The danger of tribalism

The danger of tribalism

Like any social structure, tribalism has its advantage and its consequences. There is nothing inherently wrong with tribalism per se, but if used the wrong way, could lead to utter destruction of society. Since the beginning of human history people have lived in tribes. The Bible mentions tribes of Israel. Clearly, tribes were used in a positive way for social and cultural construct. In some cases, tribalism was a manner through which people would build personal relationships and would create communities. Human beings need each other, they are interdependent and social beings. They thrive when they are together and they are unequipped to be solely on their own. As a matter of fact, the best outcome of tribalism is “community”. The worst effect, however, is “genocide”.

In Africa, tribalism has more often than not been used as a social-cultural structure to bring individuals together. These individuals tend to be unwaveringly committed to their tribe or their ethnic group to the point of rising and acting violently against another tribe if there is a good enough reason or perceived threat. For instance, in Rwanda, when clans were initially introduced, the intention was to socially organize. The tensions between Hutus and Tutsis only started during belgian colonisation when the focus became “race”. Emphasizing on the distinguishing characteristics of a people instead of their commonalities is what led to the explosive violence that occurred between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups causing deaths and ruins on a massive scale throughout the country.

Someone once defined “tribalism” as: “a complicated psychological phenomenon, which, at root, it’s much easier to maintain power when you divide the country into tribes, based on characteristics that don’t change, therefore the problem can’t be resolved”. One of the reasons why this topic is crucial at the present moment is because we are seeing in the mainstream media a consistent and persuasive narrative on how much different from each other we are, how race is the most important issue in the world, and how our skin colour should limitedly define us. Sure, our skin colour, our culture and traditions are part of who we are but we are more than that, and quite frankly, who cares!

The point is, if we let the media continue to lead us down this road of tribalism, where we only see white, black, asian, we will only separate ourselves further rather than finding things we have in common as human beings. Especially, if you are a christian reading this, keep in mind what the Bible says: 

Galatians 3:27-29 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

In a dumbed down society, where mainstream media is successfully used to influence minds of the masses, it’s vital that as christians we remain aware of the tricks and the agenda of the enemy, not allowing ourselves to go wherever the wind blows or to react mindlessly to everything shown on our screens (or just turn off your screens altogether and open the Bible). There is a deeper meaning to everything that’s currently going on and we will need to stop looking at it in a shallow way and start using our weapons, not only prayer and the word of God but use our brain as well.

Pointing out the problem without suggesting a solution would be counterproductive on my part. In all this chaos, there is only one solution, one unchanging person: Jesus Christ. Look to Him. I will leave you with this psalm.

Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—

    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—

    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—

    he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going

    both now and forevermore.


Delphine R.

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