Saturday, March 23, 2019

Can You Feel It?

It's been building for quite a while, at least a decade, perhaps two. It's this gnawing feeling that we're losing civility. It's ever so gradually fading away.

We're moving from a society into tribes within a society. We cling to our differences both real and imagined and almost always exaggerated or inflamed.

The rift that divides us serves as a fertile breeding ground for xenophobia, racism, and bigotry of every description.

We have our tribes. Everything else is "the other," something to be viewed with hostility, suspicion, even paranoia. They are not "of us" even though we may actually agree on just about everything except a few hot button issues and even they may be exaggerated, inflamed.

I thought of this today after reading an item in The Guardian about the "Brexodus" underway in the UK.  It was about young people now choosing to leave Britain for a better life elsewhere. There were repeated comments about how Brexit has changed the British people, hardened them, made them less tolerant and more xenophobic; how Brexit has fractured British society and left old friends refusing to even speak to each other.

This, of course, is not unique to the UK. It seems to be happening everywhere across the West in varying degrees. We're certainly not immune, not really.

Imagine a Canadian senator on the lawn of the parliament buildings, half-laughingly exhorting protesting truckers to run over every Liberal in the country or the leader of one of two major political parties playing footsie with white nationalists.

Perhaps our tribe doesn't do that but don't we use that to justify embracing the divide, widening the rift? Where does that end? How do we stop it, reverse it? Do we even want some sort of reunification or do we prefer to hunker down within our camp, imagining how we'll trash the others in the next election? Do we have any sense of what's at stake as this deepens, what we might be losing?

We think of our constitutional institutions as a bulwark against extremism but are they really invulnerable? The Americans have got what they consider the most bulletproof constitutional settlement in the world, a divinely inspired gift from the Creator no less. Yet they elect a president who sees that constitutional fabric as a hurdle, not something to be respected and upheld. Worse yet, he has a Republican Congress that prostrates itself before him and stands by and lets him run roughshod over that vaunted constitution. We haven't yet seen how far his ideologically stacked Supreme Court will go in colluding with him but, let's face it, they haven't been chosen to administer justice equally.

This has happened before.  The history of authoritarianism is replete with examples of law makers transforming into law benders before turning into law breakers in service to the tyrant of the day.

Why am I so vexed at this? It's simple - we are embarking on an era far different to anything experienced in the history of human civilization. The world is becoming a place unknown to us or any of our ancestors. It will be more difficult, more challenging, more dangerous and to rise to those events will require a deeply cohesive society in which all - rich and poor, right and left, of all skin hues, religions and ethnicities - collectively shoulder the burden, mutually sacrifice for a greater good and look after each other.

Is there any other way to defend and preserve all the good things that we have? Can we hope to do that if we stand divided in camps glaring and hurling insults at each other?

I don't think the future will go well for us, especially for our youngest generations, if we don't overcome this tribalism. And, if we fail, is it not conceivable that these two camps we have today, left and right, will break down further into sub-groups that do define themselves by rich and poor, by religious faith, colour, ethnicity, geography, demography? How far does this go before tribes break down into gangs?

Optimism is hard to muster. We're not even preparing our nation and our people to meet the truly existential threat of climate change. This is not something that is thirty or fifty or seventy years off. I'm convinced we shall see the world transformed in the course of the 20s even if countries of the northern latitudes are least impacted.  Perhaps that will shake us, bring us to our senses, heal the rift. If not, then what?


Lorne said...

Humanity's early days were tribal in nature, Mound, and it is more than passing ironic that, as you point out, when we need cohesion of purpose and vision the most, we are reverting to our primitive ancestors' ways. Sadly, it seems, the reptilian part of our brains is still holding sway when we should have evolved and matured beyond it long ago.

Al said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Al said...

An extrapolation of this trend into a very dark future is described by John Feffer in Splinterlands. "...the battered, shattered world of 2050. The European Union has broken apart. Multiethnic great powers like Russia and China have shriveled. ...and the United States remains united in name only."

Anonymous said...

Let’s see,......... eg Climate Change,

One tribe thinks it’s real, deadly, a global urgency, with 12 years or less to the deadline, or that the deadline has already passed,

The other side doesn’t believe in science, rolls coal wearing yellow vests and likes sending death threats to politicians and scientists.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings, all Australian and New Zealand ISP providers have temporarily blocked access to 4chan, 8chan and other sites, ( whole sites, not just pages) that were used to live stream the murders.

If they make it permanent, then Australia and New Zealand will have cut access to most of the sites that radicalize the youth into terrorism.

Funny thing is, the West did this with ISIL, but won’t even consider it with other domestic terrorists.

The Mound of Sound said...

This breakdown does seem to have arrived at a terrible point for mankind, Lorne. I wish I knew how to change that course but that's beyond me. We can hope that there may be others, visionaries who can persuade us to strive for better things, a better society. Let's hope that someone will answer the call.

The Mound of Sound said...

Al, I'm familiar with John Feffer's journalism. He's quite good. That said, a novel about a dystopian future is not for me. I'm having enough trouble dealing with the reality of what's happening now.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, we trust the Criminal Code and our courts to deal with domestic terrorism. We may need to update the Code to introduce stiffer penalties for terror/hate offences.

Anonymous said...

I think you missed my point, Mound.

The Christchurch shooter didn’t go to bed one night a lonely “ conservative” male and wake up the next morning a Nazi Mass Murderer.

He spent years online in the swamps of the internet, swimming in hate, not just Nazi sites, but incel sites, and few were Australian or Kiwi. He was, like most of the Western ISIL killers, radicalized online.

In 2008, 94% of Canadians believed Climate Change was real, immediate and should be the cornerstone of all Canadian Government Policies.

In 2017 that number had fallen to 72%. Wonder how that happened.

The Internet has given us Climate Change Deniers, anti-Vaxxers, 9/11 Truthers, MIGTOWs, Incels, Atomwaffen, Brexiteers, as long as the Internet is used, by Social Media Corpse, Russians, morons, shitposters to radicalize segments of the Public,

we will continue to have unbridgeable divides.

Ben Burd said...

Now that you have published a column about intergenerational politics - boomers have not fucked it up ; genxers look at your self. I came across this one.

We are to blame for the lack of decorum that has totally ruined the norms of politics and civil society!

We did not object to Rob Ford's behaviour very loudly because it was accepted by our children and grandchildren. Where did they their terrible acceptance of bad manners.

Society is fucked up because, "We don't do that anymore Grandma!"

The Mound of Sound said...

I have your point, Ben. How I wish I didn't but I can't argue against it.