Nationalism is Modern Tribalism… and still as brutal!

The rising conflicting between Russia and Ukraine reminds me of how much I blame nationalism as a fundamental evil of humanity. Likely born long before we even came down from the trees, humans have an ingrained instinctive desire to form groups or “tribes” and to distinguish each other as “us” and “them”. This instinct to tribalize is the fundamental cause of all wars, all racism and all conflicts between groups, for if we did not create these groups (and I emphasis “create” here for all of these categories are mostly or completely imaginary.) none of those conflicts would occur! Mind you this instinct brought humanity great benefit throughout most of our evolution, at least for the victors.. the loser got murder, rape and enslavement, and if they had any proclavities counter to tribalism those got skimmed off the gene pool very quickly.

Many today still think of our old tribal days a human’s good-old-days when we living in “harmony” with nature and some kind of utopian anarchism. That harmony was achieved by brutish existence where natural mechanism of population control, disease, famine, and tribal warfare, kept our populations stable by force of pain, suffering and carnal murder! Don’t believe me? Read the works of Steven Pinker and his kind for starters, begin by watch his TED talk

Thankfully human’s can be more then impulsive animals, we have created though acquired knowledge, reasoning and ethics, overroad nature and achieve levels of happiness and passivity in the last few thousand years that would not have been naturally possible. Unfortunately our knowledge and social systems have evolved at a lamarckian pace, thousands of times the speed of the Darwinian evolution of our genetics and as such we still retain all these vile instincts that are counter-productive to our social progress and even logical thought.

Back to Urkaine and Russia. Russia declares it protecting Russian people and “Russian speakers” from Ukrainians, claiming (with no evidence) that they are under attack. So lets ask some rhetorical questions: Who being protected? People, from other people supposedly… why? Because one of them are like us (or us) and the others are “the others”, the impulse is clear, we must crush and take from the other, they are evil, we are good. It not hard to see how silly this is if your willing to strip the modern facade of nationalism off of its tribalist core. The Ukrainians likewise want a Ukrainian for Ukrainians and don’t want to give up any land that is “theirs” to “Other” people, that being the Russians. This very concept of the nation, of needing to fight for your “nation” against other “nations” is as silly and stupid as fighting for your clan, tribe or race. Heck at least the latter are based on something real like genetic relationship: only humans can create completely imaginary groupings based on concepts alone… and then kill each other over these groupings just like chimps over territories.

The concepts that make up a nation, its language, its culture exist only in the heads of people, even the sounds and symbols humans create to try to manifest something physical for this culture only has meaning to those people in their head… and yet we can kill each other over this? I might understand if this was a war over the kind of government wanted, a war over what rights people should have, but no this is a war fundamentally over what language people speak and what color flag they want. Humanity has progressed so far to bring the clan to the tribe, the tribe to the kingdom, the kingdom to the state and the state to the nation, now even a united nations exist (though powerless), it not hard to see that nations will eventually give way to a singular humanity, but for that day to come would we not need a singular culture and language or can we evolve enough to accept, tolerate and even celebrate such variety? No, culture adds beauty to life and thought, it can remain, the problem is not culture it is the ancient tribalist urge to separate us and them. We can choose to distinguish on race, we can choose to distinguish on religion, we can choose to distinguish on country, or we can choose not to and end all the silly blood shedding, it requires only a minor bit more force of will then we have already made to bring society this far from time of tribalism.

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