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I am, sometimes, stymied at the establishment’s obdurate opposition to President Trump. Hey, the dude wasn’t my first choice for the Republican nominee, either. But Trump won the nomination, won the general election, and kept a no-kidding corrupt, scofflaw, sac of pulsating sociopathy and her machine out of the White House. So, I’m happy.
The reaction of the establishment, though, has been a little disconcerting. Logic, rational thought, and critical thinking have been thrown out the window. Not only have I been dismayed at the reaction to Trump’s election by people I’ve never met, but I read and thought highly of, for analysis and principle-based opinion, but by people that I know. People that took a different path than me and pursued Ph.D.s, wrote books, became experts in their fields. Many of these people have unyielding, uncompromising opposition to Trump, whatever he may do or say.
Then, re-reading a favorite book, I stumbled over — not the answer, but a partial answer. I was seeing a Group Monkey Dance.
I’m a fan of self-defense and violence expert Rory Miller. He spent 15-plus years as a corrections officer, where he experienced at least one fight per day, every day, for 15 years. Plus, he’s an old-school jujitsu expert. His book Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected is outstanding. In this work, he breaks down and explains the different dimensions of social and predatory violence.
Miller defines four types of social violence: The Monkey Dance, the Group Monkey Dance, the Educational Beat-Down, and the Status-Seeking Show. I see a parallel between the reactions of the establishment and the Group Monkey Dance.
The Group Monkey Dance (GMD) is a show of group solidarity. There are two levels, at least. In the lowest level an outsider is discouraged from interfering with group business–it is a way of establishing territory.
Families are tight-knit groups. Domestic violence incidents are acts within the group. Sometimes, when the police intervene, both parties turn on them. Even though one was a victim just moments before and in fear for her life, husband and wife, attacker and victim, often band together to drive away the outsiders.
This is behavior that is familiar in chimps and baboons–your tribe will band together to drive away or scare off members of another tripe or a predator. If you don’t play, you loyalty to the group might be questioned.
In the higher level of GMD the victim is sometimes an outsider but often an insider who is perceived in some way to have betrayed the group. The group bands together in an orgy of violence, possibly beating, burning and cutting on the victim. It is literally a contest to show your loyalty by how much damage you can do to the outsider. Some of the most brutal murders, lynchings and war atrocities are examples of the Group Monkey Dance.
Most GMDs occur when an outsider is within the threat-group’s territory. There is an exception. You may remember the wildings in Central Park or the roving band of young men randomly beating people in Seattle. This pack behavior follows a similar dynamic and serves the same purpose as any other GMD–it strengthens bonds within the group. Causing fear in others (and fear is power) is just a by-product.
In earlier societies, this bonding through violence was ensured by hunting large game animals.
The people that are characterizing Trump supporters as tribalists look a lot like a tribe.