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Tuesday, June 10. 2008
Race, Tribalism, Trust Cues and the "Stranger Instinct"
Our post on Race in the Race a few weeks ago reminded me of the several posts we have done over recent years about tribalism and trust, making the rather obvious point that people tend towards "affinity groups" because they are more likely to know where the others are coming from. When there are enough socio-cultural affinities between people, we call it a "tribe." (I have often heard Jews refer to fellow Jews as "the tribe.")
Tribes share, among other things, social signals and cues - the most important being "trust cues." (I was amused and pleased to see that our 2006 bit on Trust Cues and Tribalism was the top of Google when you search "Trust Cues." Very cool.)
I more or less know what to expect from a fellow white middle-aged heterosexual New England Protestant somewhat over-educated professional person who dresses sort-of like I do. I do not know exactly what to expect, but approximately and statistically. And if they like to study wildlife, to garden, to hunt, to mess with boats, and to talk about politics, then even more so. The odds are that we will know each other's rules, codes, signals, cues, language, manners, sense of humor, personal boundaries - even tastes. (Not necessarily their politics, though. My "tribe" has enormous political diversity.)
The further we move from our own tribe into the realm of "the other," the less effective we become at reading the signals and cues. I can use as simple an example as attending a Roman Catholic Mass: I feel awkward because I don't know when to stand or sit, or whether they want me to join in Communion or not. All people, I think, have a comfort bias and a trust bias in favor of their own tribes, and I do not feel that that is a bad thing: it's rational. "Birds of a feather..."
I believe that much of what is termed "racism" has little to do with race. Mitt Romney's Mormonism is a case in point. I think it was a real issue. People don't know what the Mormon view of the world is, what they are taught, how they raise their kids, what they think about, etc. - and are not interested enough in the subject to learn about it. All we know is "It seems kinda strange" - and "strange" = "a stranger."
Thus are our "stranger," tribal instincts ignited. It's not about skin color at all. Some of us are fascinated by "the other," some are a little bit curious, some are hostile, but most folks just don't care to be bothered very much with other cultures. The "multiculturalism" movement of the last decade sought to suppress that Stranger Instinct (for some good reasons, and some bad) - but it cannot be done because it is anchored in reason as well as in biology. All the multicult fascists and nannies managed to do was to silence people while, unfortunately, heightening our everyday consciousness of our differences.
So I finally arrive at the Rev. Wright subject. The Rev. Wright preaches a Black Liberation "theology" which, as best I can tell, seems to have only a superficial relationship to any Christianity I have seen (and which is an ideology that seems to have racial hatred built into its core). However, they seem to be dedicated to doing some good and charitable works in Chicago. But my point is that when Wright preaches "God damn America" I instantly know that I am dealing with another tribe. I cannot tell whether his is hyperbolically throwing red meat to work up the crowd, or whether he means it.
I cannot read the signals at all, and that makes me uneasy and distrustful. Rightly so, in my view: I feel like I have wandered into the wrong pew.
That's all a long-winded way of getting around to linking some of our past posts on the general subject:
Scared by his own research on multiculturalism
Masquerades and Clothing Signaling
Photo: Alaskan Eskimos exist in a culture which is totally alien to me.
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Not to go all tangential on you but here are a few comments with regard to the Mormon question...While it may be easy and even PC to dismiss Mormons as weird or strange it becomes a lot more difficult when you look past the religion to individuals themselves...I visited the Hill Air Force Base Museum of Air Power in Ogden Utah this past weekend. One exibit I will mention is their Hall of Heroes from Utah. While many heroes grace the walls here is a brief history of one graduate of BYU who joined the RAF in WWII. He became the youngest squadron commander in the Battle of Britain. He later joined the AAF after the US entry into WWII. He was credited with nine kills and nine probables and even survived a fall to the english channel from his stricken P-47 when his chute failed to open. He was the youngest full Colonel in the AAF and he later retired as a Major General from the United States Air Force. His name was Chesley Peterson. Another mormon who may be more familiar to you is NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Steve Young. Another graduate of BYU, Steve still holds several NFL passing records. And for my personal experience, as a young Marine pilot in Southern California, I flew with a mormon squadronmate. He is now a Captain with Skywest airlines...Yes, mormons put their own spin on Christianity and for that they are deemed weird or strange but they are Christians nonetheless...Moreover, some of the more arcane ceremonial aspects of mormonism almost certainly originated with the Free-Masons. Joseph Smith and his brother were both Free-Masons. However, we should probably consider them to have been part of a fine tradition as George Washington as well as a significant number of signers of the Declaration of Independance were Free-Masons...It may be about time we stop labeling mormons as weird and understand that they are true friends and neighbors...As for disclaimer, I'm not Mormon but I am a fan of sorts and have spent a lot of time in Utah. Regards,
I agree. I am just pointing out that there are these foci of strangeness that we react to - sometimes rightly and sometimes not.
I agree with much of what you say and I would prefer Mitt as our candidate for Pres over McCain. I also think that Mormons share a lot with Christians on matters of morality, but if you research their doctrines on which their churches beliefs rest, you would have to conclude that they put more than just a spin on Christianity. Mormonism, without trying to be combative, is heretical to orthodox Christianity.
Mormonism is what it is, a different system of beliefs or religion than Christianity. Foundational to orthodox Christianity is John 3:16, belief that Jesus is God and that he became man and died for our sins in order that we may have eternal salvation with Him. Pretty simple stuff.
Mormonism believes that we are all potential gods and that Jesus is just a manifestation of what we all are if we follow the rules. Its a polytheistic religion, like Hinduism, with millions of gods having their own planets. They believe that Jesus was born of celestial parents and that Lucifier was his younger brother. At the end of the Book of Revelation John says that no new revelation can be added to the Bible, but Joseph Smith and other church fathers added
the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Some of this stuff looks like it was stolen by L Ron Hubbard for Dianetics. I think that many Mormons believe that they are a denomination of Christianity and that they are wonderful people, but from my perspective and from reading the doctrines of Mormonism, Mormonism bears little resemblance to orthodox Christianity. Here's a decent link comparing the two religions.
FYI - Roman Catholics do not wish for you to partake of communion with them. Coming to the priest with your hands crossed over your chest signals that you would like to participate by receiving a blessing, and is perfectly acceptable. I realize that Catholics differ in their opinions and desires in this, but that's the official rule.
As to trust cues and tribes you touch on one of my favorite issues.
Actually, some folks have taken the time to examine Mormonism and because of it reject Mormitt as a governmental leader.
But that isn't the only reason.
Hopefully he'll get back to making money for LDS and leave US alone.
By the bye, Hussein's Pastor means it when he says, God damn America.
No doubt about it.
It's a Muslim thing.