Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Who Am I?

 

People are lost. We seek to know who we really, truly are – which is why we take DNA and endless personality tests. We search far and wide, deeply trying to understand what we really crave, trying to find our very own long, lost pronoun. Like fatherless kids on inner-city streets, we join gangs: not because the gangs are right or good, but simply because the gang provides us with knowledge of who we are.

I think this is at the heart of the political sickness in America right now: people are politically tribal not because one side or the other is better at marshaling the facts or more persuasive. Those sorts of things have become irrelevant. In an age where there are too many choices and too many options, people simply shut down: they pick a tribe for no other reason than that we are lost, and political tribes are a way to identify with something.

Imagine a child in front of two ice cream choices: it not hard to choose between vanilla and chocolate. Take that same child, and offer him 50 flavors… and the decision becomes so challenging that they can decide they do not want ice cream after all. I have seen it, repeatedly, with my own children! And it turns out that it is not just my children: everyone finds decisions – choices – more mentally taxing.

Now ask an impressionable teenager what they REALLY are. Explain that unless they have a special pronoun, they do not belong in the “I have a special pronoun club.” And voila! A Zhtare is Born.

“To thine own self be true.” But what is my true self? I quite like the idea of hacking people to death with axes – should I be true to that calling? And if not, why not? After all, announcing to the world my “identity” seems to be the highest form of bravery, regardless of who gets hurt. Anything less than full and enthusiastic disclosure is somehow living a lie. Indeed, after disclosure, I then need to act out my identity, otherwise, I am still not comfortable with myself. So first I need to join the “searching for an identity” crowd. And then I need to ally myself with one victim group or another so that I, too, can be a special victim. We ax murderers need to stick together.

Perhaps I can discover my true self by getting a DNA test, discovering that I am really an African pygmy and I should research and wear pygmy clothes – but only 7.5% of the time, because the Russian part of my DNA dictates that I should drink vodka with salty fish while expressing my Argentinian DNA by dancing the tango while wearing a hot red dress. And I wish I was joking; last week’s WSJ featured a woman who discovered late in life that her father was partially black, so she started dressing the part in African style. People are so lost that they feel the need to hunt, create and search for anything that is “true” that they can use to redefine themselves.

America is more permissive and tolerant right now than any civilization in the history of the world. What are the consequences? None of this makes people happy. We have a soaring suicide rate. More unhappiness – and less actual human connections and relationships – than ever before. Our wide-open tolerance is making people absolutely miserable.

It is easy to make fun of institutional civilization: Catholic rituals and Observant Judaism and even Rotary Clubs certainly have their flaws, but they share something that we have thrown away with the bathwater: an identity that comes paired with productive meaning and purpose as opposed to merely a pronoun and a membership card and assigned number within the Victim Hierarchy.

People need to belong. They just do. They must find a group, and if they cannot find one, they will create one based on nothing more than strong political leaders or a shared sexual confusion.

As far as I am concerned, the need to have an identity need not be a flaw: it can – and should – be used for good. There are ways to belong that do not make us into reflexive animals, recoiling against everyone from a different tribe.

But how do we get there from here? How do we save civilization?

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There are 21 comments.

  1. Paul Erickson Member

    Excellent post!

    G-d created the ultimate affinity group by making us in his image. It helps to remind myself of this when others created in G-d’s image annoy me or do bad stuff.

    This concept probably will get tacit agreement here on Ricochet. Unfortunately it’s not widely accepted “out there.”

    • #1
    • November 5, 2019, at 3:58 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  2. I Walton Member

    Of course. All those groups are local. Even the national ones are small and narrow. That’s the way people are. It’s why national politics always get almost everything wrong and why Washington politics is always wrong unless they’re using national politics to undo national entities. It worked for the first two hundred years because all these groups had to work out compromises with their neighbors or near neighbors. It rolled along and inched forward while real life proceeded on real life matters. Washington groups have to work out compromises also but they’re not connected to what’s going on with real people. They’re abstractions that serve organizational interests, unless they’re Washington neighborhoods working out neighborhood issues, but these are irrelevant to their job affecting people around the country.

    • #2
    • November 5, 2019, at 4:24 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. SkipSul Moderator

    There’s a corollary to this:

    The rampant tribalism also makes the tribes more and more exclusive and elitist towards others. It has become frightfully easy to excommunicate the impure. It’s worse than the 50 flavors problem because you can lose your friends for liking French Vanilla instead of Madagascar Vanilla, or for admitting you like a good cherry vanilla – or (worse yet) stating that a black-cherry vanilla is better than the cheaper maraschino-cherry vanilla.

    Choice paralysis is very real, but it is made worse by the moral opprobrium when one had chose the “wrong” thing. All of the above are iterations of vanilla, and should be natural allies, but it’s frightfully easy to hate the impure and worry more about them than the vegans who are meanwhile trying to ban the whole industry.

    • #3
    • November 5, 2019, at 5:14 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  4. SkipSul Moderator

    Paul Erickson (View Comment):

    Excellent post!

    G-d created the ultimate affinity group by making us in his image. It helps to remind myself of this when others created in G-d’s image annoy me or do bad stuff.

    This concept probably will get tacit agreement here on Ricochet. Unfortunately it’s not widely accepted “out there.”

    I’m not sure how unified we are even here. We spend a lot of time attacking our own.

    • #4
    • November 5, 2019, at 5:15 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Mendel Member

    One interesting trait about Americans is how strongly we cherish our identities, yet how willing we are to abandon our previous identities and re-invent ourselves as someone new.

    I know Germans who were born and raised in a southern region of Germany, but because their parents, grandparents, etc. hailed from the northern part of the country, they identify as northern Germans.

    Meanwhile, I also know several New Englanders who have emigrated to Texas over the years. Each one of them identified as 100% Texan within 5 years of arrival.

    I like that about Americans – although in my case, after living in Germany for almost three years now, I still can’t find it in me to re-invent myself as a German.

    • #5
    • November 5, 2019, at 6:16 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  6. Amy Schley Moderator

    iWe: “To thine own self be true.” But what is my true self?

    Argh. This is one of my pet peeves of misinterpretation. Polonius isn’t a proto hippie saying there’s some inner self one is supposed to be and express. The line continues “and thus it follows, like night the day, that thou canst not be false to any other man.” That is to say, if you don’t lie to yourself you won’t lie to other people. 

    Otherwise, agreed. Society has torn down all the old roles and said you don’t have to do that, you can do whatever you want. Well, then that demands the question “What do I want?” and amazingly, the answer tends to be apathy and hedonism. 

    • #6
    • November 5, 2019, at 6:41 AM PST
    • 14 likes
  7. Old Bathos Member

    The modern Marxist (Gramscian) project is to eliminate the cultural references, affirmations and memberships that provide a sense of place and confidence in our understanding of the word. Being told there are many sexes, that a baby is not a baby, piles of colored junk is great and beautiful art, freedom is slavery and a full-on assault against patriotism religion and family comprise a project to gaslight us into accepting whatever identity is imposed but the ruling class.

     

    • #7
    • November 5, 2019, at 7:34 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. EJHill Podcaster

    Tribalism is an awfully trendy word, isn’t it? Trendy makes me gag. 

    It’s another instance of taking a perfectly good word, with a perfectly good meaning and turning it into a third-person pejorative. “I am an independent thinker, you are loyal to your cause, they are a bunch of looney tribalists.”

    This is the result of the Marxist march through the educational establishment. We used to call our tribe America. Then that was deemed offensive. (They replaced the word patriotism with another pejorative, jingoism.) Since nature abhors a vacuum they tried replacing it with “ethnic pride.” Well, unless you were of white European stock. Then you’re not allowed to enjoy their privileges. You must be labeled a white nationalist

    I don’t know if we can get that sense of American tribalism back. In less than 75 years we’ve gone from proud victors of a World War against racial authoritarianism to victims of our own self-hatred. 

     

     

    • #8
    • November 5, 2019, at 7:48 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  9. Mark Camp Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    I’m not sure how unified we are even here. We spend a lot of time attacking our own.

    Agree.

    Some of us do, some don’t.

     

    • #9
    • November 5, 2019, at 9:20 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  10. Guruforhire Member

    As Diversity goes up, trust goes down. As trust does down, all shared institutions fail.

    Behold. Human nature.

    • #10
    • November 5, 2019, at 10:00 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Dr. Bastiat Member

    iWe: People need to belong. They just do. They must find a group, and if they cannot find one, they will create one based on nothing more than strong political leaders or a shared sexual confusion.

    Very true. This is one reason I like sports so much. It gives us something to identify with and argue about with no real consequences. If Michigan beats Ohio State this year, I’ll be disappointed, but that’s it. Nothing horrible happens to me. And I can have a friendly conversation about football with a liberal acquaintance who roots for Michigan, but we could not have a friendly conversation about politics, because my liberal acquaintance views conservatives as evil. Sports pull us together, and give us something to belong to. In a safe way.

    • #11
    • November 5, 2019, at 11:04 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  12. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Tribalism is an awfully trendy word, isn’t it? Trendy makes me gag.

    It’s another instance of taking a perfectly good word, with a perfectly good meaning and turning it into a third-person pejorative. “I am an independent thinker, you are loyal to your cause, they are a bunch of looney tribalists.”

    This is the result of the Marxist march through the educational establishment. We used to call our tribe America. Then that was deemed offensive. (They replaced the word patriotism with another pejorative, jingoism.) Since nature abhors a vacuum they tried replacing it with “ethnic pride.” Well, unless you were of white European stock. Then you’re not allowed to enjoy their privileges. You must be labeled a white nationalist.

    I don’t know if we can get that sense of American tribalism back. In less than 75 years we’ve gone from proud victors of a World War against racial authoritarianism to victims of our own self-hatred.

    Yes it has happened in less than 75 years.

    I grew up inside a Republican household. Inside Chicago.

    In 1960, my parents supported Nixon over JFK and for me it was an embarrassment. I was attending a mostly Irish, Catholic grammar school, I couldn’t see why my usually kuhl parents supported a fuddy duddy like Nixon.

    However one of my memories was that politics were always discussed at social gatherings. None of my parents’ friends were “R”s. But there was no major antagonism. The debates were calm cool and logical. My parents had no concerns that announcing how they differed would cost them any friendships. It never did.

    That simply is not possible to do these days. Friends who live in other regions of America say it is possible for them. But in Calif, you are either a trans-supporting, immigrant-worshipping fanatic, or you better learn to keep your trap shut.

    • #12
    • November 5, 2019, at 12:39 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  13. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    iWe: People need to belong. They just do. They must find a group, and if they cannot find one, they will create one based on nothing more than strong political leaders or a shared sexual confusion.

    Very true. This is one reason I like sports so much. It gives us something to identify with and argue about with no real consequences. If Michigan beats Ohio State this year, I’ll be disappointed, but that’s it. Nothing horrible happens to me. And I can have a friendly conversation about football with a liberal acquaintance who roots for Michigan, but we could not have a friendly conversation about politics, because my liberal acquaintance views conservatives as evil. Sports pull us together, and give us something to belong to. In a safe way.

    It is no wonder that it was thru sports and entertainment that African Americans broke thru the racial barriers.

    Not only due to how super stars like Jackie Robinson were given a spot on the field. But because the fans sat in the bleachers and rooted for their team. And at least in Chicago, you sat where you felt comfortable, due to sun or shade or other personal preferences. Often the other people near you were not white. But they were fans, and the only annoyance was the minor one occurring if a member of either group dropped the popcorn on its way down the row to the person buying.

    • #13
    • November 5, 2019, at 12:43 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Bill Nelson Member

    iWe: We seek to know who we really, truly are

    I have a drivers license.

     

    • #14
    • November 5, 2019, at 2:09 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  15. Saint Augustine Member

    iWe:

    But how do we get there from here? How do we save civilization?

    Maybe resisting this would be a good start:

    EJHill (View Comment):

    This is the result of the Marxist march through the educational establishment.

    • #15
    • November 5, 2019, at 3:12 PM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Mark Camp Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Tribalism is an awfully trendy word, isn’t it? Trendy makes me gag.

    It’s another instance of taking a perfectly good word, with a perfectly good meaning and turning it into a third-person pejorative.

    I agree. A non-tribalist, if he has some argument against tribalism, should present it, and let his listeners decide between his view and tribalism. A neutral objective descriptive term, like “white” or “black” or “communist” or “tribalist”, should never become a pejorative label.

    “Tribalist” is an objective descriptive term for people who exhibit certain distinctive behaviors and accept certain distinctive beliefs.

    An example of a defining behavior of tribalists is engaging in personal attacks (as opposed to attacks on ideas) on all who express disagreement with their political beliefs. On Ricochet you can often observe this form of tribalist behavior in the responses to Gary Robbins’s posts where he expresses traditional Republican opinions which Ricochet’s tribalists disagree with.

    An example of the defining beliefs of tribalists is the belief in moral relativism that justifies perpetual cycles of revenge on their perceived enemies. You can see this on Ricochet in reflexive “whataboutist” behavior in response to almost any moral criticism of their behavior. “They did it first, therefore it is morally ok for us to do it.”

    Using “tribalist” to objectively describe someone who is observed doing that in plain view of the Ricochet public is not a personal attack.

    In fact, though I am generally a non-tribalist, and think that tribalist aggression against fellow Richocheteers should result in reproach and warnings by the Moderators, and expulsion for those who persistently refuse to obey our rules of civility, I am not dedicated to non-tribalism under all circumstances. If I were in a combat zone right now, I’d be a tribalist. The guys on my left and right, and those driving up from the rear with food and ammo, I would regard as part of my tribe, and those in across the line in our front as enemies, whom I would personally attack when the order was given.

    • #16
    • November 5, 2019, at 4:01 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. garyinabq Member

    The question of identity is at the root of our world view, that is, the things we take for granted without thinking about them. And if we want to save the world, we need to have at least some shared world view. We seem to have less of that these days. The question is both personal and universal at the same time. An unusual and thought provoking book on this topic is Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy.

    • #17
    • November 5, 2019, at 6:14 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Boss Mongo Member

    iWe: People are lost. We seek to know who we really, truly are – which is why we take DNA and endless personality tests.

    Yes. So, I learned “my people” liked to drink a lot and to fight a lot. I’m shocked, shocked.

    iWe: Take that same child, and offer him 50 flavors… and the decision becomes so challenging that they can decide they do not want ice cream after all. I have seen it, repeatedly, with my own children!

    Uh, I do not want to dispute you, brother, but what? Give me those choices back when I cared about ice cream, and I’d’ve been doing John Belushi hand springs, celebrating the choices I have.

    iWe: “To thine own self be true.” But what is my true self?

    Is that not what we work to figure out, yea until we draw our dying breath?

    iWe: I quite like the idea of hacking people to death with axes

    I do to, and I think it’s righteous, but, uh, let’s move on.

    iWe: And if not, why not?

    Because at some point, you realize it’s not all abut you; it is only appropriate to hack someone to death with an axe when very strict guidelines have been emplaced. Now, if you didn’t like that someone to begin with, that should have nothing to do with your internal calculus. 

    iWe: America is more permissive and tolerant right now than any civilization in the history of the world.

    Amen, brother.

    iWe: People need to belong. They just do. They must find a group, and if they cannot find one, they will create one based on nothing more than strong political leaders or a shared sexual confusion.

    And I think that’s why the Left so harries our constitution. Let’s destroy family and church and the pull of civic obligation so that we can fill the void.

    • #18
    • November 5, 2019, at 9:07 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. Manny Member

    Yeah, this is spot on, and it reminds me of a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was on a old Chevy SUV, whatever their model is, I don’t recall now. The bumper sticker said, “This Car Identifies as a Lamborghini.”

    • #19
    • November 6, 2019, at 7:04 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  20. Mike H Coolidge

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    As Diversity goes up, trust goes down. As trust does down, all shared institutions fail.

    Behold. Human nature.

    If you mix a high trust group with a low trust group, the low trust group tends to get a bigger boost in trust than the high trust group loses, and if you have less of something, each incremental gain is more valuable. So while the high trust group might resent the hit to their trust caused by integration with the low trust group, overall trust and utility has increased (not that I’m a utilitarian).

    • #20
    • November 6, 2019, at 12:19 PM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Jimmy Carter Member

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    As Diversity goes up, trust goes down. As trust does down, all shared institutions fail.

    Behold. Human nature.

    If you mix a high trust group with a low trust group, the low trust group tends to get a bigger boost in trust than the high trust group loses, and if you have less of something, each incremental gain is more valuable. So while the high trust group might resent the hit to their trust caused by integration with the low trust group, overall trust and utility has increased (not that I’m a utilitarian).

    One of the conceits of multiculturalism is that the intolerance against which it is supposedly the sovereign remedy is a characteristic only of the host society. In the impoverished imagination of the multiculturalists, all those Who do not belong by birth to the predominant culture are engaged in a united struggle against its oppressive and illegitimate hegemony.

    • #21
    • November 6, 2019, at 12:29 PM PST
    • 2 likes