Tribes are collectives. The collectivist foundation of tribal demarcations and conflicts is rarely recognized or understood. As opportunities, production, and wealth are allocated to those who objectively have not earned them—a cornerstone of collectivism—a potential recipient’s tribe often becomes the key distributive determinant. By definition, a process that is not objective will be subjective, governed by favoritism and prejudice. Resurgent tribalism represents a huge step backwards and comes at the expense of the smallest tribe: the individual.
Human history is almost entirely tribal, the actions—mostly war and conquest—of racial, ethnic, national, and smaller collectives. The intellectual seeds of universal individual rights didn’t germinate until the Renaissance, blossom until the Enlightenment, or bear fruit until the American Revolution. The notion of individual responsibility stems from prehistoric times, but it was the responsibility of an individual to the tribe and its sovereign. A manifestation of reciprocal individual responsibilities—mutually enforceable promises between equals—did not become the foundation of contract law until the nineteenth century.
One of today’s more inane intellectual exercises involves claiming credit for actions of forebears who share membership in the same tribe but who lived long before one was born, or apportioning blame to people in other tribes based on the reprehensible actions of that tribe’s long-dead forebears. Arguments are waged on who started the Crusades and who committed the most heinous atrocities, which supposedly justifies, depending on who “wins” the argument, either foreign interventionism or terrorist acts in the Middle East. Recompense is supposedly due from descendants of oppressive tribes to descendants of tribes they oppressed. Just this week the UN called on the US to pay reparations to descendants of slaves. The historical record is replete with injustice, so potential tribal claims and counterclaims are virtually infinite.
As a logical matter, we can neither take credit nor blame for the acts of people who died before we were born. Yet a band of intellectual hucksters peddles Original Sin and Original Victimhood based on the history of one’s tribe. What are they really peddling? Essentially the subjugation of one group to another based on history and tribal affiliations; Marxism in which “tribe” replaces “class.” If an identifiable group has sinned against an identifiable group of victims in the past, then the victims’ present descendants are owed continuing compensation.
Tribal ethics obliterate ethics based on individual responsibility and merit, the outcome reached in all collectivist systems. The amount of recompense can never be calculated, the debt never repaid. No offsets are allowed for any benefits the victims might have garnered from the guilty (the UN proposal has no offsets for benefits slave descendants might have accrued because their forebears lived in the US rather than Africa for the last century and a half); the guilty are simply expected to keep toiling for their historical victims.
Collectivist systems don’t work because they are incompatible with human nature and the requirements of survival. Tribes do not think, reason, or make choices, individuals do. A tribe’s leader or leaders may decide what they believe the tribe should do, but the tribe’s individuals decide whether to comply, often “influenced” by the leaders’ abilities to threaten and coerce. Indeed, the capacity to wage violence is the implicit foundation for tribes’ and their leaderships’ power.
The command and control exercised by a tribe’s leadership more often than not hinders or prevents the organic adaptation and effort necessary for individual members of the tribes to survive and progress. It’s almost a straight-line relationship: the greater the primacy of command and control, the less successful and the shorter the lifespan of the tribe. Conversely, when tribal command and control has been relatively restrained and individual thought and initiative have held sway, humanity has achieved most of its progress, although such periods have been comparatively brief.
The US legal regime enacted since the 1960s with either a primary or secondary goal of helping blacks belongs in the dustbin of failed collectivist schemes. By 1970, most, if not all, de jure discrimination based on race had been stricken from the books. That, of course, could not eliminate prejudice in the hearts and minds of some whites towards blacks, or some blacks towards whites. That will always be beyond the reach of the law, although the law can attempt to stifle their expression. In a legal system based on individual rights, equality before the law is as far as the system can go.
Unfortunately, the individual rights basis of US law has been eroding since the ink dried on the Constitution, replaced by the only alternative: collectivism. By the 1960s, the legal right of the unproductive to exact goods and services from the productive was well enshrined. However, the war on poverty has actually been a war on the impoverished, including a substantial portion of the black population. Handing people the coerced fruits of other people’s labor makes the recipients parties to theft, and it’s all downhill from there. Incentives for self-improvement are destroyed, dependency takes hold, self-respect vanishes, and social pathologies effloresce.
Legal mandates justified by Orwellian newspeak treat black and other minorities as “more equal” that the unfavored. Based on statistical disparities and as a compensatory measure for “historical injustice,” standards have been lowered and preferences instituted: present discrimination as the remedy for past discrimination. Blameless individuals are penalized and beneficiaries compensated for sins committed before they were born. Risibly, proponents of these measures decry resentment harbored by the former towards the latter.
Receiving the unearned and undeserved hinders rather than helps the recipients, and renders them beholden and subservient to their patrons. Blacks have been the most doggedly loyal supporters of the Democratic Party and its collectivist tenets since the 1960s. As a group their status relative to other groups has not improved; by many measures it has deteriorated. These trends continued during the tenure of the first black president, which should come as no surprise. President Obama is a committed collectivist. Everything he has done, particularly Obamacare, has been consistent with his core philosophy and has had its characteristically destructive impact.
Many commentators argue that blacks need to do this, that, or the other thing to advance. Not that the putative recipients of such advice pay any attention to them, but even if they did, the commentators, by implicitly embracing the collectivist tribal premise, render their own advice worthless. Tribes fill history books, but individuals pursuing individual goals and achievements propel themselves and take humanity with them. They’re invariably hindered by collectivism. If individual blacks become so disillusioned that they question Obama’s collectivism and realize that their advancement must stem from their own efforts, it will be the best thing the president has ever done for them.