can broadly be divided into two types – those with a Tribal Mentality and those with a Humanist Mentality. Both mentalities exist in most people to varying degrees.
Tribalists tend to be loyal to their own group, community or society. They tend to be nationalist and conservative. In extreme cases Tribalistsdehumanise and demonise outgroups. They tend to focus on the conflicts of interest that can exist between various groups. They suffer from what behavioural psychologists call the outgroup homogeneity bias (individuals tend to see members of their own group as being relatively more varied than members of other groups).
Humanists tend to look at people as individuals, and to see the similarities that exist between different societies, rather than the differences. They tend to be cosmopolitan and progressive. They tend to focus on co-operation between groups, rather than conflicts of interest.
People with a Tribal Mentality regard those with a Humanist Mentality as treacherous, cowardly and naïve. People with a Humanist Mentality regard those with a Tribal Mentality as bigoted, narrow-minded and irrational.
Examples of very Tribalist groups would include German Neo-Nazis, Russian nationalists, Japanese supremacists, Muslim fundamentalists, extremist Irish Catholic Nationalists, American Exceptionalists and so forth. The point is: the tribal mentality is found in all societies. In Sri Lanka, many Buddhist monasteries are hotbeds of ultranationalist, reactionary, anti-Tamil extremism. So even a peaceful religion like Buddhism can be co-opted by Tribalists. All these tribalist groups tend to be xenophobic, but the irony is that they have much more in common with each other than they do with Humanists. For example, an American Exceptionalist has more in common with a Muslim fundamentalist, than either type does with a Humanist – because both the American Exceptionalist and the Muslim fundamentalist have a Tribal Mentality.
Often, the anger of Tribalists is not focused on other tribes, but on what they call “the Liberal Elite” (i.e. Humanists). Humanists also exist in all societies and, what is more, they tend to agree with each other even though they are from different societies. In other words, Humanists everywhere in the world form alliances in a way that Tribalists cannot. The real danger for Tribalists comes not from other tribes (extremists need opposing extremists in order to exist) – the real danger comes from Humanists, who tend to be shrewd. Hence the diatribes from Tribalists about the “Liberal Elites” whom they suspect of trying to take over the world by taking control of universities, internationalist institutions, the media, human rights organisations and so forth. In one sense, the Tribalists are correct – the Enlightenment revolution in philosophy, with its humanist concepts of human rights, democracy, rationality and personal freedom, has made great progress in taking over the world. Humanism has a universal appeal that transcends any particular tribalism. So don’t worry, if anyone is going to take over the world, it is not going to be any particular group ofTribalists – it will be the Humanists. So be happy!