America is a wonderful country, built on the idea of individual freedom and a collective spirit of achievement.
But sometimes it just sucks.
We love our country — it’s the best country in the world — but the idea of an overseeing government that isn’t ours makes us feel like there’s something infringing on our Americanness. How does something like that happen, what are we scared of, and how can you reach across the divide if it starts happening in your country?
Tribalism? What Is It? Why Does It Matter?
Tribalism is any “us vs. them” mentality. Racism, nationalism, or sexual discrimination are all arbitrary boundaries that people make to determine who is in their tribe and who is out. It could be anything. These are arbitrary determinations; it doesn’t really matter. Tribalization could stand in the way of globalization if the tribes fight amongst each other, or it could help it along if, as humans, we can collectively realize that are all one tribe, the human tribe.
Tribalism matters because it separates Americans by a thousand different physical constructs. It promotes the idea of “us vs. them” — whether that’s a perceived affront on our religious values, a disdain for anything “un-American”, or a gender/race war (feminism as an affront on masculinity). Tribalization has prevented America from taking part in the world in an effective way. That hurts all of us.
Not Seeing the World
Americans don’t see the world. Compared to other western countries, Americans stay within their national boundaries way more. This splits the world up, and prevents it from coming together . And on top of that, even internally the U.S. is split between a thousand different factions, being fed different social feeds, and externally, we don’t even see the same magazine covers. A significant lack of visibility makes it easier for Americans to isolate and define themselves as different from other nationalities.
Isolationism is a huge reason Americans put themselves into little individual buckets of belief. The American Dream is still alive, but it doesn’t include people who aren’t Americans anymore. The idea of American exceptionalism, and a lack of visibility in the way other countries have perfected the American dream has tied Americans into their own world of ignorance. The fear of “otherness” is built on isolation.
Why Are Americans Scared of Globalization?
Unbridled globalism is often touted as completely free trade, which can have devastating effects on the American economy. It’s actually a coalition of governments with the ability to wield global power, looking for ways to improve the lives and freedom of all people on the planet (think more John Lennon, less Illuminati).
Conspiracy Theories Rampant
Americans have a deep mistrust of big government and the potential of oversight out of their control. We also love our conspiracy theories, even the most insane ones, like that vaccines cause cancer. Which they don’t, there are a million other reasons for cancer, vaccines aren’t one of them . In the web of conspiracy theories that peppers American culture, the theory that an elite, ultra rich oligarchy is trying to create an all-powerful world government in an attempt to enslave people is quite pervasive. Whether theorists call the elite “lizard people” or “the Illuminati”, the anti-globalist belief is clear and widespread.
It’s the fear that they will be enslaved by rules that don’t work for them, that they will be the minority, and that their culture will be erased under the “global good” is a very real fear for many Americans. Whatever you call it — the unknown, the boogeyman, the other — is out to get Americans. This is confusing, because Americans have some of the best security from outside attacks.
Americans are stressed, way more stressed than other western people. A lot of stress sources from their everyday lives, including:
- Longer working hours
- Fear-inducing propaganda
- Perception of poverty
- Lack of social programs
- Food deserts (an area where Americans can’t walk to a grocery store) That means no access to fresh food in these areas.
Americans with amped-up stress levels add to the fear that their empire is falling (and many other conspiracy theories). They are afraid of outside powers taking over, they are afraid of anything which seems to threaten their way of life, anything, foreign. Stress and wanting for “a time before stress” can cause people to cling to things that don’t exist and prevent them from moving forward, from excelling.
What Can You Do About It? How Can You Talk To People?
You might have some people scared of globalization in your town, or heck, just some tribalist nonsense happening around you. Talk to those people. The best cure for xenophobia is regular communication. Talk to people about everything. Meet new and interesting people. Put the most important goal forward first: that our shared experience as humans trumps petty differences.
Mary Grace, an independent liberal from the United States, lives in the beautiful Boise, Idaho, and adores her mountains. She loves skiing, hiking, and repairing vintage bicycles. If you want to chat, or have any questions, feel free to tweet her @marmygrace.