In Somalia, where I was born, my mother was blindly loyal to our clan. So much so that, apparently, she claimed she could detect the malicious intentions of an individual from a different clan just by the structure of his forehead. She would, for example, often warn my father that someone was trying to take advantage of him, purely by the way he frowned.This sort of tribal thinking has been imported to the USA.
In Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, anthropologist Philip Carl Salzman recounts meeting tribesmen in Baluchistan. What, they had asked Salzman, would he do if he faced a real danger in his home country? Well, Salzman replied, he would call the police. The tribesmen roared with laughter, then looked at him pityingly: “Oh no, no, no, they said: only your ‘lineage mates’ will help you.”
In tribal communities, neutral institutions of civil society that Westerners take for granted — such as the police, impartial courts, and the rule of law — simply do not, and cannot, exist. In such societies, everything is tribalised, and the task of building civic institutions is laden with difficulties.
In Somalia, I was taught to be suspicious of anyone from a different clan, to always think harm was coming my way and to be guarded against anyone that was “other.” I come from the Darod clan, and was taught to constantly listen to accents, examine face shapes and overanalyse all non-verbal cues, searching for any indications of a different tribe. I can still identify a Somali (and usually their clan) from across a room. ...
The beautiful story of America, the reason so many people around the world still yearn to come here, is to a large extent founded on our rejection of tribalism and our establishment of civic, neutral institutions, based on the fundamental principle of equality before the law. These institutions are imperfect, of course, but they are far superior to the tribalism that rules other parts of the world. Our overcoming of such a natural urge is an accomplishment.
I used to post a lot against this sort of thinking, but now I think that it is the inevitable consequence of American liberalism combined with high third world immigration.
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