Monday, June 6, 2011

The trouble with tribes

I spent a long weekend at a lovely wedding of the son of a dear friend.  Along the way, I had some nice conversations with new people.  One conversation was with a lovely woman who is very passionately political.  I enjoyed our exchange, but I came away from it with a renewed sense of how tribal we are.

By we, I think I mean the Boomer generation, although the tribes go beyond my Boomer generation as well.  Our Boomer generation has been waging the culture wars for decades.  I, personally, am sick of the culture wars.

This woman's cause of the day was protecting the honest, hard working, underpaid government workers from the ravages of budget cuts to their pensions.  She sees this in good vs. evil terms:  those evil, greedy people from the opposing tribe want to do evil, greedy things to people of her tribe.  I could have asked her what did she propose be cut from the budget rather than pensions, but I was really just hoping to get away from a political discussion with her.  (I'm pretty sure her response would have been that all we need to do is raise taxes on the evil, greedy people of other tribe, but I digress...)

Actually, I think her purpose for the topic was to see if she could identify me as a member of her tribe so we could delight in the shared shared pleasures of  bemoaning the fate of having to live in a world that included such greedy, evil people of the opposing tribe.

I can certainly see her concern, and think it is legitimate, that the terrible budget problems of the state of California aren't the fault of the government workers, so why should they bear the brunt of the budget cuts.  But, like I say, where do you cut instead?  Everywhere that you look for budget cuts are painful and unfair.  But we need to cut the budget.  

And we need to raise revenues.  Cut spending, raise taxes.  Obvious.  But the two tribe refuse to see the obvious.  One side only wants to cut spending, the other only wants to raise revenues.  They are wrong.

The only way to end the culture wars is stop waging the culture wars and look at the members of the opposing tribe with respect.  They have concerns that are as legitimate as the concerns of our own tribe.  This may be easier for me to see because I have been both a left wing whacko and a right wing whacko, and I know that they each have noble concerns for humanity which are legitimate and need to be heard and addressed.  

Compromise and cooperation is so needed today, but to get there we need to call off the wars and see each other as human beings rather than as sub-human enemies.