Tribalism is rife in our political system. Headlines brandish politicians as traitors, MPs receive death threats on a daily basis, and our nation is bitterly divided by Brexit.
It’s been going on too long. This isn’t just a phase. This is politics. This is the politics that our nation’s children are growing up watching. The politics that’s meant to set an example of how our society should be run. It’s the politics that holds our lives in its small orange hands.
The problem doesn’t stem from hatred, it stems from a disenfranchised electorate and a population still learning how to navigate our new, hyper-connected world. A world that makes it so easy to build yourself into an echo chamber and pretend that everyone who doesn’t agree with you is a fascist.
We live in a country that is now more divided by leave and remain than by left and right. Two years after the referendum Brexit still dominates the headlines and defines the political agenda.
More than anything, Brexit has brought to light so much that is wrong with our political system. Remainers see the EU as an embodiment of freedom, tolerance, and liberalism. Leavers see the EU as an overly-bureaucratic club of elites.
Both sides fail to grasp each other’s view. Too many remainers see people oppose the EU and assume it’s because they’re either racist, intolerant, or stupid. Too many leavers see people waving their EU flags and assume it’s because they’re part of a liberal elite, ignorant to the every day struggle of normal people.
In reality, both sides have genuine and reasonable arguments. The fighting has been embittered by miscommunication more than anything else.
Social media has become the battlefield of misconceptions. As Laura Kuenssberg says in her Twitter bio, “140 characters don’t tell a whole story”. It’s so easy to misread or misunderstand a tweet and reply with a rude or snarky comment. When you can follow 1000 people that constantly reaffirm your beliefs, it’s easy to think that the whole world agrees with you.
There’s also a darker side to social media. As well as reaffirming your positive beliefs, it can vilify political differences. You no longer have to look someone in the eye when you threaten to kill them. You don’t have to see the fear in their face or the tears in their eyes. People are reduced to just their opinion.
Whether it’s the left accusing all Tories of being murderers, the right accusing the left of being liars and traitors, the problem is fundamentally the same. People aren’t engaging with the other side. Difference of opinion is vital to a well functioning society, and we should be able to embrace it. This isn’t a conservative problem. This isn’t a liberal problem. It’s an everyone problem
We all want to feel valued, but often forget to value those we disagree with. This has lead to the creation of an estranged white working class. With religion declining and communities getting weaker, people feel like they don’t belong. With the rise of identity politics they see others being told to be proud of their culture and heritage, whilst also being told that flying an English flag is racist.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking about race or gender. Racial and gender inequality are very, very real, and as a society we need to keep fighting. But if we want to make change that really lasts, we need to think about everyone. Celebrate race, celebrate gender, celebrate being British. Calling someone a racist isn’t going to make them any less racist, but engaging in human to human chat could.
The rise in tribalism and populism in our society is the side affect of change happening in a way that made people feel left out. A lot of this change is positive, but we now need to engage in the hard conversations.
Tribalism is about ignorance more than hatred. In a time of such uncertainty, everyone is afraid of losing what they already have. It’s not a conservative problem. It’s not a liberal problem. It’s an everyone problem.