Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Birds of A Feather Flock Together

The population of our species is currently 7.1 billion. We are in every part inhabitable in this planet. Although we are the same species, breathe the same air, and share the same blood color, we have differentiated ourselves in many ways. 

Our ancestors are probably the same but thousands of years of social evolution has divided mankind along many lines. We took different paths, settled in different lands, created different cultures, believe in different Gods, speak different languages but we remain the same when it comes to our strong sense of belonging. 

That sense of belonging can be called as tribalism. Tribalism is alive in each one of us. Although the core feeling is the same, the application is different.

Take football fans for an example. No matter how good or bad the performance is, a diehard Man Utd fan and a Liverpool fan will never come to a common agreement. Their loyalty to their club is displayed by not just supporting the club of their choice but also by throwing tantrums on their rivals.



I am sure some of you will remember an incident that happened in Malaysia not so long ago. A Man Utd fan was at a stadium full of Liverpool fans during one of the training session. 

His mistake? He wore a Man Utd jersey and the crowd forced him to remove it. They also mocked him and booed at him.

Although it is common sense not to wear a rival jersey in such place, we cannot deny that the behavior displayed by the crowd on that day is in fact a form of tribalism. Race, religion, caste, age, gender did not matter on that day. The love for their team is above all. There are also incidents of football fans beating up each other and also stabbing one another.

Now let's look at other forms of tribalism. 

Faith or religious believes also contributes to tribalism. Perhaps the biggest contributor. Although many religion claims to be against the concept of tribe or race, the religion itself becomes a tribe. Countless wars have been fought in the name of religion. Christians killing Muslims, Muslims killing Hindus, Hindus killing Jains. The list goes on.

Some may argue by stating that atheist do not kill others in the name of God. True enough but the atheist themselves often form groups to go against religious institutions. This even involves insulting religious beliefs and its believers. The atheist who choose to group themselves believe that their choice is better than the others and there is a need to form a network. Here again, tribalism is being displayed.

We then have tribalism according to our birth. This comes in the form of caste or race. It is natural to see people of the same race or caste associating with one another. They form groups for themselves. 

The ones formed under racial umbrella is often because of common skin colour or a common native language. The ones formed under caste or clan is because of family and kinship. They are related to each other, siblings and distant cousins. So naturally, they see a need to bond together.

The racial riots that happened is due to this form of tribalism. Let's say a Malay guy is attacked by a group of Chinese youths on the road. The other Malays will see it as Chinese attacking Malays. 

They will then respond to it in a similar manner. When that happens, rumors will spread claiming that the Malays and Chinese are chopping each other although not all Malays and Chinese are involved. 

99% of them probably did not even know about the fight that started it all.

But when it becomes a racial fight, the spirit of tribalism will then be displayed. 

If a Tamil speaking guy says something negative about Tamil society, it will probably be taken as a feedback. Some may even call the person a social reformer.

But what if a Telugu guys does the same with similar intention? 

High chances are he will be labelled as anti-Tamil. This happens because people feel threatened when someone outside their circle speaks about them. It is like having your neighbor talking about your family when it is none of his business.

When Periyar campaigned against caste, his main activities were centered around anti-Brahmin ideas. Periyar insulted Brahmin women and the Brahmins. He was also against Hinduism. He encouraged Hindu idols to be smashed and paraded with slippers. 

His ideology created a separate cluster of Tamils. Periyarism became a caste of its own. An anti-Brahmin, anti-Hindu caste.

Tribalism is also seen in the music industry. When the rapper Psychomantra lashed out at Yogi B, there was war of words between their two fan base. Both throwing words at each other. 

Who is the better rapper? Who has better lyrics? Who is right? Who is wrong? Fans were arguing although the real issue has got nothing to do with them. That is also a form of tribalism.

What about politics? Of course, tribalism exist there. BN and PR will never agree with each other. So are their supporters. Here, the supporters will go to the extend of not speaking up when their party of choice makes a mistake.

For example, most of us do not like BN. But that does not mean we should be quiet when PR does something wrong. 

When a private home altar was demolished in Sepang, many PR supporters of Hindu faith chose to be quiet about it because Sepang is under PR rule. They then came up with a list of arguments to justify the act. 

When someone speaks up, they are immediately labelled as 'Macai BN' (A stupid BN supporter) although the person who speaks up may be anti-BN in real life.

The authorities then ruled that it was illegal to demolish the altar and all of a sudden, the noise makers became silent. They refuse to admit what was done is indeed wrong.

Our sense of political tribalism closed our eyes at that moment. We failed to uphold what we originally intend to fight for.

Is tribalism good or bad? It can be either way. Regardless of how good or bad it is, it cannot be denied that tribalism exist as a culture in human society. 

As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. It is human nature to group themselves according to their similarities and that can be for almost anything.

Take a look around you and you will see this behavior in almost every aspect of our daily life. The spirit of tribalism exist in each one of us for different purpose. Only the degree of its display varies.

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