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Tribal politics

by Colman Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:27:28 AM EST

It’s becoming clear to me that the psychology of the majority of the Anglo-American ruling class is incredibly tribal, rather like the power dynamic that is often cited in African countries where a leader will promote the interests of his own clan or tribe ahead of the members of any other.

The ruling Tribe is English speaking, mostly white, predominantly male and ruthlessly dedicated to preserving its own power over the other tribes in order to preserve the status of the tribal members. I’m beginning to believe that it is this dynamic that explains the twisted nonsense being spouted by even the most intelligent and well-educated members in the face of the evidence and the facts. Tribal members derive status from being members of the tribe, even if more senior members derive most of the material benefits. It is this dynamic that explains the support of middle class writers for policies that can’t possibly benefit them personally and their rantings against policies that would be to their personal benefit.

My mental model of human behaviour assumes that we all have needs which we attempt to satisfy in a round-robin fashion, basically those of the Maslow hierarchy but without the belief in either an inbuilt hierarchy or any universal weighting of the needs: sometimes the need for belonging or advancing the interests of your in-group overcomes the needs below them in Maslow’s hierarchy. We tend to advance needs according to our personal weighting of them and the level to which each is satisfied: most people focus on food when they’re starving and worry about self-image when they’re not but some will start spending resources on status displays when others would still be concerned with securing their access to food supplies. Given that most people in Europe and the US have access to sufficient food and shelter, we are concerned mainly with things like status, access to mates, membership of an in-group, self-esteem and such things. The Tribe is all about feeding the self-esteem of its members by their membership of such a powerful and wonderful group. Self-esteem and personal status is not about how other people perceive you but about how you believe other people perceive you.

The Tribe has its own mythology which must be accepted in order to maintain membership: might is right, free-markets solve everything, only we have legitimate interests, truth is what we say it is and dead or dying non-members don’t matter.


Projection is one of their identifying traits: take Philips Stephens in the FT today accusing Putin of

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a diminished power that craves to recover superpower status. The Russian president wants to expunge the perceived humiliations of the 1990s and to deploy Russia’s energy wealth to restore at least the illusion of superpower parity with the US.

We can speculate as to his motives. Mr Putin’s place in history no doubt looms large in the calculated rekindling of Russian nationalism. So too, more immediately, does his anxiety to retain a power base if, as presently announced, he relinquishes the presidency next year. Mr Putin is not the sort of leader to slip quietly into gilded retirement; and Russia anyway is not the sort of place where that is likely to be a safe option.

Is this an accurate description of Putin’s motives? Maybe in part but it is, I believe, an accurate portrait of Philips’s: he is concerned with preserving the power and prestige of the “Western” Tribe that he identifies with and from which he derives much of his status and fulfils his requirements for self-esteem.

In this context, rational self-interest is, ironically, not an important concern for the Tribe: competition is. It doesn't matter that the Western Tribe is rich and comfortable if it's not much richer, more comfortable and more powerful than the others. What's the use of being a member of a tribe that's only as powerful, as rich and as comfortable as the others? How does that support a vulnerable ego? Thus the worry that the Chinese and Indians might catch up or that the Russians might have some say in global affairs.

Display:
I now think that the idea that they're doing it for the money isn't cynical enough.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:37:55 AM EST
I think this is consistent with Altemeyer's "authoritarian personality" theory. Strong group identification (complete with hypocrisy, self-righteousness, inability to take into account contrary evidence, and ability to held contradictory beliefs) is a key feature of "right-wing authoritarianism".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 07:02:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And what you call "The Ruling Tribe"
The ruling Tribe is English speaking, mostly white, predominantly male and ruthlessly dedicated to preserving its own power over the other tribes in order to preserve the status of the tribal members.
are Altemeyer's double-highs.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 07:05:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite likely: who here has the slightest interest in being in that group?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 07:07:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. who here has strong group identification?
  2. who here is willing to stop at nothing to take control of their group?


Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 07:10:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1.  Almost all.
  2.  "take control" is pretty scary, but spread out and accept some roles, not so much, if there is a common, clear plan.


Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 02:41:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which suits them just fine, as long as we don't rock the boat too much.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 07:57:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
French technocrats with delusions of grandeur?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:34:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New boss, same as the old boss?

Sort of the point I was trying to make in diary on world leadership.

It the words of the Reverend Falwell.

Hate the sin, not the sinner.

I wonder what St. Peter told him when he got to the gate.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 10:26:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup, you do have what it takes to become a successful politician ;-)

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 11:39:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No I don't, sadly.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 03:22:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you think you are missing that cannot be covered by a team member?  

In other words, nobody has every quality, much less well-known politicians, but the idea is that someone else has it covered.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 02:40:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have it in me to fuck over other people to get to the top - or to the front. Or, that if I do, I don't want (and don't plan) to use it. And it seems unlikely that you be a good politician (i.e. an elected, influential one) without that ability.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 06:33:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Strange that you'd say "sadly" and not "fortunately", then ;-)

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 06:43:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
when you consider the goal (reaching power to change things), but fortunately when you consider the means.

Isn't that the curse of "good people"? (to be ruled by those people that did what it took to gain power)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 06:57:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]


"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

"No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

"Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

"I did," said Ford. "It is."

"So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"

"It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

"You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

"Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

"But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"

by Nomad on Thu Jul 19th, 2007 at 05:25:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you saying that in the short run we are all dead? ;)

You are describing what we are used to, as a "good politician", but it´s not and I believe another way really IS possible, or I wouldn´t be here.  I ass-u-me most here believe it also and could post about positive qualities.

Give yourself some credit.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Thu Jul 19th, 2007 at 02:55:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This explains a couple of other things, by the way:

  • Most ETers aren't members of any very well established tribe in the same way: rootless cosmopolitans (as Migeru calls us) doesn't really do the job! This explains our inability to easily understand these people.

  • They believe everyone else thinks the way they do. The Indians can't be trying to get rich because they'd like to be: they want to dominate the world. The Chinese likewise. I personally believe that both the Indias and Chinese will have enough to do for the next hundreds years or so just managing the transitions in their own countries.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:43:19 AM EST
It also means that you don't need a conspiracy to produce the crap that is rained upon us: join the tribe, accept the myths and you'll be very careful to believe the right things in order to maintain membership.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:52:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
be very careful to believe the right things in order to maintain membership

That's a good way of describing the behaviour of the pundits and hacks who scribble or mouth the crap that rains down on us.

They don't get told what to do. It isn't necessary. They know what to do.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 12:32:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Easy enough for you to say that there is not other universalist national mythology around, but it's not quiiiiite true.

You're just part of the Anglo-Saxon plot to undermine the French - just a bit more devious!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:35:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to observe that you are also tribal, French and Proud of it.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:40:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note the "Most" qualifying my statement. Anyway, since when did the French need undermining: I thought they were quite capable of sidelining themselves anyway.

More seriously, there's a distinct difference between defending groups of which you are to some degree a part against clearly unjust criticism and becoming a signed up adherent and propagandist. You can see some of the supposed tribal priests aren't entirely easy members on some things: Martin Wolf for instance.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 09:07:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are Tribes in every country aka elites, and yes each Tribe has its own mythology.

And each Tribe has to stand up proud and beat its chest against all the rest...

Btw do you think that is what Tribes would do if women ran them?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:45:12 AM EST
Actually, the identification of the Tribe with the elites isn't accurate. You think Bush's 30% in the US are all elite? Lots of them are in the Western Tribe though.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:48:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bush's tribe is the "proud to be an American" tribe. I wonder whether those who say "Bush makes me ashamed to be American" are accusing Bush of betraying the tribe, or actually placing themselves outside it.

What are people here proud of being?

And, do you have to be proud of your tribe every time, all the time? I have to say I have a hard time saying "I'm proud to be Spanish" or "I'm proud of being European" even when I would have reason to (for instance, when I post favourable news in the open threads I never say "this makes me proud").

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:54:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are Tribes in every country aka elites

Yes, there are tribes in every country, and there are elites in every tribe. You can't say that "elite" is just another name for "tribe".

If the politics of your community is tribal, the way to becoming an elite includes ambracing and capitalising on the tribal aspects of your culture.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:55:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can't say that "elite" is just another name for "tribe".

You could, in that the elite run the tribe and define its guiding priciples even, or perhaps especially, if those require the exlcusion of most of the tribe from the elite.

It's the classic old-school British (and American) colonisation technique. You establish an elite by finding those amongst the already rich who most want to abandon their own culture and embrace your mores and reward them liberally. This encourages all others at every level of society into believing that advancement requires behaving like/adopting the attitudes of the elite, however little it actually rewards them.

This works for any ordinary societies that finds itself colonised by an elite. Once British society was dominated by an upper class whose wealth was derived from ancient rights and privileges of class. So proper behaviour invovled having a posh accent and decent manners. Now our elites are brokers and traders who are unashamedly brash, ill-mannered and drunken. We adapt accordingly.

Also, the introductory chapter of "The irony of Democracy", available here, describes some of the process quite well.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0155058002/ref=sib_dp_pt/103-9688410-5847824#reader-link

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 09:19:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can say exactly the same about Latin American elites of course. Sabotaging their economies to preserve the power balance.

The same dynamics can of course also be found in Europe, especially if you look back to the period before the first and between the two world wars.

by Trond Ove on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:49:18 AM EST
Sure: it's one of the basic patterns in human behaviour in groups. It's important to realise when it's happening though.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:50:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something... we Italians, we got our families, and we got the chuch; the Irish they have the homeland, jews their tradition; even the niggas, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?
Edward Wilson: The United States of America, and the rest of you are just visiting.

The Good Shepherd



We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:59:00 AM EST
Is all politics ultimately tribal, that is, is Liberal Democracy an ideological fairy tale to hide the tribal behaviour of the voting public, and the control exerted by the elites over their tribes?

If so, is the fairy tale of Liberal Democracy a bad thing, or by sublimating intertribal conflict does it manage to provide stability and peace?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 07:13:21 AM EST
Is all politics ultimately tribal, that is, is Liberal Democracy an ideological fairy tale to hide the tribal behaviour of the voting public, and the control exerted by the elites over their tribes?

I am starting to suspect so, though my thinking had another point of origin.

A common question is "Why do (some) people not vote?". Mulling over this one I realised a good question is "Why do (some) people vote?". Your personal vote is unlikely to affect the result, so your time (researching alternatives and actually voting) could probably be better spent obtaining whatever goals you are voting for. To use an interesting phrase your vote is wasted no matter who you vote for (unless you vote in an extremely tight election where one vote actually can make a difference (probably needs to be a very small constituency)).

But people do vote, so the question is why. My take is that we (I vote as soon as I get an opportunity) vote to support our group (tribe if you like). If our group did not vote the other group would win. So there is an identification between the voter and the group. Wasting your vote (as it is commonly used) means voting for a candidate without any chance of winning, that is voting for a loser. If you identify with a loser, what does that make you? A loser. On the other hand if you identify with a winner, what does that make you? A winner. (And that makes opinion polls look rather interesting).

So I would say that people vote if they identify with a group that has candidates, otherwise they do not.

So yes, politics are tribal and the best you can hope for in terms of democracy are competing and incompatible elites. If you are really lucky some prospective elite might even find it advantageous to hand over some real power to the people. Then you might get Switzerland.

If so, is the fairy tale of Liberal Democracy a bad thing, or by sublimating intertribal conflict does it manage to provide stability and peace?

That depends on what you compare it with. The fairy tale of the Enlightened Monarch?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 09:33:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I compare it to the tribes actually beating each other up on the street.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 09:38:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So yes, politics are tribal and the best you can hope for in terms of democracy are competing and incompatible elites. If you are really lucky some prospective elite might even find it advantageous to hand over some real power to the people. Then you might get Switzerland.

Huh? What is so special about Switzerland that makes its voting public not behave tribally? Or is that not what you're saying?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 09:40:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant that since you actually can vote in specific questions the tribe (should) play a lesser role in formulating the policys. You can belong to different groups in different questions, and this allows for that to play a part in policys instead of everything being suppressed in favor of the most important group identity.

In each vote I think groups (especially winners/losers) matter as much in Switzerland as in other places.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 10:28:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Post 1848?  

A committment to being Swiss, which is an ethncity that transcends the languages and culture's of Switzerland's 4 component peoples (German, French, Italian, and Romansch).  

Now there was a time when the cantons were quite a bit more tribal, but I have to say the the Sonderbundeskrieg is quite possible the most civil civil war ever to occur in Europe.

Remember, on the issue of how Switzerland stayed together, that until 1848 it was more of a Confederation of the Helvetic states in actual practice than in just name, as now.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 10:33:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think it's quite that simple. Firstly, the middle class journalists will have (literal) vested interests. They're probably the kinds of people who send their kids to public schools and resent paying taxes so that the oiks at the poor end of town can be sent to the local comprehensive. Lowering taxes and improving capital mobility will benefit them personally.

But it's true there will be a strong tribal element in their upbringing. I have a half-finished diary about an inverted Maslow motivational pyramid describing what drives these people.

The key point is that the current incarnation of this AngloSaxon mythology seems to be rooted in dominance for its own sake.

The Wall Street sharks, the neo-cons and the fundies might now look like they have anything in common at all ideologically. But what they all agree on is a metaphysics of power and violence. They worship domination for its own sake, and are forever creating narratives that justify their violent and abusive impulses. There are different shadings between economic and religious fundamentalism, but the basic dynamic - which is the right to be violent and predatory to the weak, excused by some quasi-metaphysical nonsense about God or Manifest Destiny or the Invisible Hand - is common to all of them.

This is not exlusively an AngloSaxon syndrome. It's probably fairer to say that the AngloSaxon tribal grouping has been more successful at it than the rest, and is most obvious at the moment.

That could change. But you can't really solve the problem by tackling either the mythologies or the instantiation of the process directly - the only long-term solution is to name and shame the process itself, in its entirety, in whatever form it appears.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:27:59 AM EST
Lowering taxes and improving capital mobility will benefit them personally.

They will still be getting proportionally less of the benefits of economic growth than they would under more sensible policies.

They worship domination for its own sake, and are forever creating narratives that justify their violent and abusive impulses. There are different shadings between economic and religious fundamentalism, but the basic dynamic - which is the right to be violent and predatory to the weak, excused by some quasi-metaphysical nonsense about God or Manifest Destiny or the Invisible Hand - is common to all of them.

But why? What do they get from it?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:31:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]

What do they get from it?

If you have to ask you shouldn't be there.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:37:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
don't you understand?  

They worship domination for its own sake, and are forever creating narratives that justify their violent and abusive impulses.  

This is key.  These people are not sane:  They are abusers, perpetrators--natural criminals.  The similarity to Nazi philosophy should be obvious and telling.  

It is not even tribal, strictly speaking, in that the long-term well-being of the tribe does not signify.  

They are not rational in any sense of the word.  Economic theories are just a smoke screen, or an excuse.  Game theory and pay-off matrices will not predict their actions, but a study of the real behavior of psychopaths will.  


The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 12:26:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's silly. Even most Nazis were members for more complicated reasons than that.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 12:36:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most Nazis were members because they had to be. It's hard to estimate what percentage of Party membership actually believed in Hitler and his peculiar notions of German manifest destiny, but it was probably close to around the mythical third, and quite possibly a lot lower.

There are two reasons why they do it. One is that it's an evolutionary adaptation. Raping resources gives you a very obvious reproductive and survival advantage.

You could possibly analyse the other reason on psychological grounds, which is that it seems to be compensation for loss of personal autonomy and external abuse in childhood.

It's not a secret that authoritarian regimes are good at breeding authoritarians, and enough insitutionalised abuse - which is what public schools, rigid parents and hellfire conformist religion are good at - will drive anyone insane.

My guess is that it's a combination of recessive neurology with exterior social triggers.

But it can't be emphasised enough that these people are not like us. They don't think like us, they don't reason like us, they don't believe what we do, they don't form their world view using the same tools that we do, and they don't value the same things that we do.

It's not possible for someone who doesn't share the mindset to appreciate it from outside - at least not without an extended psychotic episode or first hand acquaintance with various personality disorders.

I think in a sane world we'd have these syndromes labelled and treated. They're at least as prevalent and far more damaging and clinically obvious than something nebulous like ADD.

Instead, because of the way the game is set up, these behaviours are rewarded.

If there's a point of attack, I think that's where it has to be - reframing them not as success, but as mental illness and deviance.

As for the apologists - I think it's a combination of all of the above, combined with a lack of imagination, and steady editorial pressure.

If you work for the Econo you know the editorial line, and you won't be allowed to deviate from it. If you try to, you will lose your job.

Hacks don't usually write these things off their own initiative. Instead there's an editor who specifies what he (sic) wants written, and the hack just fills in the column inches.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:28:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're rational from an unconscious biological standpoint.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 03:39:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the geological boundary we are creating?  

I don't.  The biological/ecological/geological/physical/economic/political crash will wash them away, along with most everything else.  

Evolutionary fitness is about PERSISTENCE over time.  This is why "Darwinists" almost always get it wrong.  Dominate all you like, if you are not around the day after tomorrow, then you weren't so "fit" after all, now were you?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 04:23:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like this...an accurate meta view of the power tribe.

(And that's about all the scintillating commentary you will get from me today...)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:59:28 AM EST
First of all I do think that Stephens is quite right in assuming that Putin want to restore the old Russian national pride, in doing so he is no different than, what you call, the "Western" Tribe.  That is how our history has evolve unfortunately and thus is nothing new, this is also one of the main driving forces behind the Chinese and Indian positioning in international politics.

History has shown that the political elites in most, if not all, countries have the aim of being on top of the power hierarchy, if they can't, for some reason, they at least want to be close to the ones on top.  See the different alliances between small countries and greater powers.
 

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 10:37:44 AM EST
First of all I do think that Stephens is quite right in assuming that Putin want to restore the old Russian national pride, in doing so he is no different than, what you call, the "Western" Tribe.  

I'm sure he is: that is only part of his motivation though. There are also legitimate Russians interests at stake.

The Western Tribe has no interest in the pride of any country except to the extent that it helps their tribal standing. So they'll fuck the US into the ground so long as they win from it.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 10:45:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah well, I do think that the US would be fucked into the ground by the "Western tribal" elites in many European countries just as US politician doesn't have European interests as their first priority.  They are of course interested in securing their own power positions individually as nationally, but that is nothing special for the so called "Western Tribe". That is a universal feature for all politicians and political elites, it is called realpolitik ala Machiavelli.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 01:03:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
US politicians don't appear to have US interests at heart.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 01:35:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that we have a globally mobile elite whose wealth and power is not tied to immovable assets, I suspect we're going to find the elite have no allegiance to any one community or locale.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 01:43:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But they're happy to leverage whatever local tribal affiliations they can use, as long as they benefit them, and as long as the natives don't realise - whether they're the Christian fundies, the netroots, or the Islamists.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:37:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I believe that many genuinely believe they do, they just don't see a difference between their personal interests and the US interests, they are working for the market anyway and that's the American isn't it?

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 03:28:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To address the "Western tribe" theory:  Russia is not implicitly outside the West.  I mean, let us look at the royal families of Europe from the 17th-20th centuries, and let us look at whom we call the allies in WWII...  And I don't remember this topic being of much interest in the 90's when we were convinced that Russia, denouncing Communism, was going to become one of us, join our tribe.  

If there is a grain of truth to the tribalism theory it might be that 1) we in the West have some anxiety about Russia's identification with both the East and West (like people who donate to both liberal and conservative parties, we can't figure out what they are up to, we don't trust them, they can turn at any moment.) and the 2) Russia's realized that the West is not the only path to advancement.  And that freaks us out.  We are not the only game in town anymore.  


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 11:33:22 AM EST
we in the West

What determines whether someone belongs to The West? Are you in The West? If the people who claim to speak for The West don't speak for you, are you in?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 11:38:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is this going to turn into one of those philosophical "how can you prove this is a chair?" debates?  

I'm going on geography (what people refer to as the "Western Hemisphere"), religion (Judeo-Christian tradition), tradition of classical liberal values, shared cultural traditions, etc. etc.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 11:46:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No. I'm asking you
  1. who speaks for The West?
  2. do those people speak for you?
  3. does that mean you're in The West?

Also, what happens when more than one different group claims to speak for The West? To pick up Colman's and your WWII reference, Franco claimed that Spain was the "Spiritual Reserve of the West". Not that anyone else in The West, especially the Leaders of the Free World, was listening to him, but he represents another tradition of murderous thugs claiming to represent The West.

I'm going on geography (what people refer to as the "Western Hemisphere"), religion (Judeo-Christian tradition), tradition of classical liberal values, shared cultural traditions, etc. etc.

Who speaks for The Western Hemisphere? Who speaks for Judeo-Christian Tradition? Who speaks for Classical Liberals?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 11:52:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do.  :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 11:53:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Who speaks for Judeo-Christian Tradition?

Apparently Mark Rutte (I think...) and Geert Wilders.

DutchNews.nl

Right condemns minister's Islam comments

16-07-2007

Right-wing MPs have condemned remarks made by integration minister Ella Vogelaar in an interview with the Trouw newspaper on Saturday in which she says the Netherlands will become a country with 'Jewish-Christian-Islamic traditions.'

In the interview, the minister points to the arrival centuries ago of Jews in the Netherlands and says that the country has been formed by Jewish-Christian traditions. 'That's how it will be with Islam,' she told Trouw.

She also said the Netherlands will have to learn to live with fundamentalism. 'There are ideas within Protestantism and Catholicism which make me raise my eyebrows,' she said. 'The SGP's standpoints on homosexuality and women are not mine.'

The fundamentalist SGP, which has two MPs, believes homosexuality is a sin and that women should not have the right to vote.

Her own Labour (PvdA) party has yet to comment, with the exception of MP Samira Bouchibti who called the remarks 'fantastic'.

But the anti-immigration party (PVV) and the Liberals (VVD) have reacted angrily, saying she has put the immigration debate back 20 years.

VVD leader Mark Rutte commented in Monday's Volkskrant: 'She's completely wrong. Christianity and the Bible are Jewish and Christian. That has nothing to do with Jewish integration.'

PVV leader Geert Wilders said if Vogelaar did not take back her comments he would call for her resignation.

The Christian Unie, the small orthodox Christian party which is part of the governing coalition with the PvdA and Christian Democrats, said it is 'worried' about her view of religion.

by Nomad on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 12:13:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fact that it's always the Europeans that get testy over usage of the term "the west" says to me that Europeans are uncomfortable with implied linkages and commonalities between the US and its cultural forebearers (Britain, France, Germany, and Scandinavia top the list IMO), because that's what "the west" generally refers to.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 03:53:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We get testy over the term "Europe" (poemless can attest to that ;-), and over other things too.

Personally, I am increasingly convinced I don't have an allegiance to "The West" in any of its definitions. I also get testy over the use of the term "Spain", come to that.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:24:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're just testy in general.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:35:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you testing me?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:41:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rootless cosmopolitan indeed.

So when I'm in Europe in early '09, how will I know when I'm in Spain?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 07:05:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You will know when you're in the geographical extent under control of the Kingdom of Spain, but you won't be able to know what Spain is, nor should you believe what anyone (including me) tells you it is ;-)

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 04:06:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not the Europeans, this is really Colman and Migeru, who have taken on the thankless task of reminding us that there are a number of words that we use without really thinking about it, and trying to make us explicit what we have in mind when we do use these words.

I personally think it is a worthwhile exercise. Their tone is not testy, just genuinely curious, i think - it's just that it's uqestions that seem so strange to us because we don't ever think about these things otherwise.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:58:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're too kind. The truth is Colman and I are both mathematicians, versed in category theory, and grumpy to boot. So we mess with your heads.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 04:10:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
versed in category theory ... So we mess with your heads.

Well it has to have some practical use.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 04:20:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you saying you do it on purpose?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 04:28:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Um, if you check, a lot of people in WWII considered most of Europe outside of the West. Including France and Germany. Russia certainly didn't count.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 11:39:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Um, if you check, I don't think that's what I said.

Ok, I see where this is going...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 11:48:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing that makes the US different (at least until recently) was the huge number of different ethnic groups in the general population.

During our history these groups have had their ups and downs. For example during the Irish immigrations they were considered a different "race". After a generation and their getting control of power in some urban cities, attitudes changed and now they were proud to be seen as "Irish-American". A similar thing has happened with Indians. The number of people self-identifying as of Indian decent has risen over the past several decades as their social position has improved (and economic from casinos).

We are seeing a similar situation with Hispanics. Several public figures are now playing up their Hispanic side wheres in the past they didn't make a big deal out of it. Bill Richardson is a good example.

An interesting case has arisen recently due to the large number of Asian children being adopted by non-Asian parents. Some of them have started up groups to help these children learn about their "culture". Given that most of these children arrived as infants and have no knowledge of their home country or of their native language is it the parent's role to impose a foreign culture on them? Are they somehow being branded for life and thus aren't free to become non-hyphenated Americans if they wish?

This problem is not unique to the US. We see the unwillingness of, say, Germans to let Turks lose their cultural identity, even those who have never been to Turkey. In the middle east Jordan regards its "Palestinian" citizens differently even though they have lived in Jordan for decades. Part of the reason for not absorbing the west bank is the fear that the "Palestinians" will become the majority in Jordan and thus it will lose its cultural purity.

It seems that others are unwilling to let people chose their own cultural affiliation. This leads to never-ending conflict.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 12:09:34 PM EST
the notion of the US as a unique country of immigration? France has an explicit tradition of immigration (and flows of pretty strogn intensity as well) for just as long as the US, even if integration did not take the same route.

And as has been discussed in earleir diaries, many European countries have long had fairly intense immigration flows, even if there was not any explicit integration policy, and a universalist, values-based integrationist message as in France and the USA.

But the USA are not unique today, and they were not a century ago in that respect.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 01:57:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You both make good points, but in fairness to rdf, I'd like to point out that while of course many countries have large immigrant populations, America's entire population -with the exception of the native peoples we tried very hard to exterminate- are immigrants or descended from immigrants, a few generations removed. And unlike, say, France - and here's where I think the crux of the matter lies - America is a relatively new country.  So most Americans' cultural identities are just as closely linked to some far away land as the country they live in.  

It's not the immigration flow that is unique, but the 1) absence, outside of museums and reservations, of a national identity preceding the immigration of vastly different groups and 2) the fact that this nation was founded - settled by immigrants who killed off the natives almost entirely - and founded only a few hundred years ago.  So for the most part, being American means being from somewhere else, by definition.  Whereas you can be 10th generation French and it means being French but you can be pro-immigration and eat ethnic food but when people ask you "What are you?" you will say "French."  An American, when asked that, will say, "Irish, German, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, etc etc."  Does that make sense?

We're not the only country of immigrants.  We're the only country with basically no native population.  Not left in tact, act any rate.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:30:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also the US does not seek to preserve its (or any) culture the way France does, with, IMO, both countries representing the extremes of either approach.

To get all idealistic, I wish people would start thinking of themselves as human rather than as some sub-identity, because all this cultural badgering has been a fantastically successful tool for the elites to manipulate the masses for millenia.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 04:02:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I was trying to avoid going there.  And that's why I didn't want to talk about assimilation...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 04:05:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just repeat: I am a citizen of Earth. That's how i've felt for 15 years maybe? I guess once we mean real-life sentient aliens (assuming they exist), we'll have to revise that attitude. :)
by R343L (reverse qw/ten.cinos@l343r/) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 05:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US is unique because it has an explicit narrative of assimilation. In Europe we're more wary of the idea that immigration is good, and not quite sure how to go about making assimilation happen.

The US believes explicitly - or likes to pretend it does - that immigration is good, probably for the obvious reasons that it's a good source of cheap labour. Even though in practice communities seem to stick together even more than they do in Europe.

This proves how useful it is to have narratives. Even if they're nonsense, they make people behave in reliable and useful ways.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:35:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that the term "assimilation" is a difficult thing to work out.  I seem to perceive it in a much different way than I have seen it used in reference to Europe.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:43:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Europe, assimilation is understood to mean stripping the immigrant of all traces of their previous identity.

Still today, in countries around Europe you see that dynamic at work, or at least advocated by a sizeable political minority.

I think in the US you're starting to develop some of the same, with the "English Only" movement, and so on.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:29:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.  But I don't think the situation in America is nec. new; it seems to be the first chapter in all waves of immigration.  Although, given the size of the latest wave of immigration, it might be stronger.  Still, the same people who want English to be the official language will shoot you if you try to take away their nachos...  It's the jobs, not the culture, they want the immigrants stripped of...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:34:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It might have something to do with the fact that the US has not only reached its maximum geographical extent, but also is commands a decreasing fraction of the world's resources and power. As long as you're expanding you can absorb immigration more easily because there's less competition for the existing resources.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:44:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France has a nexplicit narrative of assimilation, that's precisely my point.
France also believes that immigration is good, despite the temporary reactions.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:45:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not quite what I mean. If the French narrative is anything like the British one, it's going to lack the overt cheerleading 'It's all a melting pot' advertising that the US narrative has.

The key difference seems to be that patriotism is still a mainstream value in the US. We're much more suspicious of it in Europe. Aside from the racists, hardly anyone in the UK considers themselves patriotic, except in a negative 'At least we're not European' sense.

I'd guess - based on speculation - that France and Germany are mid-way between the two.

Without patriotism there isn't really anything to be assimilated into.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:14:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's really no patriotism in Germany as in France. When there's no World Cup around, you won't see any flags - and there's no general feeling of pride to be German. But it's a different thing about the integration of immigrants, we just don't get that right. But these two things don't seem to be directly connected.

/ After 9/11, Gerhard Schröder declared "We're all Americans now" and I was like "Huh? I'm having enough trouble with being German, thank you."

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 02:07:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a) I qualified my description of American "uniqueness". Of course if you want to argue the Chopin and Marx were immigrants in the 19th Century, fine.

b) I also spent a good deal of time discussing the lack of absorption in European states, although I didn't mention the UK or France explicitly. I did mention Germany. My list wasn't meant to be exhaustive, just representative.

c) My main point was about allowing people to chose their own cultural identity which can be hampered by well-meaning parents, or prejudice or other factors.

If Europe wants to join in the list of culturally biased states, don't let me stand in the way...

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:54:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) trying on a Super Bowl championship ring flanked by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (left) and international media mogul Rupert Murdoch (center) in 2005.

Is the grave concern that the power of the West is under threat by countries like Russia, or that a Russian will have too much influence over/access to that power?  Chew on it.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 01:29:52 PM EST
As of today, I believe it is more of a concern that Russia will have to much access to the global political power and since the access to global power is seen as a zero sum game then it is quite logical that other countries look at this development with an increasing concern.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 03:42:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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