We must learn from history: Tribalism - religious or not - doesn't work - Times LIVE
Sat Mar 25 17:35:50 SAST 2017

We must learn from history: Tribalism - religious or not - doesn't work

Bruce Gorton | 2014-05-06 13:35:20.0

Image by: Gallo Images

Tribalism comes in many colours. Sometimes it is racial, sometimes it is cultural and sometimes it is religious.

In all cases, it tends to work out badly for everyone involved, whether you get classed as 'us' or 'them'.

David Cameron in the UK is in political trouble. His economy hasn’t gone all that well, thus there has been a rise in British fascism (though not on the level as that observed in Greece).

Instead of standing against these fascist movements, Cameron proclaimed his country a Christian one – in other words further othering the groups mostly likely to get beaten up by hooligans.

Those others are not part of the tribe, after all.

Boko Haram defines itself by its wish to defend what they deem Islam and 'protect' Nigeria from forces it perceives as being harmful.

It is so dedicated to this proposition that it has kidnapped a school full of little Muslim girls, turned them into its rape-slaves, and plans on selling them.  

They defend Islam by enslaving and raping Muslims.

The US has gone for heavy-handed Christianity in its politics; and the result?

A study from Princeton recently found that in real terms the US isn't a democratic republic, it is an oligarchy. The government rules in favour of the rich.

This is the nature of tribal thinking, and we see it here. When our government pushes public prayer, is it doing anything all that different to the UK's David Cameron?

And in South Africa, we have no shortage of pastors willing to defend corruption from those who investigate it.

Now to be fair we also have preachers and religious leaders who stand up against corruption, proclaiming it to not be what their god wants.

But this doesn’t really help, making government a matter of god disempowers the people. It isn’t god’s will that the ANC is in charge right now; it is the people’s will as expressed by their vote.

And it will one day be the people’s will when they ANC loses a general election. It is not through god that our country is governed, it is through us.

We need to avoid the mistakes of the first world, not ape them.

When politics becomes about identities rather than people, the people suffer. That includes those who hold certain identities.

Gay people who are Christians in countries run on 'Christian' principles often end up not being able to marry the person they love as a best case scenario. In the worst case, they are imprisoned or killed.

When Maajid Nawaz posted a Jesus and Mo comic on Facebook, saying he wasn’t offended the fact that he is a Muslim didn’t stop Islamist groups in the UK from trying to get him fired.

Within the atheist movement, there is a tribal element that wants people to not talk about feminism or racism, saying it causes disunity. They want the identity to matter more than the people.

It is ultimately about trying to silence people talking about serious issues - by pointing to the importance of the group.

Doing that never helps us, because we are not identities we are people.

That is the real reason government and law should be secular – because it should be about people rather than identities.

That is the thing I want from tomorrow’s election, the recognition that it is ultimately all about what individual South Africans decide.


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